UTG Interview: ZZ Ward

Zz ward

With her bold voice and charming personality there is absolutely no reason why ZZ Ward should not take over the world. With a bluesy sound spliced softly with hip-hop and protest singer influences, Ward seems to come at you from all angles. Sure, her sound can effortlessly be written-off as resembling Adele and Amy Winehouse, but honestly, simplifying her talent by shoving it in such a tiny box would be a tragedy. It would also be rather lazy.

The first thing I noticed about Ward Friday night at the Midland Theater was the manner in which her vocals filled the room. She pushed the walls of Kansas City’s gigantic 1927 opera house, shoving her larger than life croon to the tips of the venue’s farthest balcony. With updated and pop-friendly vocal structures accompanied by brilliant bass lines and 18th and Vine jazz drumming, the set often presented a flawless combination of vintage record soul and modern radio catch. There is little doubt in my mind that Ward is marketable. She has all of the tools and elements considered necessary by the major players of mainstream radio.

She’s a very pretty girl in an industry overrun by beautiful figureheads, but do not for one second question Ward’s level of talent. With harmonics in hand and Etta James influences tucked in her pocket, Ward schooled Kansas City on the finer aspects of being a crooner. Standing in the back near the bar watching young girls spontaneously dance in the aisles of the opera house, I have no choice but to agree that the city shares my opinions.

Interview with ZZ Ward:

Joshua Hammond: “Til the Casket Drops” was recently used in the TV promo campaign for Pretty Little Liars. “Put the Gun Down” and “Move Like U Stole It” have also appeared on TV. How do you believe these placements have helped your career? Also, do you believe it is possible that TV has become the new radio?

ZZ Ward: I love seeing my music on TV shows!  Just having the story of a song be incorporated into the story of a script is awesome to watch. TV, like radio, can get music out to new fans, which may have never heard of you before.

Hammond: You have now gone through the process of releasing both a series of mix tapes and a full-length album. How do the processes differ? How were they similar?

Ward: Putting out the mix tape was like an introduction from me to the world. Putting out the record was totally different—it was my arrival. I show more of myself on my record and it amazes me to see fans connect to the lyrics and stories that I wrote about.

Hammond: You have been quoted as having a very wide range of influences including: John Lee Hooker, Bob Dylan, Outkast, Lil’ Kim, Tom Petty, Joni Mitchell and Bowie. How does one come across such a wide range of influences?

Ward: I have a wide range of influences for different reasons; I love hip-hop beats, and authenticity in lyricists that I grew up listening to. I love a great songwriter and the creativity of those that came before me inspires me.

Hammond: You have also worked with Kendrick Lamar, Freddie Gibbs and Fitz of Fitz and The Tantrums. How have their guest spots and contributions influenced and driven your career forward?

Ward: I have had some incredible talents on this record and I’ve learned something from every one of them. As artists, we all have different processes for writing or recording and it’s really fun to see how someone else does it.

Hammond: The above questions were pretty standard, so what is something that not a lot of people know about your career but you wish more people could know?

Ward: I hope that I inspire people to be who they are and not be afraid. My music is different and I hope that it encourages my fans to embrace their authentic selves.

Hammond: Lastly, you get to see a number of bands from a number of cities where I personally might not travel. If you could advise our readers to Google three bands that you have discovered throughout your travels, whom would you point us to?

Ward: You should check out Yellow Red Sparks, A B and the Sea and Seasick Mama.

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