Anyone in ZZ Ward’s life will end up in her songs
What: ZZ Ward at the ASCAP Music Cafe
When: 4:15 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 30; 4:30 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 31
Where: ASCAP Music Cafe, 751 Main St.
Cost: Free for Sundance Film Festival credential holders
ZZ Ward’s music touches on a lot of genres — blues, blue-eyed soul and some R&B, and it makes sense because of her musical influences.
“I always had a thing for female voices,” said Ward, who is scheduled to perform Thursday and Friday afternoon at the ASCAP Music Cafe, 751 Main St. “I love Etta James, Nina Simone and Big Mama Thornton — those powerful, soulful vocalists. They resonated with me and I wanted to sing like them.”
As Ward got more into her own music, she realized she had to start writing her own music if she wanted to develop her own voice. The catch, she said, is that anything and anyone nearby can end up in her songs.
“I’ve gotten to the point where people who are a part of my life know what they signed up for,” Ward said laughing. “It’s the truth. So many of my family members, past boyfriends and current people in my life have been in my songs, or have been influences in my music.”
The songwriter said she wouldn’t want it any other way.
“That’s just the type of music I make,” she said. “In some types of music, you don’t know what (the artist) is saying. My music isn’t like that. It’s very much storytelling and very personal to me.”
Ward also has no problem staying focused when she writes her songs.
“It’s easy when you have something to say, and I have a lot to say about things that I feel, you know,” she said. “I tend to ruminate about things a lot, and that’s good for my writing. If I was the kind of person that would just be ‘whatever’ all the time, I might be writing a different type of song.”
Songwriting has given Ward the opportunity to say things to people that she feels uncomfortable telling them in regular conversation.
“A lot of times I know what I’m feeling and what I want to say to someone, but I don’t,” she said. “In order for me to be honest, I’m more comfortable writing it in a song. That’s just how I am.”
Still, Ward has a pile of unfinished songs.
“I will finish a song when I write a musical part or a lyrical part that moves me and makes me feel excited, inspired and emotional,” she said. “There are things that I don’t feel. There are songs that I write that are just OK, but I’m always looking for something that will raise its hand.”
Those special moments happen, but not all the time, according to Ward.
“You can’t force it, but it’s a beautiful thing when something you’re writing connects with your emotions,” she said.
Ward felt that way about her new single, “Sex and Stardust,” which she released in December.
“(That song) was a no-brainer for me to want to put it out first,” she said. “I wrote the song about experiences in my life where I knew I wasn’t doing the right thing, and maybe hurting some other people. But (at that time) I was so into that persona that I did things I didn’t know I was capable of or I didn’t expect from myself.”
Ward also wrote the video treatment for the song, with director Stephen Kinigopoulos and his sister Alexa King.
“It was the first time I got to work with directors in that way,” Ward said. “They were so empowering of me by allowing it to be my vision and helping me bring that to life. In the video I play a character who is dangerous and criminal, and as an artist I love it when I have a feeling that is so visual at the end of it all.”
“Sex and Stardust” is the snowball that starts the avalanche of songs Ward plans to release this year.
Ward, who will perform at the Complex in Salt Lake City on March 2, promised to play some of those unreleased songs during her ASCAP Music Cafe performances, which will also feature guitarist Erick Walls, this week.
“I’m excited to be part of what ASCAP is doing there, and I’m excited to go to Sundance in general,” she said. “I’m excited for a new experience and being around so many creative people. I’m also looking forward to being on this cafe stage with so many other talented artists.”
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