As those of you who know me personally and/or follow me on Twitter may know, I absolutely love ZZ Ward. I listen to her music constantly, I sing her songs (not nearly as well as she does obviously), and I tell everyone I can that they need to check out her music. Yesterday, I got the amazing opportunity to speak to ZZ about her music, life on the road, and advice that she has for aspiring artists.
Check out my interview with ZZ below:
What made you decide to pursue music as a career?
I think because I liked it (laughs). I like making music, writing music, I like performing music, etc. Being able to do something for a living that you really love, where it’s something that you could do just for fun, I think that’s the best kind of career you can have. It’s different for everybody, but mine just happened to be music, so that’s my reason.
Who would you cite as some of your main musical influences?
A lot of blues and a lot of hip hop, so artists like Big Mama Thornton and Muddy Waters on the blues side. I really liked hip-hop growing up, so like Nas, Jay-Z, Biggie, Snoop Dogg, and Outkast on that side. I also always loved The Rolling Stones, Tom Petty, Bob Dylan, and Neil Young. I was influeced by the sincerity of the blues and the way hip hop artists would spin words their own way and how there weren’t really boundaries with what they were doing.
Process of recording your album”Til the Casket Drops”?
I wrote most of the record by myself and then I was fortunate enough to get into the studio with some really amazing people. Producers like Theron “Neff U” Feemster, he produced over half of my album, and Blended Babies; they’re a production duo from Chicago. I also worked with Michael Fitzpatrick of Fitz and the Tantrums on the track “Save My Life”, Kendrick Lamar is on the album, and Freddie Gibbs is on there. Ryan Tedder produced my new single “Last Love Song”, which is a song I’m really excited about, so it was a really fun process. There was a lot of experimentation; I knew my sound and I knew what I wanted to stick with, but it was just really amazing to get into the studio with people who believed in me and believed in my talent, and wanted to help create the sound of the album with.
You mentioned that your next single is “Last Love Song”, what was it that made you choose that for the third single from the album?
I think “Put the Gun Down” was kind of an introduction to me and “365 Days” was getting to know me a little better, “Last Love Song” is that song that you have to know the person better to get the full effect. It’s a very vulnerable song about letting go of a breaking heart, it’s a very raw and emotional song and I think a lot of people can relate to that song.
Your album is definitely very relateable, so what was it that made you want to be transparent and turn all of your experiences into songs for the public to hear?
I think for me, I get myself into these situations in my life and I can’t get out of them or I’m frustrated by them, and my only way of getting out of them is writing about them. For me it’s a release; if I back myself into a corner with decisions I’ve made, the only way I can get out of that corner is to write my way out of it. That’s just my way of expressing myself; a lot of these songs are about the ups and downs of a relationship and the relationship was far from perfect, but it gave me a lot of fuel to write about stuff.
So, what’s it been like hearing your music on various shows and commercials, and being able to perform said music on various daytime and late night shows?
It’s been really, really fun and exciting! It’s really cool to hear my songs be used in different media like tv shows and shows that are about different things. “Put the Gun Down” was in the movie We’re the Millers and it was really fun to see my song in a movie, that was the first movie placement that I got and I think it really fit with the movie. Performing on late night shows has been amazing too. Jay Leno is retiring and to be on the Tonight Show twice before he goes off the air is pretty remarkable. It gets me excited because I grew up watching those late night shows so, it’s very surreal to be on them, but after you do it, you get more comfortable with it. I think it’s exciting to know that you’re being watched by so many people around the country and around the world as an artist.
I know in one of your previous interviews you mentioned that people are still finding out about you, but when I play one of your songs, they’ll sing along because they heard it in a commercial or tv show, so I definitely think that that’s a good thing.
(laughs) Yeah, a lot of people are still finding out about me, but I probably think less people know about me than really do. Knowing that people have heard of me is still something I’m getting used to (laughs).
I know that the Last Love Tour is kicking off on the 28th of this month, so are there any cities that you’re excited to go to?
We’re going to a some new cities this time around; I love a lot of these cities. I’ve toured for like a year and a half and I’ve been on the road pretty relentlessly, but there’s some new cities that we’re going to that I’m really excited to play at because I’ve never been there. I can’t think of any city off the top of my head right now (laughs).
What’s your favorite thing about touring?
Seeing my fans; hands down my favorite. It means so much to people when you come to their city and they get to see you, hear the songs live, and put a face to the songs that they’ve connected with. that’s a really special experience. With putting out my first record, I’ve seen a big growth with fans; I started out the a few fans, and now I have a lot of them, so that’s my favorite part for sure.
I know you’re wrapping up the tour at this year’s Coachella, so how excited are you about that?
I’m super excited about Coachella, it’s gonna be crazy! I’ve been to Coachella twice and it’s such an honor to be performing there. It’s a big deal. I’m most excited to check out some of the other acts that are gonna be there and I know that I’m performing the same night as Outkast, so I’m really excited about that.
What would you say has been the biggest lesson you’ve learned so far from being in the industry?
Make music that is right for you. As an artist, I think you can get lost easily if you go outside of yourself to find what you think your sound should be. Luckily, I feel like I’ve done that with the first record and I think I’ve been pretty good with sticking with what feels good to me. I think moving I’m gonna do that even more because people embrace you for being yourself as an artist. There are different kinds of people out there and everyone likes different kinds of music, but you’re gonna find yourself in the hearts of different fans regardless of what type of music you do.
My final question I have for you is: What advice would you give any artists aspiring to make it into the industry?
I think it starts with YOU. If you want to be an artist, you don’t need to find a manager first, or people to hook things up for you, what you need is material and the person that’s gonna get you that is you. I think you need to lead the charge and believe in yourself; once you believe in yourself, more people will start to believe in you.