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photo / Brian Bowen Smith

story / Koko Ntuen

ZZ Ward is the kind of songstress whose music will rip through your body causing the hairs to stand up on your body, your blood to boil and a knee-jerk dance reaction. Beware. Her bluesy swagger has swept through the music world in a no-holds-barred, unapologetic life of its own causing her to gain a legion of fans throwing their hips and raising their arms to her honest and power infused anthems.

Her critically acclaimed debut album Til the Casket Drops attracted major names in the industry such as Kendrick Lamar and Freddie Gibbs and broke down all barriers of what a genre is supposed to be. With her new EP, Love and War, out August 28,  an upcoming tour, and her next full length album, This Means War (due out March 2016). Get ready for ZZ to take over once again.

We are honored to premiere the beautiful track, “Rescue” today and talk to the badass¬†wizardry of ZZ Ward about music, relationships and letting yourself shine.

What’s your favorite part of being on the road? Do you have any mantras to stay healthy and sane while your traveling so much?
Just to be grateful. I get to live a pretty special life being able to be a rockstar and be on the road and not have a traditional everyday.¬†Just to embrace it all is the way to go. When I’m¬†tour, sometimes it’s a lot, we are playing over 40 shows. Really what gets us¬†though is the fans. People just coming out and supporting us and showing us their love and telling me what my songs mean to them. There is nothing like that.
What been your biggest learning experience since you released your debut, Til The Casket Drops. What have you learned the most about being in the industry and being a working musician?
I think the thing I learn the most, the most important lesson is, you have to make art, you have to make music for you. You have to be authentic with whatever it is you are going through in your life. I think I learned that with Til The Casket Drops because,  really I was writing an album to vent the frustrations that were going on in my life then, thats all it really was. It was a very heartfelt record. I think feeling the love and support from all of the fans that I made off of that record was the best lesson I could learn to encourage me to keep doing that for the rest of my career. The only person I can be is the person I am right now in this current moment. Even on the second album it was the same thing. I just had to close all the doors, close all the windows and get into my own creative zone and be authentic to the story I was livings so I could share that with the world.
One of my favorite songs off the EP is¬†¬†“Marry Well.” What was the¬†inspiration¬†for that song?¬†
On the second album and I wanted to go deeper into the blues, deeper into hip-hip and my favorite kinds of music¬†and delve further into those sounds.¬†I grew up playing the traditional blues licks that I wrote “Marry Well” over. I just started playing it one day and I ¬†was just like, “This just feel so good,¬†this feels so bluesy, I love this.”
A lot of times I find myself saying things before I even know how I’m feeling. When I was writing this record I ¬†was in a relationship. The first album I was “trying” to be in a relationship¬†and was just heartbroken about it. ¬†On the second album I¬†was a¬†relationship and still found myself having all these doubts and insecurities and things going on in¬†myself. So the song¬†“Marry Well” was kind of written about being in a relationship but finding a balance¬†of being in a normal relationship and being¬†independent¬†and fierce and being out there and paving your way through the¬†world, but also having to be somewhat there for someone else. It’s really just these over the top ideas of¬†going against¬†tradition against traditional thought and making it your own. And the idea of doing that over a very traditional blues lick was a cool dichotomy.
You’ve worked with a lot of great people,¬†Kendrick Lamar,¬†Ryan Tedder, Pete Rock, Ali Shaheed Muhammad, Neff-U,¬†¬†Fitz of Fitz,¬†toured with Eric Clapton, played festivals from Coachella to¬†Bonnaroo, who is someone you would like to work with now?
Oh my god. I would love to work with Pharell I think that would be his amazing. From his music to productions to hat collections, I think he would be awesome to work with.
What it like being a woman in the music industry these days? How do you navigate the world?
You have to surround yourself with people that support you and make you feel like you and help you shine. I’ve been very fortunate to find people to work with from my manager, to producers I’ve worked to my label that they are people that make me feel like me and have a creative voice and they encourage me and they don’t doubt me. If I have an idea, ¬†it’s so fun on my team because anything from my music to the visuals of my show, they are like, ‘Lets make it happen!’
In¬†the industry, there are a couple of people I run into, very few, that I can tell are judging me based on some other thing- whether it’s because I am a woman, or some other prior experience they have had in their life that they are coming at me, but I don’t have a lot of tolerance for it to be honest. There are people who judge you based on what you look like rather than who you are but I ¬†just go in the other direction, as much as I can.
Do you ever feel pressure to sound different or look different than who you are?
I don’t. I think that I’ve always been so confident¬†in doing what I want to do in my artistry. I do realize that ¬†by putting out music, you are signing up to be¬†¬†judged and people will judge everything from the way you look to the way you sound, every little thing. At the end of of all that, as an artist you have to know thats there and that every person will have an opinion about things. Really the only thing I can do for my fans is to really fight for who I want to be an artist what I stand for and put my hater shades on. Thats what I want them to do in their lives. It’s not like you can go through this life without being judged. People will judge you everywhere you go. That just how it is. You just have to be you and shine!
What are you most excited for about releasing the LOVE AND WAR EP August 28th?
It’s such a magical time right now, my little babies are going out in the world. I can’t wait to hear where these songs touch people. I have the biggest smile on the face thinking about it. It’s a fun and exciting time for me to see how the songs are connecting with people.

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