ZZ Ward has had quite a journey to get to where she is today. From growing up originally in Pennsylvania then a move to Oregon, she found her way to Los Angeles and strived towards her ultimate dream of being a recording artist. ZZ’s music is best described as a mixture of blues, hip-hop and soul which is evident on releases of her mixtape “Eleven Roses” and her debut album “Til The Casket Drops”.
“Til The Casket Drops” was released shortly over a month ago and has received rave reviews from critics and fans alike. She has even performed on “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno” and has had her songs featured on hit television shows like “Pretty Little Liars” and “Awkward”.
ZZ sat down with me yesterday to talk about her meteoric rise into the music world. From growing up in rural Oregon to her working with several rap breakthroughs like Kendrick Lamar, we cover the bases as to how she got where she is and what her bright future looks like. Check it out.
Hey ZZ, thanks for taking time to meet with me!
You are welcome!
So how old were you when you decided you wanted to get into music?
I think I’ve always been into music on some capacity. I’ve been singing since I was eight years old. After a while it kind of became something that was my thing. I had a lot of dreams and a lot of ambition and I wanted to follow through with that in the best way possible.
Who are some of your musical influences that inspired you to be who you are today?
I’ve always been influenced by legends in the blues and hip-hop world. My parents were really into blues and listed to Bubba Johnson and Muddy Waters for example. The hip-hop side my brother really introduced me to. Artists like Jay-Z and Nas were big influences for me especially because both of them were fantastic when it came to their storytelling aspect.
I love how your music and your voice sounds in your songs. How would you describe it best for me?
In the most basic terms, back porch blues meets hip-hop.
You recently performed on “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno”, what a great opportunity! How was it?
It was a really awesome experience. Things look really different on television then when you are actually there. It was my first televised performance so I was nervous but so many people around me helped me out and it definitely encouraged me. Jay was really cool and I got to meet Jamie Lee Curtis who was the guest that night. Overall it was great.
Growing up in a small town in Oregon, it must have been hard to find outlets in order for you to express how you were musically. How did you find those that enabled you to be who you are today?
I would write for local artists in Oregon and it was great and all, but I knew I had to find a way to see more people. Oregon wasn’t enough for me to get me to where I needed to be.
I moved to Los Angeles and originally it was very big and and very scary. From then on I started booking my own gigs and that is when labels started getting interested. I knew once I made that move that I made the right decision.
What is the meaning behind the title to your amazing debut “Til The Casket Drops?”
The title track was the first track on the album that I actually wrote. It was a moment for me when I embraced what I actually wanted to sound like. I had these ideas and they just came to life especially on this song. The song details pretty much going to war for someone you love and what happens in the process.
What inspired you to do your mixtape “Eleven Roses”?
I had been writing the mixtape in my apartment. The first song I remixed was Tyler The Creator’s “Yonkers” and came up with the melodies. I also remixed Kendrick Lamar’s “Look Out For Detox” beat and the song is called “OverdUE”. It was a fun project to get my out of making the actual record and it only took a month to make actually.
What has been the response to “Til The Casket Drops” since its release?
I was so nervous the day it came out. Since then the reception has been great! It’s been such a busy and fast year for me. I’m out on the road touring, the first tour I ever really did. It was where I developed my first fans and now I have a lot of real fans that know my songs and connect to my music. It really is incredible.
What is your favorite song off of “Til The Casket Drops” and why?
It really changes everyday. Lately it has been “Charlie Aint Home”. The song is an answer to an Etta James song called “Waiting For Charlie”. I actually worked with Ali Shaheed Muhammad of A Tribe Called Quest on this.
You’ve been touring for the majority of this year. What has been your favorite stop so far and why?
All have been fun in my opinion. The fans know they are not coming to see perfection. There are times where the show gets messed up, the lights don’t work, microphones, etc. They have all been great in different ways. Atlanta was really one of the best ones for me because I have never been there before and that crowd brought it. They happened to know all the lyrics to my songs and that blew me away. Chicago is also really fun to go to as well as I have a really big fan base there as well.
What is your ultimate goal when it comes to your music?
I mean winning a Grammy would be cool but that’s just one thing. If I can keep having an outlet where I can be creative that is important as well. To have fans watch me evolve through the years and enjoying the creative process is what I ultimately strive for in the years to come.
Great artist that will definitely be one to look out for in 2013 and beyond. Pick up a copy of her latest album (my personal favorites are “Put The Gun Down” and the title track) and get to know more about her and her awesome music by clicking on the links at the top of the article!