Every year there seems to be one big-time, mega star of the music world with whom I’m actually (despite my “indie” leanings) quite taken. This year, it’s ZZ Ward, the most enchanting chanteuse of blue-eyed soul since Duffy (yet with far more “edge”). The singer/songwriter began her musical career at 13 in Oregon, performing in her dad’s blues band… yet hip-hop remained possibly her truest love, which she pursued a local clubs in Eugene, OR, where she collaborated with local rappers. She’s dedicated her own musical career, which took off in 2012 with a mixtape and an EP, to creating an aesthetic that honors her love of both blues and hip-hop, which has earned the nickname “Dirty Shine.” Last October her debut LP, Til the Casket Drops… dropped… filled with sassy and soulful post-love songs and appearances from Kendrick Lamar, Freddie Gibbs, and Fitz of Fitz and the Tantrums. Since then, she’s toured the states numerous times, played The Tonight Show and Conan and had her music featured in countless TV shows. ZZ is currently winding down The Down and Dirty Shine Tour, which stops next Tuesday, October 1st, at Theatre of Living Arts. I recently got a chance to have a quick chat with ZZ about her career, both how it’s been and where it’s going.
Izzy Cihak: What do you feel like is most important for people to know about ZZ Ward?
ZZ Ward: That I love music and I’m going to do my best for the crowds every night and put my heart and soul into it.
Izzy: What have been your highlights of 2013?
ZZ: Playing for sold out crowds and playing for people that are so supportive of my music. It’s something I would’ve never expected. It’s amazing.
Izzy: Out of curiosity, do you currently have a favorite track from your LP? I really love “Last Love Song.”
ZZ: Thank you for saying that! I love “Last Love Song” and “Lil Darlin,” but it changes all the time.
Izzy: What do you consider to be your biggest influences?
ZZ: A lot of blues and hip-hop: Etta James, Tina Turner, Big Mama Thornton, Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Nas, Jay Z, Missy Elliott, Outkast.
Izzy: You’ve collaborated with a lot of very noteworthy artists. Is there anyone you dream of working with, whether entirely realistic or not?
ZZ: If I could collaborate with others, I’d have to say Salaam Remi, Azalea Banks, Kanye West, or Dr Dre.
Izzy: I realize this is a super lame thing to comment on, but you have a really great fashion sense. What does that draw inspiration from?
ZZ: Old blues dudes and sexy rocker chicks. I like to mix masculine and feminine pieces and get the best of both worlds.
Izzy: You’re in the middle of a huge tour. What have been the best moments, thus far, and what can be expected, for those of us you’re going to see in the near future?
ZZ: One of the best moments, so far, was having my dad come on stage with me in Denver. For my dad to see the sold-out crowd in Denver meant a lot to me.
Izzy: What do you have planned for 2014? If you’re working on new music, what direction can we expect it to go in?
ZZ: I’m not sure yet! I’m in transition right now. I’m out here on the road and touring, trying to write when I can. At some point, when I’m not moving around as much, I’m going to fall into a spot where I’m able to write again. I’ve written some songs I really like so far. I think my best songs are yet to be written.