The other night on Twitter I invited ZZ Ward fans to tweet me questions that they might have, in preparation for my latest chat with the chanteuse, whose personal blend of soul, blues, and rock’n’roll has earned the moniker “dirty shine.” To my surprise, Ms. Ward herself wanted to get in on the opportunity. And what was she curious to be asked about?: “What’s with the hats? Who’s your fav Beatle? Black licorice?”
Well, ZZ has certainly gained a reputation for her attachment to her collection of fedoras. In fact, after nearly a dozen Google image searches for a hatless Ward – including “ZZ Ward Without a hat,” “ZZ Ward without hat,” “ZZ Ward no hat,” and “ZZ Ward hair,” – I am yet to find a single image of her sans lid. When I ask her about when this began, she tells me, “I grew up really admiring a lot of blues artists, who would wear them and they were just such powerful looking figures.” I tell her that I think she’s started a trend among young girls, who seem to have taken up the same style, although I mention that recently I’ve been encountering a handful of girls failing to make the look work to a pretty profound degree (Ahem… I’m-looking-at-you-about-half-the-hatted-girls-at-Delta-Rae-on-Friday.) She laughs and tells me, “Well, there are people who are like, ‘My hair looks bad. I’m gonna wear a hat.’ That’s not how you wear a hat.” She explains that the key to making the right hat work in the right way is actually quite simple.
“I mean, I have to look good. That’s what’s most important. It has to fit the shape of my face and all that. And, because of that a lot of times I won’t go with a really expensive brand, if it doesn’t look good. You just have to go with some cheap thing that fits you correctly. I mean, I don’t think those blues guys were getting their clothes shipped in from Milan.”
And on the Beatles… Well, I really didn’t feel like talking about the Beatles…
However ZZ Ward’s most amusing revelation is her newfound love for black licorice… among pretty much every other kind of candy.
“I’ve actually gotten more into sweets as I’ve gotten older. I mean, when you’re a kid you have Halloween candy, but as an adult, when you’re not supposed to want sweets, it’s almost more exciting. I love black licorice, and I like Twizzlers… I could seriously really name every candy. I just love candy!”
Now, to take a step back… ZZ moved from Oregon to LA a few years ago, released her debut LP, Til the Casket Drops, in October of 2012, and has been touring the album more or less since. The last time she and I chatted was last September, in preparation for her last area appearance. During that chat she summarized for me the highlights and cornerstones of the first part of her career. However, during our latest chat, she tells me that she’s ready to move on from her roots to whatever would seem to be next.
“I’ve had some time recently to get creative again and start writing and I’m pretty excited about writing, which is one of my favorite things to do. I mean, as an artist, if I’m not on the road, what else am I going to be doing? I’ve been figuring out where I’m at and where I want to go musically. I mean, it’s been like two years now since I wrote those song and I’m definitely at a different place in my life, but it always takes a while to conceptualize what’s really going on in your life and what it ultimately means.”
However, before ZZ Ward moves on, she’s taking her debut LP on one last jaunt (and an extensive one, at that). The Last Love Tour kicks off this Friday, February 28th, at our very own Theatre of Living Arts and wraps with a string of festival appearances, including Coachella and Bonnaroo. ZZ borders on ecstatic when discussing getting back out on the road: “It’ just so fun to have fans that are there that are so enthusiastic to be there, who know all the words. It’s a whole different experience from playing and writing in a studio, getting to play to an audience that’s sincerely excited to be there with you.” And she’s also particularly excited about this tour, which is inspired by her latest single, and existentially heaviest number, “Last Love Song.”: “I’m really excited about this tour and really putting this song out there in the spotlight. I mean, it’s one of those things where we knew it couldn’t be the first song we put out because it’s just me being really vulnerable, but a lot of people told me that they were really affected by it. We’re actually working on a video for it now and we’re about to start this tour and, I don’t know, I’m hoping it can really speak to some people.”