ZZ Ward

Singer tips her hat to early influences

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ZZ Ward co-headlines a Monday, Feb. 25, show at The Basement with Delta Rae. Martin Harley opens.
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The hat.

It’s a signature accessory for young blues-rock torch singer ZZ Ward.

The Beat admits we were less than serious when we asked Ward when she was going to get a signature line of hats. She then informed us the line is up and running, and will be available at her shows.

So we asked about a signature guitar (not yet), because, you know, you can make music without a hat but in her case, not her guitar.

“Yeah, but a hat can give you a lot of inspiration to write a song,” she said with a laugh.

She should know. She’s young still but has been writing songs for years. Growing up, she assimilated influences from her father, who played in a blues band, and brother, whose hip-hop CDs the younger Ward had to sneak around and listen to because her parents preferred she not be exposed to the language.

“I knew their stories were different than mine, but I was drawn to the stories of struggle, of artists like Jay-Z or Nas,” Ward explained.

“And I loved the beats.”

It was her father who also encouraged her creativity.

“I learned from my dad not to be limited, whether I’m writing with the guitar or piano or just with my voice. And to not have one process, but to work in any way and get your inspiration from anywhere,” Ward told The Beat.

She further honed her performing skills when, at age 16, she trekked to Eugene, Ore. (about an hour from her home “in the middle of nowhere”) to an underage club.

“There were rappers performing and I went to the guy who ran the show and said I wanted to get involved, that he should have me sing choruses and write rhymes for the performers,” she said.

“He gave me a chance.”

Eventually, her talents caught the eye of Evan Bogart of Bogart’s Boardwalk Entertainment Group. Ward relocated to Los Angeles and has been recording, writing and touring nonstop.

“He really encouraged me to do my own thing, to not worry about whether something was going to be popular but whether it felt good to me,” Ward said.

He said, ‘We’ll put it in front of the world and see if they like it.’ ”

So far, so good. Tunes such as Put the Gun Down and the title track from her debut release, Til the Casket Drops, have garnered attention and airplay. Certainly, her good looks will help, but it’s her smoky blues delivery (sort of an American version of Adele) that most believe will propel Ward to the ‘next level.’

“It’s been a wild ride since the record came out (last fall),” Ward said.

“There are still so many firsts, so many things that are new and happening for the first time. Having people sing along and meeting folks who tell me stories about my songs and how much they mean to them. It’s pretty amazing.”

ZZ Ward co-headlines a Monday, Feb. 25, show at The Basement with Delta Rae. Tickets are $10/$12. Visit promowestlive.com.

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