Currently based in Los Angeles, Ward forged her one-of-a-kind sound growing up in small-town Oregon—"out in the sticks in the middle of nowhere," as she puts it. "There was nothing to do, so that gave me a whole lot of time to play around with music."
Her dad owned a pair of Hammond B-3 organs, and she learned to play those; guitar came a little later, as did the remarkable vocals she first honed singing with a blues band at the age of 12. Then, at 16, Ward entered the world of rap—which she'd first discovered thanks to her older brother's CD collection. Soon enough, members of Oregon's hip-hop scene knew exactly who Ward was, as she crafted hooks for rappers and proved her mettle as a songwriter in her own right.
"People wanna know what my music is, because they're comfortable with what they know," she explains. "But I'm just doing what's authentic to me." It's that sense of commitment she inherited from some of her idols: Muddy Waters, Big Mama Thornton and especially Tina Turner, whom Ward says sings in a way that "leaves no separation between her and the song—she puts everything she has into her performance. That's what I wanna do."