With early praise from Esquire and Marie Claire —not to mention buzz-building appearances at South by Southwest and on Last Call with Carson Daly—this bold new voice may indeed have captured your attention already. ZZ Ward is doing something all her own. She calls it “dirty shine”: the bone-deep wail of old-fashioned blues crossed with the big-city gloss of cutting-edge hip-hop.
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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.”
A chance meeting with A-list tunesmith Evan “Kidd” Bogart resulted in Ward’s signing to Bogart’s Boardwalk Entertainment Group. Once there, she began work on her debut album—as well as a four-song EP,Criminal—with a jaw-dropping array of collaborators, including Ryan Tedder, Pete Rock, Theron “Neff-U” Feemster, Ali Shaheed Muhammad (of A Tribe Called Quest), Ludwig Goransson, Blended Babies and Fitz (of L.A.’s Fitz and the Tantrums).
“Being in the studio with these people I’ve looked up to for so long was completely incredible,” Ward says.Other album standouts include “Til the Casket Drops,” inspired by Ward’s love of Alan Lomax’s influential field recordings, and the provocative “Charlie Ain’t Home,” which the singer conceived as a response to “Waiting for Charlie” by the great Etta James. And in “Put the Gun Down” Ward reaches back to her blues-bar roots in order to address a “woman trying to take my man from me,” as she puts it. Strong cuts, all—yet they scarcely prepare you for “Last Love Song,” a stunning soul ballad that the singer calls the final tune she’ll write about the heartbreak that led to so much of her current work. “The title pretty much says it all,” she admits with a laugh. “It started to make me cry as was I writing it—that’s always a good sign.”
"Throaty chanteuse fronts deep-soul fierceness." — Entertainment Weekly
"The first time we heard her smoky rasp, she was belting over the beat of Tyler, The Creator's 'Yonkers' on her own mixtape. ["CRIMINAL"] swelters a little more slowly, but it's no less ballsy: Her wailing runs over rapper Freddie Gibbs' cameo damn near make this NSFW." — Esquire