ZZ Ward Brings Her Dirty Shine to Dallas [Interview]

ZZ Ward - Trees Dallas

Thank you GoodBAMMSho for the amazing opportunity to interview one of my favorite artists! Here’s the interview!!


Wednesday night ZZ Ward brought her Down and Dirty Shine tour to a packed house at Trees in Dallas. With her signature fedora, blinged out tooth and delicious blend of hip-hop and blues, there is nothing mediocre about this Oregon native.

Performing songs from her debut album, Til the Casket Drops, and Eleven Roses mixtape, ZZ delivers an effortless swagger onstage that feels completely raw and authentic when she performs. Jumping from the keys, guitar, harmonica, and yes, even the drums the amount of talent in this pint size singer is ridiculous.

Before the show started I was able to sit down with the singer and talk about love, what songwriting means to her and what’s ahead in 2013.

ZZ Ward - Trees Dallas

Is this your first time performing in Dallas?

I was here for a radio show for NPR but no I’ve never played a show. This is my first time at this venue. I really like Texas a lot, love the whole feel.

I love how you’ve merged hip-hop and blues to make a sound that’s completely unique and yours. Starting out did you ever feel the pressure to conform to a particular “radio friendly” or “industry specific” sound?

Luckily no, the label that I chose to sign with, I based my decision on the people who worked for Hollywood Records. I mean they really just believed in my artistry from the beginning. From the moment I played my songs for them they loved it, which is wonderful. I never felt like I had to try and be what was cool or what was popular. I really had a lot of freedom making the record.

Do you feel like that’s an issue in the industry today, not having a lot of creative freedom?

I think on the industry side a lot of people don’t want to take chances. You know, they don’t want to lose. They’re scared to lose and a lot of times, I think they shelve artists because of that. I know artists that are making records and they can’t put their record out because there are so many people behind it. So I’m very thankful for where I’m at.

ZZ Ward - Trees Dallas

Save My Life is such a beautiful tune and you can definitely hear that Fitz and the Tantrums flare. What was the process like working with Michael Fitzpatrick?

It was wonderful working with Fitz. He has such a good throwback feel. We wrote the song at his house, where he actually records a lot of the Fitz and the Tantrums albums. He definitely brings that throwback feel. He’s just such a great, real down to earth guy.

The metaphors and visualization in your songs are so vivid and relatable. How old were you when you wrote your first song? 

I use to write pieces of songs. I was just putting a lot of ideas together, sometimes like five pieces, and every song would be like Bohemian Rhapsody. So, I would say the first time I sat down at the piano and wrote a full song I was 13.

Do you consider songwriting to be a blessing or a curse?

I think it’s a blessing and a curse. When I was writing this record I locked myself in my apartment and I didn’t live a normal life for a while. I didn’t go out to the bars and sometimes I would be writing and if the song wasn’t done I wouldn’t go out. But it feels so good when you actually finish a song and you like it. There’s really no other high. It’s a pretty great experience.

ZZ Ward - Trees Dallas

How many songs did you write for the record?

Well you know that’s interesting, that’s a good question. There wasn’t a lot of fat. I didn’t really write a lot of songs, actually I didn’t finish probably any songs that didn’t go on the record. Every song that I finished went on the record. But it depends, I’m very critical from the beginning. So if I’m writing something that I think is okay, it doesn’t make me feel sexy or mad, or empowered, if it doesn’t give me a strong emotion from whatever side that it’s on then I’ll usually throw it out.

When I wrote Home I had been working on another song for about 3 hours and all of a sudden I just went into the chords of Home and had a melody and I was like, this is great. Forget the other song. You kind of just have to follow it.

Your passion and pain really shine on this record. How easily do you fall in love?

Well I don’t know, it might have changed a while ago. Then I might have said something different because when you’re young you think you’re in love but you don’t really know what love is. I don’t think I fall in love very easily, but I love very hard.

ZZ Ward - Trees Dallas

The title track, Til the Casket Drops, you’ve said is “a song about going to war for someone that you love. Not only was it the first song I wrote for the album, but it ended up being the perfect embodiment and emotional foundation for the entire album”. Was the song written early on for the album or later?  

It was the first song I wrote for the record and I didn’t know I was writing it for an album. I feel like Til the Casket Drops was the first song where I really, I didn’t shy away from who I was going to be as an artist. I just kind of embraced it and that was the first song that did that.

How did it shape the rest of the direction for the album?

I think just the concept of the song about going to war for somebody that you love and the ups and downs of relationships. I think the album is a very passionate record. So it just made since that it would be the title of the record.

Put the Gun Down is the first song Neff-U produced on the album. You’ve mentioned all the sonic experimentation that went on during recording it. What final mix or part sealed the deal for you knowing the song was perfect and finished?

You know that song came so easily. When we were in the studio, being the first song we worked on, we didn’t really put a lot of stuff in. I think some of the hardest times in music are when you get stuck . If you get stuck with something and you have to push and push and push until it sounds right, that will test your patience. With Put the Gun Down we didn’t really have that. Neff-U played piano, I wrote the guitar structure to it, I actually already had that, and then he did the drums. It was actually pretty straight forward with that track.

The metaphor, Put the Gun Down, is so brilliant, in your writing do you come up with the metaphor first or do you just start writing?

It’s easier that way. I mean it doesn’t always work that way. A lot of times it’s just, you have to write, or you want to write. It would be the easiest thing in the world if you had a million ideas that were great concepts for songs. If you can get that story, I feel like it’s almost like writing a script. If you have that one story or idea that’s different, it’s easier from there. But it doesn’t always happen that way.

Last Love song, I didn’t know what I was going to call it. I wrote the chorus, I had everything, but I didn’t have a hook. So I just called it Last Love Song, I’ll tell the story about the song at my show, because I didn’t want to write anymore songs about that person anymore. That’s why it became Last Love Song. So it just depends.

ZZ Ward - Trees Dallas

For Blue Eyes Blind: Ludwig Goransson said “you are one of the new voices of today and it’s never been so easy writing a song with someone.” Why do you think the creative chemistry worked so well between your melodies and his beats?

You know what, I don’t have an answer for that. I didn’t do a lot of co-writes on this record but I have done a lot of co-writing since I moved to Los Angeles. Before I wrote this record I went in with a lot of different people  and wrote a lot of songs. I learned a lot from it. I think it helped shape me to be a better writer. But two of the co-writes, one was with Fitz and the other with Ludwig, I don’t know, they just worked. I didn’t walk in and say, man I’ve got to hit this sound, we have to get a song for the record. I really didn’t feel that pressure. I went in with Ludwig, came up with some chords, a melody for the chorus, Ludwig just dropped this ridiculous beat in and it kind of went from there. It was really easy with him.

On Crying Wolf Rich Parry of Blended Babies said that “you took a very rough idea and made it shine or “made that shit shine”. Then he added that “ONLY sometimes drinking too much in the studio is a good thing.” How many drinks did it take exactly to build the song?

Well it’s really interesting because that song came along and for me, coming up with an idea that is different and hasn’t been done before, I don’t feel like you have a lot of opportunities to do that. It’s always really fun and special when you can do that.

I was sitting there with Blended Babies going through some of the tracks and I heard Maceo Haymes from the O’My’s singing on this track. I was sitting there and I could kind of come up with the idea in my head, I was really excited, and I asked, “was he drunk when he sang this?” And they were like, “yeah he was throwing some ideas down, he was drinking, wasted on whiskey, we told him go in there and just sing some melody. Don’t even worry about the lyrics.”

It’s authentic, he was really wasted when he sang that. So I was like, oh my gosh this is the perfect opportunity for me to vent about being in some of the relationships I’d been in where this person is wasted and they’re constantly doing this and that, threatening you, and I had the best idea in my head. I don’t think anyone in the room really knew it but I was like, I’ll show you, I’ll show you…I’m going to write this song.

I flipped Kendrick Lamar’s Look Out for Detox and he was cool enough to rap on the track.

What was it like working with Kendrick?

He’s such a talented guy. I think it’s incredible how he went into such an obscure song, and it is one of those songs where it doesn’t really need someone on it because it’s so different. But putting him on it was such a left idea and he just destroyed it.

ZZ Ward - Trees Dallas

You were discovered on MySpace. How can artists utilize today’s social media to propel their music career?

It’s a different world. I heard an older musician on a late night show and he was talking about when there use to be no such thing as social media. Now, every performance you do, every performance I do, goes up online. No matter where I am, I mean there is no forgiveness.

But I think if you’re an upcoming artist you can definitely use social media to your advantage. You can cover songs and get a following on YouTube. But if I would give any advice, to an upcoming or aspiring musician, it would be to write your own music. It takes time to find the right people to help you get to where you want to go. It’s not a one man or one woman job, you definitely need to have a team of people that can help you. You can’t wait for people, so my advice would be to think about what kind of music you want to make and start the train yourself.

What was it like moving from Oregon to LA?

Scary, terrifying…it was terrifying. About 6 months ago for some reason I started having those memories about what it was first like to move down and I was so depressed when I first moved. I left everything behind. I left a boyfriend behind, I literally started a new life. It was really scary but I just realized there wasn’t enough for me where I lived for what I wanted to do. I needed to get around people that were doing the same stuff I was doing.

From Eleven Roses to the Criminal EP and now Til the Casket drops and this amazing year you’ve had. What are you looking forward to the most in 2013?

The thing about being a recording artist is there’s a lot of variety and there’s a lot of stuff that nobody can tell you how it’s going to go. You just kind of have to go with it, buckle up and go for the ride. I’m excited about doing different stuff, doing different performances. I’m doing a co-headlining tour at the end of January with Delta Rae. So we’ll just see where it takes us.

GoodBAMMSho’s Coming Out Party at the Live Oak Music Hall & Lounge [Review]

Friday night the Live Oak Music Hall & Lounge hosted the GoodBAMMSho launch party with 4 talented Texas bands, and a whole lotta rock and roll.

The good folks at GoodBAMMSho have been kind enough to post my musical ramblings of some of the best shows coming through the DFW area. So, of course I wouldn’t have missed out on the opportunity to check out some great live music at one of Ft. Worth’s newest venues. First things first, the venue was a perfect choice for the festivities. Equipped with a rooftop patio and enough beers on tap to keep you occupied all night, some sleek decor and a spacious music hall, I might have to add this to my list of places to play soon!

Starting off the night was Dallas’ own, The Red 100’s. The 2011 “Best Blues Act [Dallas Observer]” definitely came to put on a show. The high energy trio made up for the lack of energy in the audience onstage with broken guitar strings & heart pounding tunes. These guys played their asses off.

Drummer Kyle Scheumack started things off vocally before passing the torch to the remaining members throughout the course of the set. Unfortunately the crowd seemed perfectly comfortable in their seats until guitarist Robbie D Love reminded everyone this was a rock show. When you thought they couldn’t get any more energetic they rose to the occasion once everyone decided to stretch their legs and come to the front of the stage.

Meshing a unique blend of blues and rock, even throwing in an ear busting cover of Johnny Be Good, these guys might not be at the top of my list of vocal stewards, but damn they sure can play.

Shifting the night to a more rockabilly/classic rock vibe were Dallas based rockers, The Roomsounds. The first time I saw these guys was at the La Grange in Deep Ellum, opening for Morning Teleportation. I liked them then and I really like them now.

Everything about these guys is in sync. From the opening song, to their denim and boots, you can really feel the synergy of the group down to the last tune. With a new album available for download and a slew of performances scheduled throughout the remainder of 2012, you’ll definitely catch me at another Roomsounds show soon.

What’s Ft. Worth without some country music? The third band of the night, The Will Callers, definitely brought an interesting twist to modern day Americana/Country music. By no means am I an expert on the subject but I will say, these guys had me intrigued from the start.

Once I got past the amazing 50’s inspired look of the band my eyes went directly to guitarist Justin Elliott. From his straw hat to his flaming shoes this guy wins the prize for most animated. Aside from being an amazing musician you could feel the energy he was putting out from the stage.

Not to take away from the rest of the group, this band was magnetic. Finally getting some people out of their seat, lead singer Jake Murphy’s classic voice was laced with the perfect amount of country twang. It’s exciting to come out to local shows and see the massive amount of talent we have in this city, and The Will Callers were no exception.

Closing out a night full of some very talented musicians was Canadian/Austin duo Black Pistol Fire. There’s really no other way I can describe these guys other then simply…amazing.

It’s impossible not to make an immediate comparison to Rock’s favorite duo of the year, The Black Keys, with their gritty guitar and hard pounding drum beats…these guys were something else. In an industry mired with over-production it’s refreshing to see two musicians completely turn a venue inside out with a guitar and set of drums.

Guitarist and frontman Kevin McKeown lit up the stage alongside drummer Eric Owen. Playing so hard to the point Owen knocked over his drums, these guys owned the night. Tearing through a slew of garage rock/blues tunes, remnants of Dan Auerbach and The White Stripes could be heard in McKeown’s vocal chops.

I couldn’t have chosen a better band to close out a great night of local music. Even coming back on stage for an encore these guys knew what the crowd wanted, and they delivered 1000% percent.

Congrats to GoodBAMMSho on their official launch and thanks Mac for putting on a great event! Until next time.

Happy Listening!

 

Song of the Day: Santigold and Her Dancing Divas at the House of Blues Dallas [Review]

Mother nature couldn’t have picked a better night to wash the city clean then Wednesday [insert extreme sarcasm here]. Severe thunderstorms and flash flooding aside I slipped on my concert wear, hooked an umbrella to my arm and dragged my music loving a@# to the House of Blues.

Hot off the release of her long awaited sophomore album, Master of My Make-Believe, Santigold, AKA Santi White, finally made it back to the HOB stage after three years and a name change (formerly Santogold). In today’s fast paced, “I want everything now” society it’s almost unheard of to wait three years for an artist to release an album, let alone their second. But there’s something to be said about the wait…the anticipation of new music and the constant search for news or info on what your favorite artists are up to. For me, the wait has been painful because yes, I secretly wish I was the third back-up dancer to Santigold, or even just a fly on the wall during her writing and recording sessions. I guess you could say I’m a bit of a fan.

Drawing the usual young and diverse crowd, this was the perfect venue for Ms. White. Large enough to pack a crowd yet intimate enough to feel the energy in the back of the house, this is the type of show I love to see at the House of Blues. My expectations were definitely high considering the brilliance of her 2009 tour and even though Master of my Make-Believe didn’t wow me as much as her debut effort, I was anxious to see how the new blended with the old.

The musicians took the stage flanked in what I would call tribal safari gear, followed by the secret sauce of Santi’s shows, her background dancers. More on them later…

The show opened with Go!, track one of her latest release that features the AMAZING  Karen O. from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. No, Karen did not make an appearance (that would have been epic) but Santigold carried the tune off beautifully, making you completely forget this was intended for two truly distinct female vocalists. No time was wasted getting to tracks of her debut, Santogold,  and I must say, the two albums blended perfectly together.

Mired with technical issues in the beginning White made repeated trips to the side of the stage to converse with the sound booth but overall the group handled it beautifully. The only annoyance with the technical difficulties was the revelation of the backing tracks being played with the music. No hate here, I understand this type of music can be hard to pull off without them, but I like to remain a naive concert goer and believe every sound effect is achieved live. Moments of frustration were seen on Ms. White’s face but she moved on like a pro and continued to amp up the crowd with an ease and grace you rarely see in a live performer. And yes, the backing tracks seemed to fade away once the sound problems were fixed.

Track after track from L.E.S. Artistes to Disparate Youth, Big Mouth and Freak Like Me it was a shame I was packed like a sardine in general admission because you can’t help but want to dance your ass off. That leads me to one of my favorite parts of the show, Santigold’s duo of stone faced, scintillating dancers, the SG-1’s. Perfectly choreographed, unabashedly sexy and all without cracking a smile these chicks are visual perfection. I found myself staring at the SG-1’s at times more then White herself and anxiously waiting to see what they would morph into next. Multiple outfit changes later (for the entire band), a giant horse, psychedelic umbrellas and enough booty shaking that Sir Mix a Lot would approve, this might just be the must see show of the summer.

A delicious blend of rock, pop, new wave, indie and probably a dozen other genres you could reference in her music, Santigold knows how to bring nothing but fun to the stage, literally. Selecting an energetic group from the crowd White turned the stage into a dance club, but not before instructing the fame hungry patrons to move back so the show could still go on. In true rock star style she sang, danced and endured a plethora of leg humps during her ultra popular hit Creator.

The night ended with a Spank Rock special, B.O.O.T.A.Y and the opportunity for the SG-1’s to impress me yet again with their..uh hummm…dancing magic. Santigold put on a stellar HOB show while solidifying my admiration for the multidimensional artist and her troupe of dancing divas.

Disparate Youth:

Creator:

To check out more of my reviews head over to GoodBAMMSho!

Song of the Day: St. Vincent “Cheerleader”

It’s officially summer in Texas. Hot, muggy, and pretty much miserable, but there’s a bit more time until we start seeing triple digits (hopefully). Generally I stay clear of outdoor venues in the summer heat but tonight I get the opportunity to play pretend photographer at the KXT Summer Cut mini fest. I’ll be reviewing the show for GoodBAMMSho so look out for that this weekend.

The Flaming Lips are headlining tonight’s show but I’m most excited to see Texas native St. Vincent! So in honor of tonight’s event check out Cheerleader off her latest record Strange Mercy. Time to go check out some live music – and I hear there’s food trucks!!! Watch out!

Cheerleader:

Image Credit: Art Forum

Song of the Day: Morning Teleportation “Just a Figment” [Review]

Morning Teleportation

I’m doing things a little different for today’s Song of the Day. Last Wednesday I reviewed a local show for GoodBAMMSho in Deep Ellum and was pleasantly surprised by the night’s lineup. Philly foursome Nicos Gun, local Dallas boys The Roomsounds, and Isaac Brock’s (of Modest Mouse fame) pet project, Morning Teleportation were an impressive group of young musicians.

My favorite of the night was headliner Morning Teleportation. Their distinct sound really caught my attention for reasons that you’ll just have to read below (how about that transition). So check out a track off their 2011 release, Expanding Anyway, and read up on the other stellar bands of the night.

Just a Figment: 


Nicos Gun

Wednesday night brought three very different yet seamlessly connected bands to the LaGrange in Deep Ellum. The last few times I’ve ventured down the tattooed streets of the once bustling local music scene, a little bit of hope is restored for music in Dallas. The LaGrange is a quaint and hip music spot perfect enough to fill a herd of music lovers into its sophisticated ambiance. It’s been serving up local tunes and Tex-Mex for a few years now but to me, I’ve found a new spot to check out the hungry and talented (musically speaking of course).

Wednesday’s event was sponsored by the fabulous peeps at Blackbox Presents and GoodBAMMSho. Opening the night was philly foursome Nicos Gun. Permeating the dark streets with their electro infused beats it made for a grand entrance into the club. The crowd was small but it didn’t prevent them from putting on a hell of a good set.

Continue reading >> Nicos Gun, The Roomsounds, Morning Teleportation & a Whole Lotta Smoke

Sarah Jaffe Enchants at Hometown Gig in Dallas [Review]

When most people were camped out on a patio filled with tortilla chips and margaritas, I was anxiously awaiting Denton singer/songwriter Sarah Jaffe to take the stage at the Granada Theater in Dallas. Personally, I couldn’t have asked for a better way to spend Cinco de Mayo then with the talented North Texas native.

Sarah brought two local artists along for the ride starting with electro pop group Zhora. Unfortunately I was finishing up my Cinco de Mayo celebration and didn’t make it out for the set but after listening to some tunes online, it sounds like it was a good show!

I did make it out to see John Singer Sergeant, aka John Dufilho, and must say my initial reaction was…confused. I’m not familiar with the Dallas born musician and was excited when the curtain raised to a full band, full sound, and what I was hoping to be a captivating live show. I did some minor research over my Mexican Martini earlier and read nothing but stellar reviews about Mr. Dufilho’s new musical escapade.

Read the rest of the review on GoodBAMMSho!

The Black Keys Steal the Show at EdgeFest22 [Review]

Sunday afternoon thousands of hipsters, edgeheads, and an entire new breed of young rockers ascended upon the FC Dallas Stadium in Frisco, TX for the 22nd annual EdgeFest. Every year 102.1 The Edge puts on a day of music with some of the biggest bands in rock ‘n roll. Sixteen bands played on two stages throughout the day but I was really there to see one band in particular, The Black Keys.

To say I’m a huge Black Keys fan is a massive understatement. Ever since my husband loaded me up with a road trip playlist featuring the band’s early recordings a few years back, I’ve been absolutely enamored with the bluesy duo. So when I heard they were headlining EdgeFest there was no question where I’d be spending my Sunday night.

Read my full review at GoodBammSho!

Chairlift Takes on the Big D with Special Guest Nite Jewel [Review]

I’m excited to announce I’ll be partnering with GoodBAMMSho to bring you reviews of the hottest Indie bands coming through the DFW Metroplex. I couldn’t have asked for a better show to kick off the collaboration then Chairlift with opening act Nite Jewel.

Lying in the shadows of the “live music capital of the world”, otherwise known as Austin, Dallas hasn’t been considered much of a music Mecca. But don’t make your judgments yet because this southern city in the heart of Texas has a lot of talent to offer.

Indie music is making a huge splash on the scene in venues like the Granada Theater, Palladium Ballroom and of course, Club Dada.

It’s been years since I’ve been to Club Dada let alone Deep Ellum and I was a little disappointed to see how desolate the area has become. The happening music scene of my youth has turned into a condo wasteland littered with a few nightclubs and readily available retail space. Thankfully there are still some good bands coming through the east side Dallas hangout, and Monday night was no exception with Nite Jewel and Chairlift on the bill.

 Read the full review at GoodBAMMSho!

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