We all know that saying, “Make music, not war” (or some sort of variation of it). Well, ZZ Ward is heading to battle—the battle to spread her love of music. With her new album, This Means War, just released, she’s prepared to jump in the road and begin her Love And War Tour.
Perhaps you’ve heard her songs without actually knowing it. This singer/songwriter has an extensive resume that’d make any up-and-coming musician green with envy. Not only has she recorded albums and set sail on various tours, but her music has been featured on TV shows like Pretty Little Liars and MTV’s Awkward.
Exploding into the music-biz is putting it lightly. Her debut album, Til The Casket Drops, features her first single, “Put The Gun Down,” which reached the Top 10 chart on AAA radio in 2013. Clearly, there’s plenty to celebrate. While talking with ZZ Ward, she told me about what it’s like to be on the road, the excitement of being on stage—and a few items she can’t be without while on the road.
The kick-off to the tour is just around the corner—have you been preparing for it?
Yes. Ah, no. We’re just gonna figure it out that night (laughs). But yeah, we have been working on it, putting the live show together a lot, actually. We’re putting some new songs into the set that are on the EP and it’s just been really fun to watch those songs come to life. I really think that they’re gonna move people and I think people are gonna be really excited to hear some new songs. It also just polishes up the tour, really. I’ve toured a lot over the last two-to-three years and I wanted to take things a little bit farther this time. I wanted to make the show a little bit more of an experience for the fans. So, just polishing things up and taking it to a completely different level. But yeah, it’s definitely been my main priority now. I’ve been putting my all into it so that people can come and really leave feeling like they’ve had an experience that they’ll never have again.
Yeah, you must know what engages the audience with so much experience—and on top of that, you’ve toured with Eric Clapton in 2014! How was that?
It was amazing touring with him! He’s obviously an incredible talent and it felt super fortunate to be able to go out on the road with him. It was definitely like that dream come true. He was such a nice guy, too. He was very supportive of me being interested in the blues and it was just really fun touring with him. He just really knows how to put on such a great show for his audience.
It seems like you do, too!
(Laughs) Yeah, I’m trying! I’m trying to get there—to that Eric Clapton level.
Aw. Well with putting in so much work, you’ll get there. Do you have a solid setlist yet, or are you still working on it?
Yeah. We’re still working on it. We’re just getting to the point where I’m playing through the entire show and I’m feeling really good about it so far. There are a couple of tweaks, but… It comes down to first figuring out which songs to put in the set, and then thinking of what kind of journey I want to take my fans on when they come to the show. So, we have the blueprint for that and it’s coming along really nicely.
Good! So will it be the same tracks each night, or will you feel like switching it up a bit?
I’m not exactly sure right now, but I know that it really depends on the live show. I was in Kansas City, I believe? And it was nice to have people come out and be so rowdy with me, but it kind of makes a difference. And I find that the show will change a bit each night just based upon the listeners, really. If they’re a listening crowd, or if they want to move around and dance. It just depends. And the show has many effects on each city and that’s fun to watch.
Fair enough, I get it. So, what’s your favorite city to play in? Or, do you have one?
It really comes down to that moment because you never really know what city is going to bring that energy. It really comes down to that. I mean, I’ve played in cities before where you would never expect them to have this energy and they do. I played in one city in Michigan before and I was like, “Oh, wow! These people are so excited!” And they were so fun. So, I love a lot of different cities. But that makes the difference for me.
Yeah! You want that excitable crowd. Will you be touring with anyone else, or are you flying solo this time?
No, we have some great bands coming out with us. We have the Young Wild who is an incredible band who is coming out to open for me, and I really like the band’s sound and I think it’s going to be a really great tour with them.
So, will they be touring with you the entire time?
Almost the entire time. My guitarist, Eric Wald, has a band called Black Water, and they’re gonna play some gigs with us on the West Coast.
That sounds pretty cool. I hope it works out for both of you. You have a new album coming out. Will you be playing any songs from that?
Yeah. We have the EP coming out August 28 called Love And War, and I couldn’t wait any longer to get my fans new music so that has four songs off of the new album. So, yeah. I’m really excited about them. And, actually… We will be playing all four of them. It’s really exciting because you have the songs that you know the audience will react to and then you have the new ones and I really think people are gonna love these new songs. And now that the EP will be out right when we start the tour, I hope people will be listening and will know the lyrics before they come to the show because it’s so fun when they sing along.
You have the EP coming out, but the album has some time yet. Is the album finished, or are you still working on the finishing touches?
It’s pretty much done.
So are you writing any new songs for future albums?
Yeah… That’s the thing. It’s hard when it gets to that time when you go out and tour. I’ve been busy with that, so that becomes the number one priority. It’s tricky to write on the road because I have to put my whole self into the live show with planning it, and if there’re things that don’t work, changing them—actively changing things. Then it’s tricky to be like, “Okay, now what do I want to talk about? What do I want to write about?” Because most of my emotions are all about giving the crowd your all while on stage every night. So it’s tricky.
Totally understandable. How do you spend your days while on the road?
I kind of want to get a bicycle this time around. I feel like I just spend my days just riding around with my dog, Muddy Waters, or I’ll be working on my music at some capacity, or I’ll be in the meet and greet. I basically have my normal life, but just out there.
A bike! That’s a good idea. It must get cramped in there sometimes.
It does and I feel like having a bicycle would really just change my life. Although I feel like, I don’t know… Riding a bike would be… I’m not a good bike-rider—I need wide streets.
I get it. Or at least a bike trail. But I noticed you’ve written songs for Pretty Little Liars and MTV’s show Awkward. What was that process like?
It was amazing because it gave me the opportunity to have the rule of the music and I was able to be involved. It was just a great experience for me because so many people, so many of my fans would find my music on those shows. And the music world is always changing and how people find music is always changing. So for me, I made a lot of new fans. I had a song in Pretty Little Liars, a song in We’re The Millers… And Reckless. So that was a really great thing to bring in new fans.
It’s good marketing for both parties, too. So, what are your plans for once this tour is over?
Uhm. I’m not sure! I think I’ll take like a day off. Or two. And then I’ll get back to work (laughs). Then I’ll be probably just writing and we might go over to Europe, so we’ll see.
Yeah! Just to play a few shows over in London and Paris for fun. So we’ve gotta make our way over there.
ZZ Ward’s Love And War Tour is coming our way—Sept. 18, she’ll be pulling into Irving Plaza, and on Sept. 20, she’ll be playing Union Transfer. Her newest album, This Means War, is now available for pre-order on her site: zzward.com.