“I think there’s a feeling of dreaming that comes from L.A.,” ZZ Ward says from her hotel room while on a national tour to support the release of her latest EP, Love and War.
“I came from a very small town with a dream, and I think there’s a lot of people in L.A. because they want something more in their lives,” the 20-something blues rocker continues. “They’ve pushed themselves to try to affect other people and to have a voice, and I think I feel that energy … that fire and intensity in L.A., to be creative within your art. I definitely feel inspired by Los Angeles.”
Now a resident of Studio City, Ward, who has opened for her heroes Eric Clapton and Gary Clark Jr., spends most of her time creating in the studio. Her Love and War EP and its lead single, “Love 3X,” are out now, with a full-length album called This Means War due out in March that is “pretty much done.” If new material comes to her, she says, she may add it into the final mix. For now, though, it’s in the can.
The only challenge Ward faced working on her new material was getting back into the groove of making a new record. Being in a different place in her life, she wondered what to write about this time around, but eventually realized she was still the same person who released her debut album, Til the Casket Drops, in 2012. “The way the world reacted to my first album gave me the confidence to go even further in my artistry on the second album,” she says.
Ward says “Love 3X,” a song about a volatile relationship with a breezy pop sound that's a departure from her usual bluesy, soulful approach, reflects the themes of This Means War. At the time she wrote the album, “I was in a relationship, and being so excited by that, but realizing I have all these demons inside myself that are not going away anytime soon, or probably ever” influenced all her new material. Working on the album was been a self-reflection process for Ward over the last seven months before she hit the road.
“With 'Love 3X,' I think that for some reason I thought getting into a relationship would fix all my problems, and if I found the right person, everything would just be perfect. And I found that was far from the truth. Even when you find yourself in a relationship, one you like, and want to be in, it makes you self-reflect. It shined the light on my shortcomings.” Turning those shortcomings into art is a great gift for this young, hungry artist.
Looking back on her career so far, a definite highlight was opening for her musical hero, Eric Clapton, in 2014. “To open for a legend … someone that I grew up listening to, it really feels like you’ve accomplished something.” She even got to hang out with the legend a couple times while on tour, and his advice to Ward was simply, “You gotta do it if you love music.”
ZZ Ward headlines the El Rey on Friday, Oct. 16.