ZZ Ward Talks Blues and Brews Before the Telluride Festival

Arielle Cruz

by Arielle Cruz

Published July 17, 2013

Blues diva ZZ Ward will play the Telluride Blues and Brews Festival this September in Colorado. And, in anticipation of the upcoming festival, Listen Up Denver has been conducting interviews with the headlining musicians.

A few days ago they spoke with ZZ Ward about her music, the blues, her beginnings and, of course, good brews. It's a pity they didn't get a chance to talk about her hip-hop influences, too, but this video is still pretty cool.

Watch the interview above or, if you're at work, you can read through it below. One thing is clear: this woman is pretty awesome. I mean her jam when she was six years old was "Hit the Road Jack." Enough said.

On the Blues:

"The first time, I remember wen I was a little kid one of my favorite songs was "Hit the Road Jack," Ray Charles, and its really funny because you wouldn't think, "Oh, that's the blues" but, I mean, he's definitely coming out of the blues. It was just funny when I was a little kid I'd hear it on the radio I'd be like ""Turn that up it my song!" and I'm like 6 years old, you know. Automatically when I was a kid I connected with soul and with blues. I don't know what it is about it, but it just resonated with me. I love it.

It's interesting because the Alamo Mack stuff I didn't really get into until later. For me, it's really kind of the footprints to the blues, in a lot of ways. Those field recordings and those prison recordings. It's the most simplistic stuff, but it's so strong. It's just like the blues to me in the sense that theres no line between the emotion and the words that they're singing, you know? It's raw emotion. And thats what the blues is to me too. And those field recordings, they helped me discover and artist called Vera Ward Hall, who became a big inspiration to me making this record."

On Her Music:

"A lot of the times when I'm writing my songs, I usually write them very organically, so it's just me singing with the guitar or piano and then I go in the studio and we produce them out and we actually find the right people to help me produce them. I was very fortunate on my first record to have people that were really great in the studio to work with me.

I feel like a good song can be done many different ways. Thats why in my live show, certain songs that are produced on the record we just play acoustically and we just sit down. I like the variety, especially when you're touring all of the time, it's fun to have different ways to play the same song. It keeps it exciting."

On Her Beginnings:

"My dad was in a local blues band growing up. He kind of gave me my starts, like on getting up on stage and just singing and performing in front of people. Voice was definitely my first instrument. And then I played a little bit. My dad had two Hammonds and three organs in the house, so I play a little bit of organ sometimes. But I never learned it in a classroom, I liked playing chords that made me feel like writing over them. So, I would just use it to write songs. And then guitar was like 5 years ago. So it was later for me, the guitar. The lead blues player in my father's band taught me how to play."

On Beer:

"I like a good dark beer. Once in a while, you know. It doesn't really go with the trying to stay in shape [laughs] thing. But I feel like having a dark beer is like having a slice of pie [laughs], but, it's worth it."


ZZ Ward
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