Life on the Road: This Is Our Jam Chats with ZZ Ward

OCTOBER 9, 2013

Photo Courtesy of ZZ Ward

This Is Our Jam recently had the pleasure of chatting with the amazing singer-songwriter ZZ Ward. Whether you’ve caught ZZ on tour for her album Til The Casket Drops, heard one of her songs on your not-so-guilty pleasure TV shows (a.k.a. ABC’s Nashville), or just like the sound of her name, she’s definitely a singer to put on your radar. We chatted with ZZ about life on tour, writing music, and the best and worst things about being in your 20s.

Listen while you read:

Tell us about yourself! How long have you been making music?

I have been making music for — it feels like a long time. I’m on my first record right now. It came out last October and it’s called Til The Casket Drops. It is kind of a mix of back-porch blues and hip hop. I’ve been on the road a ton, which has been a totally huge life change for me — constantly moving and not really having a place other than the back of a bus. I moved to Los Angeles four years ago from Oregon to try and pursue music.

How do you like the experience of always being on tour? Do you ever get homesick?

I do get homesick, but I think at this point I’ve toured so much that I’m past that place of wanting to go home. That just takes time. At this point, I’ve learned how to tour so that I like it. I got a puppy to live with me out on the road so that I don’t feel like I don’t get to go home. Now I feel like I’m at home on the road. Every day we get up and do our walk, I throw the ball for her, and it’s kind of like we live out here on the road.

More importantly, how do you decide what to pack?

I’m going to be 100% honest with you — I literally bring everything I own on tour. I pack five huge boxes of all of my clothes, of everything that I want — I bring books with me, I bring hats with me, I bring shoes with me, I bring so much clothing with me. I bring everything that’s going to make me feel like I’m home. When I was touring in a van, I couldn’t do that; I could only pack a suitcase and that was all that I could bring. Now that I’m touring, and I’m touring on the bus, I bring everything with me to make it feel like home. It creates a few days of going to the post office and packing all my stuff up, but for the most part, it’s totally worth it.

Where do you find inspiration for your music?

I really have to find things that I feel really passionately about, so it has to be things that are going on in my life. Maybe it’s someone else at some point and I feel really passionately about them or something that they’re going through. For the most part, it’s about things I’m going through in my life.

Your music has been featured in some prime time spots, like on ABC’s Nashville — what has that experience been like?

It’s really exciting having your music on TV and being on late night shows. Those things are really exciting. I’ve had so many opportunities to get my music out there and out to new fans. It’s been wild and I’m very thankful for all of those TV placements.

What is it like being a young female in the music industry today?

The one thing that I never really signed up for and thought I would be is a boss. Maybe some people like it, but I didn’t really want to do that. But when I’m out here on the road, I have a crew of people that are with me, and I have to kind of be the leader out here. You have to step up to the position you’re given, in a way.

As far as in LA, I’m not the boss, but I work with a team of people between the label and the people on my inside team, and there is a lot of respect between me and the people that I work with. I wouldn’t work with those people if that wasn’t there. I’ve worked with producers before who weren’t necessarily empowering, and that just doesn’t last very long with me.

I grew up with a father who was always very empowering of women. He was always very much, “You can do whatever you want in this life, all you have to do is go chase it and do it, and your opinion matters.” I think that really resonated with me growing up, so I don’t really tolerate people that don’t empower me or respect me. I’ve found one group of people that really care about what I think, and I care about what they think, and it’s easy for us to work together.

The main thing is that it takes time to find the right team. So I would say that for any women aspiring to be in the music industry, you just have to have a thick skin and you have to be patient to find that right team.

What advice do you have for fellow Quarterlettes looking to pursue their passion?

I would say be patient with yourself. It takes time sometimes to figure out what you want to do and what you’re passionate about. Once you figure out what you really want to do, that’s when the hard part is done with. Once you’ve done that, just try a lot of things and be patient with yourself. Follow your dreams, though.

What’s the best and worst thing about being in your 20s?

The best thing about being in your 20s is you feel young. You feel like “Damn, I’m in my 20s, I’m doing good!” You have time.

The worst thing is that you don’t have all the knowledge that you’ll have when you’re 40 or 50. It’s funny, you talk to women who are older and ask “Do you wish you were in your 20s again?” and a lot of women will tell me no. They’re like “Yeah, I want my skin that I had when I was 20 years old, but I wouldn’t go back to where I was in my life with the amount of wisdom I have in my life now.” I always respect that about older women.

Thanks to ZZ Ward for chatting with us! Be sure to catch ZZ on her Dirty Shine tour and check out her album Til The Casket Drops on Spotify.

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