Ones To Watch alum ZZ Ward is prepping the release of her sophomore album This Means War, which is set to drop on September 18. This week she's announced her Love And War tour and also released her first single, "LOVE3X," a sassy blues pop number that'll stick in your head like marmalade. We caught up with the soulful singer to talk about working on album #2 and her experience navigating the music industry as a Ones To Watch artist. Make sure you check out dates and tickets for her tour here, which goes on sale 5/29, and read on below for our interview.
Stay tuned for ZZ's performance at RockRevival.com, coming soon.
What have you been up to since your last album and tour?
I have been making a record for about six months. I've been working with a producer named Symbolic 1 and did a lot of the record with him. He's an incredible producer who's worked with Kanye West and Eminem and Beyonce, and for some reason he wanted to work on my project with me. So yeah, we've been making the record and now are getting ready to put out the single.
Where have you been recording?
Different places, sometimes at different studios and sometimes at my house. A lot of stuff you do now is on the computer, so it's funny: you'll be in huge studio with this massive board and knobs and you don't even use any of it. You're using like a couple of laptops. We'll record live guitars and vocals but for the most part it's wherever we find ourselves.
Where are you based now?
I live in LA, now. I've lived here for five years, but I've traveled so much with touring that I don't feel like I've lived here for five years, I feel like I've lived here for three.
How would you describe the sound of your forthcoming album?
I'm still writing about being an empowered female. That kind of tone doesn't go away. I was talking about my album for the first time with someone and it really started to make me realize, talking about individual songs, that there's this theme going on with this second record.
Sonically, I think on your second record you can go in a different direction. I felt like I had already got into mixing blues and hip-hop, and I thought why not go further into this sound? Let's evolve mixing blues and hip-hop and with evolving it make it more simplistic by writing better songs. Also there was this freedom on my second album to try things and I didn't wonder if people would get this style, I already felt like people do embrace my music. That motivated me to get more experimental and try new things.
I definitely learned a lot from playing live. I learned what worked and didn't work and I incorporated those things into creating the second album. It's a more rhythmic album, definitely, it hits harder.
What lessons did you take from touring into the studio?
Knowing what makes people get excited. Knowing what makes you move, what makes you want to dance around. This album makes me wanna move so much that I have to cool it down when performing it, because I just want to move all over because of all these songs.
What kind of advice do you have for other Ones To Watch artists?
With my first album I was so excited for the opportunities that I got, that I was just like "Let's just go for this ride, whatever you guys want to do, let's do it!" I was kind of hesitant on really, really getting creative with things and having fun with it, and getting inspired and really trying to do something different. So I think my advice to someone like me two years ago is: "There's so much potential for what you can do as an artist. People want to know what your voice is, they want to know what you stand for, they want to see it. Have fun with it." There's so many levels of creativity that you can show people. So I would definitely say just dive into it, everything from what things look like to what they sound like to how you want to move. There's so much stuff, so just push yourself to figure out what those things are.