Monday, 24 June 2013 11:19

ZZ Ward Brings Her Hip-Hop-Influenced Blues to Grand Rapids

Written by  Andrea Raby
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ZZ Ward wsg Swear and Shake
The Pyramid Scheme, Grand Rapids
June 25, 7:30 p.m.
$12 advance
All ages, (616) 272-3758

Like with her music, ZZ Ward follows a classic style by incorporating fedoras into her wardrobe, paying homage to her blues heroes like Robert Johnson, while adding a twist of her own.

"I have, like, 60 fedoras," Ward said. "I started singing in a blues band when I was 12 and I would always wear a fedora because it would remind me of the blues. So I wear a fedora to pay homage to the blues artists that I grew up listening to."

Ward's music identifies with the blues and more—it dips into hip-hop, with Ward sampling beats from other artists and creating her own.

"I also grew up listening to a lot of hip-hop like Nas, Jay-Z and Outkast," Ward said. "That's just the kind of music I was meshing together because it's what I like."

Her music is a blend of what Ward calls "back porch blues meets hip-hop" that has been turning heads, with some critics comparing her to Etta James and Aretha Franklin. Her unique sound caught the ear of artists such as Kendrick Lamar, Freddie Gibbs and Fitz from Fitz and the Tantrums, all of whom appear on her album.

Ward's debut album, Til the Casket Drops, came out in October 2012. Currently, Ward and her band are on tour through September, making stops throughout the U.S. and Canada, as well as major festivals such as Sasquach in Washington and Firefly in Delware.

"We love playing live and we have a great energy that we bring. You know, that's what we're out here for," Ward said. "When people come to our shows, they can just feel that energy with us. I think people will leave having had a great time."

But it's the challenges and diversity that comes with creating music that Ward says she loves the most.

"There's playing live, there's writing your own music—and I think that you never know if you're going to be able to do it the next day, you never know if you're going to be able to put on a great show the next day," Ward said. "It's not guaranteed."

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