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Interview: ZZ Ward On Album 'This Means War:' "I Am More Fearless'

by Ryan Middleton   Aug 28, 2015 10:41 AM EDT

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Zsuzsanna Eva Ward, known professionally as ZZ Ward, has quickly rose into one of the more promising and unique talents in rock and blues world since her 2012 album Til The Casket Drops was released. The singer, songwriter, guitar player has been on the road constantly since, touring out of a van and then upgrading to a bus once things started to gather momentum. She has collaborated with the likes of Freddie Gibbs and Kendrick Lamar and opened for Eric Clapton on his tour in 2014.

Now Ward is preparing to go out on tour once again in support of a new EP Love & War, that was released today and contains four album tracks "Love 3x," "Lonely," "Rescue" and "Marry Well" . The EP serves as a primer for her second artist album This Means War, slated for release Mar. 4, 2016.

Her mixture of blues and hip-hop has made her a favorite among fans and rappers who are intrigued by the musicians ability to fuse together two seemingly disparate genres effortlessly. We had the chance to catch up with Ward this past weekend before her set at the Billboard Hot 100 Festival to chat about her upcoming album / EP, her love of cooking, specifically box cakes and the challanges of life on the road.

Purchase the EP on iTunes here and be sure to go check out ZZ Ward and her awesome band on the "Love Meets War" tour, which kicks off tonight in Dallas. Head to her website for all the dates and ticket information.

Music Times: You have spent the past three plus years on the road. Was it difficult to get adjusted to that?

ZZ Ward: It is definitely not a traditional lifestyle living on the road. We started out van touring. We started at the bottom of the barrel. I paid my dues on a lot of stuff. I used to play on the street, I used to play in coffee shops -- I used to play music anywhere I could.

Starting van touring was the next progression of that. Van touring is tough in a lot of ways. A lot of bands do it and now I am on a bus. Things get easier as you get more successful as you get more comforts. I also got a dog to tour with. I wanted a road dog, so I got a border terrier who is three years old now.

A photo posted by Muddy Waters (@msmuddywaters) on Jul 24, 2015 at 9:08pm PDT

MT: Can you write on the road?

ZZ: It is really challenging. I have written a little on the road, but I find it hard to both commit to my performance and commit to my writing at the same time. It depends on what type of artist you are, but I am really putting on a show for my fans. I am really letting them into my world. It's such a release for me on stage and then I turn around to write and I feel empty. So it is not the easiest thing to find all of these things to say because I am saying them every night.

MT: When you first started making music, was it difficult to fuse blues and hip-hop?

ZZ: It wasn't difficult, but I was more cautious when I first started out about how I thought people would accept that. On the first album I only used acoustic guitar. I wanted things to be simple. I didn't want to push too many boundaries. I knew my influences were already quite different and so I wanted to people to understand where I was coming from. On the second album I feel like I have expanded my artistry go further into blues and hip-hop.

MT: Because what you are doing is pretty unique, have you found others imitating you?

ZZ: In some ways yes with music and style. I see a lot girls wearing hats with long blond hair. It is all how you look at it. I think things are always recycled and everyone is influenced each other. I am influenced by The Black Keys. I would hope they wouldn't be like "I don't want to influence people." That isn't why you do music. The fact that I have influenced people in their music is wonderful.

MT: How do you stay ahead?

ZZ: I think it is great to inspire other artists, I love that. In making my second album, I really just wanted to evolve myself. I didn't really think "I need to take it here because other people have copied this." That would be a very unauthentic thing for me to do. Going into my second album it was really about locking the doors and closing the windows and really going into my own space thinking about where I wanted to take this even visually.

My album is titled This Means War. I wanted to make things more passionate, more intense, even with the style of clothes I am wearing and my hat being different then it has been in the past. Those are all influenced by what's going on within myself.

MT: Speaking of war, why the themes of Love & War?

ZZ: When I went to write this EP Love & War and the new album. I realized I was in a different situation now. I was in a relationship and I wasn't in one before. I still had all of this attitude and these emotions fighting with each other. Writing the second album, this relationship I was in wasn't hiding those things. It wasn't fixing those things within myself. It was only shining a light on them even more. The idea of This Means War and the Love & War EP is the war within myself and the idea that now that I have love, there is still this war within myself.

MT: Why did you choose the four songs that ended up on the Love & War EP?

ZZ: They are a great introduction to the album. I wanted to slow things down a little bit. I wanted to give people a taste and let it sink in and resonate with them. "Love 3x," "Lonely," "Rescue" and "Marry Well" are some of my favorite songs on the album. It is just a little taste of what is on the album.

"Marry Well" is going even further into the blues, into the hip-hop. I am playing a very traditional blues lick I grew up playing and the story is one questioning tradition. Now I am in a relationship, but I struggle sometimes being the independent, fierce person that I am out there paving my way through world. Now I have this relationship. How do I deal with both of these things? That is over a very traditional blues riff. So going a little further into the blues and hip-hop, bringing people slowly into my life.

MT: There are less collaborations on this album, was that on purpose?

ZZ: No not really. Collaborations can be something you late in the process. So on the actual album that wasn't something that was done intentionally. Remixes have come out. There are 5 different remixes of "Love 3x." Sometimes rappers will get on something later, so we do have plans for more collaborations.

MT: Are you going to have rappers come on some of the songs?

ZZ: Yeah, but I can't tell you who it is. We are at some point, but it has to be a natural progression for me.

MT: One main difference between the two albums?

ZZ: I am more confident in my own skin on the second album. I am more fearless.

MT: If you were the god of war and could end one war today, what would it be?

ZZ: I would end violence, I would end global warming, I would end war anywhere. It is funny that my album is called This Means War because I am so against all of those things. The reality is that there will always be good and evil and change starts within yourself.

MT: What is one thing people don't know about you?

ZZ: I sometimes fight with internal struggles of being domestic. I like to bake cakes.

MT: What types of cakes?

ZZ: Box cakes.

MT: Chocolate icing?

ZZ: Yeah or any type of icing. I love chocolate, but some of my girlfriends are "no no ZZ you have to make it from scratch." And I am like "no I don't have time to make it from scratch. I want to make a box cake."

I also like to experiment with some vegan cooking. I made some vegan pizza. I will post it on my Instagram. A lot of it looks terrible, it looks like a fourth grader made it, but it tastes good.

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