Music News & Reviews

ZZ Ward brings blues and more to Sacramento’s Ace of Spades

ZZ Ward has a new EP out, and her next album will be released in spring.
ZZ Ward has a new EP out, and her next album will be released in spring. Courtesy of Boardwalk/Hollywood Records

ZZ Ward is sometimes referred to as a blues artist. And while blues is a big influence, one won’t hear Ward define herself in those terms. In fact, she isn’t much interested in defining her music at all.

“To me, it’s not the first thing on my mind because I don’t really see genres as an artist,” Ward said in a mid-August phone interview. “For me, I think my real intention is trying to create music that is like the music that I grew up listening to.

“I mean, some of Tom Petty’s greatest songs probably were pop hits, but I wouldn’t think that when talking about them. I would just think these are songs that can stand the test of time. These are melodies that are great melodies, that are connecting with people and are completely the best representation of the emotion that was going on behind him when he was writing those songs.

“That’s what I’m trying to do. I’m trying to create melodies that are the greatest melodies that I could ever think of, and I’m trying to create music that’s timeless.”

Ward will perform in Sacramento on Tuesday, Oct. 13, at Ace of Spades with special guest Black Waat3r.

Defining Ward’s music is getting more difficult. Her new four-song EP, “Love & War,” further blurs any lines. You can find in it acoustic folk, modern pop, twinkling instrumental tones, hip-hop rhythms, rock and bits of gospel, not to mention blues.

“I feel like the best way I can be an artist for people is to be true to myself and to make music that’s exciting to me,” Ward said, explaining her approach to music. “I have so many influences in the blues. It’s one of the greatest inspirations that I’ll ever have musically. But for me, it’s using those elements of the blues that excite me in my own creative way.”

Her first album, 2012’s “Til the Casket Drops,” was a watershed for the 29-year-old singer-guitarist (born Zsuzsanna Eva Ward), who discovered blues through her musician father’s record collection and at age 12 joined her father’s band. Over the years, Ward’s tastes and influences broadened, and she especially took a liking to hip-hop.

Her natural talent and varied influences made for a striking debut in “Til the Casket Drops,” and its Top 10 adult alternative single, “Put The Gun Down,” helped put Ward on the national music map.

Ward had originally planned to follow up her debut with another full-length album, “This Means War,” this September, before shifting course and instead releasing the “Love & War” EP and saving the full album for a spring 2016 release.

“I just felt like things were moving really fast, kind of too fast for me,” Ward said. “We decided (originally) we were going to put the album out in September, and then with the (fall) tour coming up, I just wanted to slow things down, and that’s why we moved the album to next year.”

All four tracks from “Love & War” will be on the “This Means War” album. They provide a good indication of charged emotions that Ward said fueled her writing for the second album and make it a lyrically more complex and tangled journey than “Til The Casket Drops.”

“On the first album I was heartbroken. I was living in this place of being heartbroken, and it was all I was feeling,” Ward said.

Now Ward is in a relationship, which she thought would resolve internal issues she’s always had. But she’s found that didn’t happen.

“I still had all of these internal struggles going on within myself, doubts and questioning things and how I would deal with things. So ‘This Means War’ is really like this means war, the war that I’m fighting within myself,” she said.

“That’s really where that came from. … I had something worth keeping together and worth me trying to figure out what was going on within myself so that I could be better for this other person. That’s kind of where the idea came from.”

Ward is trying to bring fans up to date with her music and life on tour this fall.

“It’s just going to be a really great blend of my first album and my new stuff coming out,” she said. “I really just want to take people, my fans coming to the show, on the ZZ Ward journey, from where it started to where I’m going with things.”

ZZ Ward

When: 6 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 13

Where: Ace of Spades,

1417 R St., Sacramento

Cost: $22-$95