Where dirty blues and beats collide: Meet ZZ Ward, a singer/songwriter whose artistry spins on a luminous axis of voice and soul. Raised in Roseburg, Oregon, ZZ learned from her father who wrote songs and played harmonica in blues bands, but it was old school masters like Big Mama Thornton, Howlin' Wolf, Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters from her parent's vinyl collection that first intrigued ZZ. "It was the authenticity," she recalls, "the soulfulness."
While ZZ is now at home on stage in reverential Los Angeles listening rooms, she was schooled in smokey dive bars and juke joints across the Pacific Northwest -- anywhere she could sing. Driving fog-shrouded logging roads to gigs, hauling gear and setting up the sound system before playing three hours a night, ZZ is battle-tested.
"I'm proud of the fact that I've done a lot," she says. "I've paid dues and I'm still paying dues. I put albums together and sold them in parking lots. It was hard to go up to strangers and talk about music, but it made me tough."
Her musical momentum took her on a strange road, connecting her with a hip-hop community in Eugene, Oregon, to write and perform hooks at high-energy, rap shows. This rhythmic journey, combined with her bluesy upbringing, would become essential in laying the foundation for her signature "dirty blues and beats" sound.
On January 4, 2012, ZZ dropped her mixtape, eleven roses, further solidifying her sonic foundation. The set features blues-riddled interpretations of some of her favorite hip-hop songs including Tyler The Creator's "Yonkers," Childish Gambino's "You Know Me," Wiz Khalifa/Curren$y's "Rooftops" and Freddie Gibbs' "Oil Money." The offering also boasts two originals produced by Kid Cudi/Cool Kids collaborators Blended Babies and two acoustic renditions of songs to be featured on her upcoming full-length debut, due out later this year on Boardwalk/Hollywood Records.