ALO formed almost two decades ago and releases albums (on Jack Johnson’s Brushfire Records) that are an exuberant mix of Pop/Rock and in-the-moment improv. The new album Tangle Of Time incorporates these elements, but also features a sound that evokes the California cool of the 70’s. All four members of the band contributed to the songwriting for this album adding to its freewheeling sound.
ZZ Ward has flourished as a unique figure in the rock and blues music world since her 2012 debut album, Til The Casket Drops, was released. The singer/songwriter/guitarist was born in Abington, Pennsylvania and relocated to Roseburg, Oregon at the age of 8. Since then, she has collaborated with artists like Kendrick Lamar and has opened for Eric Clapton on his 2014 tour. Ward is currently on her Love and War tour in support of her new EP, Love & War. Her 2nd full length album, This Means War, is due out in early 2016. Ryan Quint talked with ZZ Ward on behalf of 215mag.
Conversation with ZZ Ward ZZ Ward talks Philadelphia homecoming, tour life, and more
Ryan Quint: Both of your parents are from the Philly area — Your mom is from Germantown and your dad is from Richboro. I know you moved to Oregon at a pretty young age but I want to know what impact Philadelphia has had on your music career and even though you moved at such a young age, do you still consider this a homecoming show for you?
ZZ Ward: Yeah, in some ways I do. I feel like where I moved to, I was definitely the oddball out. Especially for my brother, who was 16. He had a very hard East Coast accent and I always felt like I was little bold. I had that chutzpah. I think I got that from my parents being from this area. We’re strong and confident and I definitely think I stuck out from that because of where I moved to. A lot of my family’s history is from Philadelphia too. My dad used to hang out at TLA all the time.
Do you have any lasting memories from your time in Philadelphia?
Yeah, my family was from Bucks County so we would go to the reservoir there all the time. Also, I went to Holland Elementary and my brother went to Council Rock. I went back to my old house (in Bucks County), the owners let me in and they showed me the house and it was so much smaller than I remembered (laughing) because I was a little kid. They still had the board in it where my parents would write down our height in the basement, it was crazy.
You’re about half way through the tour, how has it been going so far and for people who have never been to a ZZ Ward show, what can people expect to see?
Awesomeness. It’s been going really well. The turnouts have been better than I ever expected because I’ve been away for over a year working on my album so to come out and have people so, so excited about my music has felt really rewarding. It’s been an amazing tour so far. And we are halfway through it, I had a little break in New York. I did Fashion Week for the first time which was such a different world than what I’m doing right now being on tour so it was a really cool juxtaposition.
You’ve performed at huge festivals like Made in America, Coachella, Bonnaroo and even opened up for Eric Clapton. How do those huge shows compare to your solo tours and which do you prefer?
Yeah, it’s very different but sometimes festivals can be really magical moments also. We played Firefly Festival in Delaware and that was the most people I’ve ever played for. I think it was about 15,000 or something. When I went to soundcheck, no one was out there and I was hoping that people would come but then when I walked on stage to perform, I started to realize that more and more people were showing up and I actually had a moment where I got really nervous. So festivals like that can be really exciting but obviously club shows are just my fans so there’s a lot of love there too. It is fun at festivals though because I get to see other bands and artists and get inspired by them which is cool.
So I just read the story about how you pretty much found out you were Jewish when you were 27? Please tell me more about that story because I think its fascinating…
So, my grandmother’s last name is Friedman, which made it pretty obvious but she hid it her whole life because she lived through the Holocaust. She was actually in a line to go to the concentration camps when she escaped. And I actually found out when I met my manager because he’s Jewish and he was curious about me. I told him my grandmother’s last name and he said “well then you’re Jewish.” So I kept asking my grandmother about it and finally she said that she had been a Catholic for a certain amount of years that didn’t add up to her age (laughing). She had converted to save her family. It’s very interesting. I go to Temple for holidays and I’m still learning about all of it. I’m doing Passover and Rosh Hashanah for the first time and a fan of mine got me a Shofar which was fun. I’m proud of it, it’s exciting.
I have to mention your Fedora and how it has become a signature look for you — when did you start wearing fedoras and did you know from the beginning that it’d be a huge part of you look?
I was just trying to be like blues artists that I grew up listening to. I was scared to get on stage when I was little so I just wanted to be like Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters and they always had fedoras on. So I have always tried to embody that and now I feel like it would be really strange if I went on stage without it. Plus, people don’t really get excited if I don’t have my hat on. Literally, I was outside of the tour bus before and fans were asking for pictures and I didn’t have my hat on and they would come back after the show and ask me to take another picture with my hat on.
It’s pretty similar to James Bay’s situation and how he has become associated with always wearing a fedora.
It’s so funny. I brought James on his first U.S. tour. He opened for me and he’s really taken off, I’m so proud of him.
Your songs have been in TONS of TV shows and movies including Pretty Little Liars, Shameless, Awkward, Degrassi, The View, Veronica Mars, We’re the Millers soundtrack & tons more — Sync deals are often overlooked in music, did you or your team specifically target sync deals with your music or did it happen naturally?
It just happened! I never would have expected to get so many of my songs in movies and tv shows. A lot of people have heard my music through Pretty Little Liars or through We’re The Millers. There’s so many shows that have used my music, it’s really been amazing. It’s just exciting to go to the movies and hear your songs there.
You’ve worked with Current rappers like Kendrick Lamar & Freddie Gibbs, legendary producers like Pete Rock and Ali Shaheed Muhammad and upcoming rappers like Pell, who Im a huge fan of. You’re dad was also in a blues band. Did this love for Hip-Hop come from your father and his musical background?
Actually, no. My love for Hip-Hop came from my big brother. He used to blast Jay-Z and Nas in his bedroom and my parents never used to let me listen to it so naturally I would take his CD’s and I just fell in love with their passion for the lyrics and music.
I know one of your dream collaborations is with Pharrell, who else in the Hip-Hop community would be on that wish list?
Well Pharrell is definitely still on that list but I actually got to work with S1 who has produced with Kanye before. He produced “Power” by Kanye! It was so inspiring working with him and just seeing how dedicated he was. So I guess if I had to pick anyone else for a dream collaboration it would be Kanye.
I’ve read a lot of comparisons about your Hip-Hop and Blues influences to Kendrick’s To Pimp a Butterfly — do you feel as though that’s a fair comparison?
Yeah, I mean Kendrick is incredible. What I really love about Kendrick is that he does what he wants to do musically. I think his fans appreciate that about him too. People had some negative opinions about the album, which they always do, but he did what every artist dreams of doing which was creating an album that reflected who he was and what his musical vision was.
Lastly, the Love & War EP came out in August, your 2nd full-length LP is due out this upcoming March — How do you feel this new LP is different sonically than the first album?
So many people related to my first album and for that to happen, it made me feel even more confident to go further into my artistry. To, again, go and talk about what’s happening in my life and ask myself what moment in time am I at right now? So I feel like I really captured that on the new album. I’ve gone further into the blues and further into Hip-Hop on my 2nd album so I’m really proud of it.
To celebrate (if) the city still exists after Pope-a-mania… We’re giving you a chance to grab 2 free tickets to see Bridget Kelly with BriannaCash & RosemaryFiki at Underground Arts!!!
Winners (chosen randomly) will be notified via email Tuesday morning September 29th (day of show) by NOON. Submit your first and last name and email by September 28th at 11:59pm ET for your chance to win. Event is 21 years or over, only.
Didn’t win? Just want to buy some tickets for the show?
Click HERE for all the details you need!
Stopped to think recently when someone said: “You never get someone who is going to solve your life by loving you, until you’ve solved your life. Love is a reward. It’s not a solution.”
And what a wonderful reward it is.
Ce la vie, there is no turn key solution for those, say, looking for love. There are hints and bits of advice, suggested paths, et al (i.e. we know not to go looking in all the wrong places) but of course most facets of loving yourself/another remain an evolving mystery. One way to maybe step forth in the right direction is to bring a ready willingness and strong passion to a given situation.
One man practicing this in life and in song is none other than Tarrus Riley. Raising the bar for this generation of true vocalists hailing from Jamaica, and infusing fortified energy into what is sorely lost and needed to be found — Rock Steady/Lover’s Rock. From his earliest of recordings to his latest album Love Situation (2014), Tarrus Riley has shown us the way — weaving together the numerous fibers of love one can witness in the world, and stirring up a passion for more, using his music to uplift and inspire rather than chant down and burden with general’s orders.
Perhaps sensing the times are ripe for folks to come together — as Stevie Wonder said last week at Dilworth Park:“Love needs love, ya’ll.” — Tarrus is embarking on a multi-city Catch A Fire Touralongside artists including Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley, Stephen “Ragga” Marley, Morgan Heritage, special guests Jo Mersa, Black Am I, Skip Marley and Jamere Morgan. Coming up next weekend this fire will burn right here in Philly for Reggae in the Park 2015 at The Mann Center (Tickets HERE).
Purest Passion: Exclusive Q & A with Tarrus Riley I had the pleasure to talk with Tarrus about, among other things, his passion for his craft and how he has succeeded in reaching a diverse audience.
Aran Hart: Talk about the increasing fusion of reggae music with other genres and what you think while you’re observing the world’s music scene right now?
Tarrus Riley: Well first of all, as far as what’s happening in the music business…everything is seen nowadays because of social media. So things that used to happen in private now are in everybody’s face. The good thing is the unity part, and ya know, music inspires music. Within reggae music there are of course different influences. And it’s not only happening in music… it’s happening in fashion, in art, in movies. It’s happening in all these creative situations where people are mixing and blending. Everyone is trying to just share their country and how they see what’s going on. Everyone is everyone… like the last time I checked… everything is everything.
In any conversation you find those so called purists who want things forever to be how they once were, saying “Now it isn’t real like the past, etc.” Do you feel that reggae maybe has an unfair extra level of this critique?
Well first, because it’s blended doesn’t mean it’s not pure. I mean people like what people like. There’s a man who likes what he likes, all day everyday… And there’s another man who likes another thing, all day everyday. One man wears jeans and another man wears khaki suits. And then there’s a girl who wears shorts and there’s a girl who wears a church dress. And that doesn’t mean they’re not pure. They have their own different kind of style. And you’re allowed to have your style, and you’re allowed to like what you like, in my opinion.
I understand the concept of purists wanting things to be a certian way, but we’re not going back in time. We’re going forward in time and it’s funny, ya know — the more things change the more they stay the same. So if you just look, I mean purists don’t have to worry because there are fundamental things that cannot go anywhere. You have to understand that and allow the music to grow and evolve.
Many folks mention how you are able to stay rooted in traditional sounds of reggae but are also able to sound remarkably contemporary… Do you agree with that and is there a conscious effort to do so?
Well, music is my best friend. So I just listen to what my friend tells me. I make Reggae music and rock steady music. Recently you saw me on a song “Powerful” with Ellie Goulding and Major Lazer. Call it what you want, I make music. I’m not musically prejudice… I’m not prejudice of any kind. Regardless of how rooted I am in my beliefs, like I said it’s certain fundamental things I don’t change… such as I don’t change the content of my music. But you may hear the beats change.
In my bio they try to put me older than I really am. I’m an 80’s baby, man. I grew up on different kinds of music and have different musical influences: from Tupac and Biggie to Shabba and Super Cat, and many R&B people too. So it’s unfair to my creative mind to do one kind of thing. I just reflect who I am.
Given the themes of your music and the topics you cover is it safe to assume you had a strong network of people, family and community that you soaked up this knowledge from and now you’re expressing through your music?
You can say that, I mean it’s all love man. It’s all just love. I don’t want my music to be a burden to people. I want my music to be something to make people think positive, enjoy themselves and feel good. The world is a very stressful place and I think music should be comforting. When you feel down you listen to your favorite song and try to feel better… or you listen to something and try to learn from the music. So that’s what I want to be for people and why I make my music. For example I have a song called “My Day” and the words I sing are “It’s my day to do anything I want.” That’s what I want people to feel. I want people to know that it’s your day today to express yourself freely and do what you want.
Yeah that’s what we’re about. So I can talk about freedom without sounding like a dictionary or without sounding like I’m trying to force it down your throat. I can speak about it in a cool way. Go ahead and call it you want but I’m still giving you conscious music. I’m just not doing it like I’m bashing you with it.
We still definitely see the themes of struggle, rights, social injustice and culture, (these pillars of reggae music and its beliefs) in today’s music. But take your most recent album with “Love Situation”, which surrounds to me what is perhaps the most abandoned topic of today’s reggae music… love. Where do you think the love has gone and why did you have this album choose “it” being love as the focus?
First thing about the album, is it’s “Rock Steady” music. Rock Steady being the era before reggae that gave birth to reggae and hip-hop. A lot of people call that music lover’s rock but it’s Rock Steady. And there are different kinds of subjects like on “Burning Desire” — which is a marijuana song, but I wrote it like a love song. So I mean there’s different kinds of love situations that have double meanings. And as far as the love being lost somewhere… A lot people are trying to act too much like tough guys, and they don’t know that the real tough person is not afraid to love you. A lot of people try to act rough and cool like them some killers and real bad man ting. Nah man, like c’mon, there’s a time and place for everything. There’s nothing wrong with love.
I recently heard your version of Gregory Isaacs’ classic song “Front Door.” How did that song recording come to be?
With love and respect, first of all. Dean Fraser is the reason why we did that. He was doing a tribute to Gregory Isaacs. So the whole thing was just to say respect and I think he called it “We Remember Gregory,” because we don’t ever want to forget Gregory. So, ya have a whole heap of young artists, paying tribute to the legend.
It’s great, I had never heard the version before, and it definitely made me smile…
Yea, and I knew Gregory Issacs. He was my father’s friend, so it was somebody that I used to see. That’s the cool thing about it, and the cool about having a father being a musician… I got to see a lot of cool people around the house, man.
I can only imagine! Speaking of your family, you just mentioned your father [Jimmy Riley], and I know your mother has been very involved with your career as well. But just because your parents were music pros/lovers didn’t necessarily mean that you were going to make music. So, why is music the perfect way for you to express your experiences?
My mother’s a nurse and she loved music. My daddy’s a singer and ya know, every youth in Jamaica wants to be like their father. When we say youth in Jamaica we’re talking about a son, ya know, and every young boy wants to be like his father. So maybe it was admiration for my father, but I didn’t want to do his kind of music. I wanted to do the music that I liked when I was growing up. I was introduced at an early age and by being around music I think it just created a love for it.
I have other relatives who sing also, but maybe don’t have the same passion like I do. I love exercise, I love sports, I love cooking. But I love music more than everything!
How do you know that a song/album is ready for release, and what’s that feeling like to release the music?
Well, you never know. Half of it’s following your gut feeling. You just follow your feelings. You just do it and see what happens, you go off of your instincts. You put your best efforts out, but then after a while ya just got to know that “Alright, I did my best!”
And they can’t take that away from you…
What is some great advice and/or criticism you received at some point during your career?
Hmmm, I would say, it wouldn’t necessarily be somebody telling me something… it would more be me looking at the people that I admire and seeing the mistakes they made and seeing the great things that they’ve done. Like, I’ll see some people do some great things and I’ll be like, “ok that’s really how you do it” ya know… And I would see some people make some mistakes and be like, “ok, don’t do that”. That’s the kind of stuff that really stands out. Understand me?
I think you just gave everyone some great advice on discipline and choosing role models…
Yah mon! So that was my advice because Jamaicans are not really into telling ya things… I’m not gonna tell you what to do now, rather just show you. And you just be around and keep people around to show you. Cuz if you don’t pick up then that’s your bad because ‘dem showing you…
Do you consider yourself a rebel with a cause?
I see myself as someone who rebels for a cause, whenever it’s necessary… But I don’t want to see myself as a nuisance. I’m making some music to enlighten people, and I’m rebelling against stereotypes and prejudice. I’m rebelling against people that try to put you in a box. I’m an advocator of free thinking, so…. I’m a rebel when needs be. Some people rebel just because — and I’m not a rebel justbecause. And I make music to share my feelings and my experiences, and to also speak for other people.
Finally, talk about the opportunity that you have as a voice, no pun intended, and a songwriter to reach the younger generation in particular… who it seems it’s harder and harder to hold their attention these days…
That’s why I spoke about the contemporary sound and things. I find cool ways of getting their attention and I move quick. Everybody’s attention moves quickly because of this whole internet and social media thing. It’s even hard to learn anything new because by the time you learn it, it’s gone tomorrow. Simple thing like a phone, the minute you get used to your phone, the phone company makes a new one. So things are moving so fast. You have to find your way and how you can communicate because it’s not easy. And no disrespect to the internet, it’s helping to make the world good, but bad happens in the space too… that’s the truth.
Anything else you’re working on right now that you wanted to highlight and any signing off message for your fans?
The Catch A Fire tour is something I’m really excited about right now. I mentioned the new song and video for “Powerful” with Ellie Goudling. Just tell the people who support my music, thank you very much. I really want you to write that… Just tell them that I never take for granted the support I get from people and I’m just getting started. I’m a serious musician, serious in the sense that I want to give them good quality music. I try to represent Jamaica in fine style from the world of music. I’m not here to be any kind of superman or anything… I just hope people can find comfort in my music.
Thank you so much for your time. We look forward to seeing you at Reggae in the Park and best wishes on your upcoming tour and beyond.
Heineken Green Room is proud to present a very special end of the Summer edition with A$AP Ferg —founding member of A$AP Mob —who will be bringing his high energy beats and rhymes to Union Transfer, one of Philadelphia’s newest and most popular venues.
Plus, Philly’s own, worldwide toured DJ Jasmine Solano — half of the DJ Party Duo Electric Punanny — will be spinning all of the hottest tracks and igniting the crowd.
Summer is in full swing and the party continues with Heineken Green Room! Please join us for 3 Feet High: A Creative Co-mix of music and art featuring Maseo, the beat-making backbone of the legendary hip-hop group De La Soul, and Tim Diet, international guru of contemporary graffiti.
Plus come dance to sounds from DJs Manuvers and Mr. Sonny James while enjoying refreshments amidst a rare art exhibit, as Heineken Green Room celebrates the best dynamics in urban culture.
Remember, this event is open ONLY to Heineken Green Room members. RSVP to obtain access for this and future events, for you plus a friend by August 17th at 5pm.
You must be 21 or over to enter. RSVP does not guarantee admittance, so arrive early, as entry will be first come first serve.
King of Kings. Lords of Lords. And… The Storm of Storms
The whole city was caught in a torrential downpour Thursday Night that buzzed mobile phones with legitimate flash flood warnings — as streets like 12th St and Callowhill filled up with 3ft + of water [see photo below]. Thus, the scheduled performance at a then puddly Underground Arts was quickly moved to higher ground; at the friendly and cozy confines of The Fire in Northern Liberties.
So, after a quick jaunt and unexpected performance from “The Homophones” — South Philly rock band who was gigging on The Fire’s calendar — “The Young Lions Tour” (on the tail end of two months across the United States) took center stage after midnight.
Youthful backing band The Bebble Rockers quickly dialed in the sound [and UP the bass] before welcoming headlining act Kabaka Pyramid to begin his talented display. Arguably, and perhaps due to a lack of peers willing to do so, Kabaka in many eyes is a leading torch bearer for critically acclaimed conscious reggae artists. Search his catalog of recordings, or step inside a live show and you’ll quickly find he’s up to this challenge.
Chanting against social injustice and for the teachings of Rastafari, the Kingston born and bred performer proudly shines a bright smile on stage to balance a focused and gifted delivery. Unfazed by the change of venue and later start time, Kabaka Pyramid roused his audience and shared many pleasant exchanges, pausing at times to explain the poignant messages in his lyrics .
Fellow Jamaican (Linstead, St. Catherine-born) and tour-mate Iba Mahr provided an ample encore presentation, plus more, bouncing between a raspy-er style and sweeter notes. This effort succeeded in keeping The Fire [pun intended] burning well past closing time — with hands, sentiments, and mind states held high. This tour being an in person introduction to many for Iba Mahr, it will be interesting to see what heights he ascends to.
#HeinekenGreenRoom Philadelphia was back at it STRONG last Wednesday night when NYC’s Vashtie and DJ Spinna came through Silk City. Philly’s own Gun$ Garcia didn’t waste any time inviting guests to get their energy up — and it stayed that way until closing time. Check out photos below from @Amurri_Lauren.
Be sure to stay on the look out for more Heineken Green Room events coming up this summer!