What does it feel like to be on a skyrocketing music career? Talented singer/songwriter ZZ Ward definitely knows. Not only does she have an exciting headlining tour (called Down and Dirty Shine that kicks off in Indianapolis, IN) scheduled for September 2012 and a full-length album debuting on October 16, but she’s also been the obsession of the Pretty Little Liars community ever since her haunting hit, “‘Til The Casket Drops,” was chosen as the main song for the official season 3 promo trailer and became a runaway sensation!
Craving more details about the Boardwalk/Hollywood Records artist whose rich, soulful voice, gritty blues tracks, and equally intriguing name (short for Zsuzsanna) are mesmerizing fans worldwide? Then dive into our exclusive Q&A with her below!
PLL: How thrilled were you when you discovered your song was going to be used in the preview trailer for PLL?
ZZ: I wasn’t that familiar with the show. I don’t watch a lot of TV but a lot of my friends watch it and were like ‘This is an amazing show’! Once I learned about how incredible Pretty Little Liars was, I was very excited.
PLL: What inspired ‘Til the Casket drops?
ZZ: For me it was about a relationship but for PLL it was kind of perfect for a group of girls because of all the battles they’re going through as friends and all the things that they have to overcome in order to achieve it. The song’s about sticking by someone through thick and thin.
PLL: How did you get your start in music and what do you consider to be your big break?
ZZ: I grew up listening to a lot of blues and a lot of hip-hop. I’m from Oregon originally. I moved down to L.A. about 3 years ago. My big break was probably signing with Hollywood Records and getting the opportunity to make a record.
PLL: You’ve got a lot of soul when you sing. Where does it all stem from?
ZZ: I grew up listening to, admiring, powerful female vocalists like Tina Turner and Etta James. Those were women I connected to when I heard them sing. Powerful voices.
PLL: Has the move to L.A. changed your musical style at all?
ZZ: I moved to Los Angeles and I really started embracing who I was, the music I like, and the music that I wanted to make. My sound is kind of unconventional. It’s different. It’s not like a lot of other music out there right now. I didn’t really think about that when I was making my record. I just thought about embracing who I really was as an artist. So I think coming to L.A. made me really just got for it.
PLL: Your debut album is dropping in October. Was there any particular style you wanted to focus on?
ZZ: I can’t imagine an artist who chooses the genre first. I know what sounds good to me. I love hip-hop beats. I love writing true songs about whatever is going on in my life… The most incredible thing about music is that you go out there and connect with fans and fans connect with your stories.
PLL: Your track “Move Like You Stole It” is all about hooking up with a hot guy who happens to wear bowties and glasses! We especially love this bit: “You better push that gear down to the fifth, and hit that gas pedal with a heavy kick.” So tell us, what is about dorks that revs you up? Are there any Hollywood geeks you have a secret crush on?
ZZ: There’s something about someone’s intelligence that can be really sexy. I think Pharrell’s kind of a dork – but definitely an attractive dork. Ezra from PLL is a cute dork as well. [laughs]
PLL: What was the inspiration behind your song “Criminal”?
ZZ: It was originally a song by Freddie Gibbs — I just really connected with the track and I was always a big fan of Freddie Gibbs. He liked it so much, he wanted to do a verse on it. The song’s about falling for a bad guy and accepting it and you can’t really stop yourself.
PLL: Can you share one secret about the making of the album that’s coming out September 18th?
ZZ: I think that everyone will really connect with the title of the album (Til The Casket Drops). It definitely explains the emotional core of album and the story behind the record.
PLL: You’re on the road a lot. What’s one thing you bring with you on the road no matter where you are?
ZZ: A pillow and a snuggie because when you stay at different hotels. It’s a little comforting always having the same pillow with me for a sense of familiarity. The snuggie? Because you never know what’s going to happen – flights get cancelled and I’ve had to sleep in an airport before so there’s that. [Laughs]
PLL: Do you have one song that you love covering by other artists?
ZZ: I did an event for the Grammy’s and I covered John Legend’s “Ordinary People” – I enjoy covering it. I really connect with the lyrics and the problems that people go through to have amazing love.
PLL: What’s your guiltiest pleasure?
ZZ: Popcorn at the movie theater! [Laughs] If I went to a movie without popcorn I would just sit there and think about how badly I wanted it.
PLL: What’s your favorite memory so far from your journey as an artist?
ZZ: Playing in cities that I’ve never been to in my life and having fans there. It’s definitely something newer for me experiencing that. It’s life changing.
PLL: Is there a city or venue that left a particularly strong impression on you?
ZZ: At the time I don’t know where I’m at. The memories I have are more about cities. New York for me has been really special. The last show I did in New York is a memory I will always keep with me. Also, Chicago. We did an acoustic show and we played a lot of songs we have never played before.
PLL: What are your top 2 favorite songs from the new album?
ZZ: “Lil’ Darlin” because it pays an homage to my roots. It’s very blues-y.
And “Last Love Song.” It’s about letting go of love when you least expect it.
PLL: In standard Rosewood tradition, we have a little game that we like to play! Can you tell us two truths and a lie about yourself? (*Psst! PLL fans — can you spot the lie?)
ZZ: I love the rain. I hate driving. I know who “A” is.
PLL: And in parting, what’s your best advice for aspiring musicians?
ZZ: If you want to be an artist, you should write your own songs. Every person has [her] own stories and these stories should be embraced.
As huge fans of ZZ Ward’s eclectic hip-hop mixtape (Eleven Roses) and EP album Criminal, we’re pumped for Til The Casket Drops. It not only features a staggering array of collaborators including Ryan Tedder, Kendrick Lamar, Ludwig Goransson, Pete Rock, Theron “Neff-U” Feemster, Ali Shaheed Muhammad (of A Tribe Called Quest), Blended Babies and Fitz (of Fitz and the Tantrums), but also dynamite tracks that take listeners on a wild rollercoaster ride of emotions! Plus, we love what ZZ had to say about her debut : “This album is about the ups and downs of relationships, they’re not always perfect and sometimes you have to fight for great love.” And if that doesn’t sound like what romances on Pretty Little Liars are all about, then we don’t know what does.