From personal to political, singer and songwriter M. Ward’s music has a wide range
He is still reeling with excitement following his first performance in India which was at Mumbai last weekend. As renowned singer-songwriter, producer and one half of celebrated indie pop and folk duo She & Him, M. Ward gears up for his first ever gig in Bangalore today, supporting Grammy award-winning musician Norah Jones on her first tour of the country, he talks to MetroPlus about his life - music.
All set to wow the crowd with material from his last three records, M. Ward states: “After an overwhelming experience in Mumbai, I’m looking forward to the gig in Bangalore. I’ve heard you are a vibrant lot. And I’m eager to play songs from my last three records.”
Of his collaborating and touring with Norah Jones, the music connoisseur says: “It’s always great to work with Norah. She is a prolific singer and musician and I love the way she improvises. When we meet, we talk a lot about music and we even make music together.”
With eight full-length solo albums to his credit, M. Ward is a brilliant singer-songwriter. Known for merging a new-world folk sound with a healthy nod to blues, country and pop of old, the artiste says: “For me, all categories and genres of music are the same. Everything is music at its best. Simplicity is the benchmark of good music. Music like a good movie must have a simple thread, a symphony.”
M. Ward started out in the field when he learned to play the guitar. He recounts: “I remember learning the entire catalogue of the Beatles. That was the kind of good education I got in music. What’s even better is that I gathered much of my knowledge from the likes of Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly and the rest, who were the Beatles’ biggest musical inspirations. And come to think of it, I couldn’t have asked for better music teachers than Sir Paul McCartney and John Lennon!” Personally, M. Ward’s biggest musical influences are Brian Wilson and Phil Spector among a whole lot of others.
The subject matter of M.Ward’s songs ranges from the deeply personal to the observational to the political. He says: “While books and movies inspire me a lot, it is mostly older musical records that give me meaty content for my music.”
Ward’s genius as a songwriter cannot be understated. Ask him what his song-writing process entails and he divulges: “I start with practicing the guitar in my bedroom. In some time, I experiment with different tunings, that translates into melodies and the melodies bring forth the words.”
He is also part of indie supergroup Monsters of Folk and one half of popular indie pop and folk duo She & Him with actor and musician Zooey Deschanel. “One of the best things about my job is that I get to collaborate with such fantastic artistes from different parts of the world who each come with their own inspirations. I feel I’ve been placed on the earth and in this industry particularly, to learn and to grow. I imbibe a lot professionally from my friends,” Ward says.
His most recent solo album A Wasteland Companion was released in April 2012 to critical acclaim and included collaborations with Zooey Deschanel, members of Sonic Youth and Bright Eyes.
Ward has also guest starred on recordings by singer-songwriter and actress Cat Power, acclaimed rock act My Morning Jacket, and American singer-songwriter Neko Case, among others. His cover of David Bowie’s song ‘Let’s Dance’ features on the soundtrack of the cult classic film Eagle vs. Shark.
Ask him if he’s had the opportunity to listen to any Indian music/musician and one is suitably surprised when M. Ward who is in awe of the late Pandit Ravi Shankar waxes eloquent about the music contributed by the man himself to the soundtrack of Satyajit Ray’s classic Pather Panchali.
Looking ahead, while he’s still basking in the success of his last solo album, M. Ward is busy with the new She & Him record set to be released this spring.