Rolling Stone: M. Ward on Why Billie Holiday Endures


"Perhaps the most unexpected Holiday nod, though, comes from veteran indie rocker M. Ward. Ward has covered Holiday before, but his recently released Think of Spring takes the appreciation a step further. An almost-complete remake of Holiday’s Lady in Satin, the last album she released during her lifetime (and number 317 on RS’s recent 500 Greatest Albums list), Think of Spring strips Holiday’s music down. Instead of the small jazz bands or orchestration she relied on, M. Ward pares the songs to just his voice and guitars, making them sound even starker than they once did."

Read the full article HERE.

NEW VIDEO, "VIOLETS FOR YOUR FURS"

M.Ward has released his new video for "Violets For Your Furs" today, a rendition of the Billie Holiday song that is featured on his latest album ‘Think of Spring’. Directed by Holly Andres, Ward performs the song on acoustic guitar in a dreamlike state.

NPR WEEKEND EDITION

NPR's Sacha Pfeiffer speaks with singer-songwriter M. Ward about his new album of Billie Holiday covers, Think of Spring. He uses an acoustic guitar to bring a folk approach to Holiday's jazz songs.

Listen HERE.

Forbes: M. Ward On The Billie Holiday Record That Inspired His New LP

"Like many musicians during the pandemic, the singer-songwriter-producer Matthew Ward, who is better known as M. Ward, found himself with some extra time. He had already released his latest studio album Migration Stories earlier this year, and his tour plans were obviously interrupted. So he went back to working on a passion project that started last year: an album of standards previously recorded by Billie Holiday for her 1958 record Lady in Satin.

'I recorded it on my four-track in 2019,' says M. Ward, 'and was able to put the finishing touches on it in 2020, because suddenly I had a lot of time to finish it. I never released two records in the same year. But I never released music in a pandemic. This year has been this one giant experiment. It definitely changed the calendar completely as is the case for every human on Earth.'”

Read the entire interview HERE.

THINK OF SPRING, out today


Today M.Ward has released 'Think of Spring,' his new album of Billie Holiday covers. Called ‘spare and haunting’ by Portland Monthly and “raw and nostalgic, personal and unpolished, romantic and real,” by the Portland Tribune, the album features classic songs “You’ve Changed” – originally written in the ‘40s by Carl Fischer - and “All The Way”, famously sung by both Holiday and Frank Sinatra. Additionally, “For All We Know” is a wistful yet beautiful track, saying: “we come and go like a ripple on a stream / tomorrow may never come for all we know.”

Ward achieved the intimate sound of this record by filtering the original songs and strings through a single acoustic guitar, using various alternate tunings and a minimal amount of textures and studio manipulation. Most of the songs were recorded on an analog Tascam four track. The title Think of Spring comes from a poem written in 1924 by Jane Brown-Thompson that eventually became "I Get Along Without You Very Well" in 1938 - the first song on the record. Proceeds from Think of Spring will benefit Inner-City Arts & DonorsChoose via PLUS1 for Black Lives Fund. “I first heard [Billie’s album] Lady In Satin in a mega-shopping mall somewhere in San Francisco,” M. Ward explained. “I was about 20 years old and didn’t know much about Billie’s records or her life or how her voice changed over the years. Anyway, the sound was coming from the other side of the mall and I remember mistaking her voice for a beautiful perfectly distorted electric guitar - some other-world thing floating there on this strange mournful ocean of strings and I was hooked for life.”

Available to stream and purchase HERE.

American Songwriter: M. Ward Dedicates Delicacy to Classic Billie Holiday Fare on ‘Think of Spring’


"Imagine walking through a large, acoustically booming mall. That initial awareness of its never ending cycle of background songs can lead to any manner of misconceptions about who or what is being played, before the sound becomes clear enough for certainty. Fortunately, for most of those fractured interpretations, the music at hand isn’t meant to serve groundbreaking or emotionally revelatory purposes. And yet, for singer-songwriter M. Ward, it was a mall, of all the places, where he had his first meaningful encounter with the sound of Billie Holiday’s music. However, thanks to the cavernous space, his first listening experience was rendered sonically nebulous but that was also what made it profoundly memorable and unique.

'The combination of (Holiday’s) voice with these strings,' Ward explains. 'This just incredible opposition of just immense sadness and beautiful strings was something I’d never heard before and it’s still something that I’ve never heard anything to match that.'"

Read the full interview HERE.

New Single, "All The Way"

Via M.Ward - "No doubt the idea of 'When somebody loves you / It's no good unless they love you all the way” inspired the idea of "Poison Cup." The concept of ‘Think of Spring’ is to filter the songs and arrangements from Billie Holiday’s 'Lady In Satin' through a single acoustic guitar and vocal, inspired by Billie, Ray Ellis, J.J. Johnson, John Fahey and Robert Johnson all the way."

Think Of Spring is out Dec 11th on Anti Records. Stream + preorder here: https://mward.ffm.to/thinkofspring

Portland Monthly: M. Ward on His New Billie Holiday Tribute Album Think of Spring

"Portland singer-songwriter M. Ward knows a thing or two about holiday music. As half of She & Him, he’s put out two Christmas records with Zooey Deschanel beloved by mid-millennials and Urban Outfitters shoppers the world over. This December, though, he’s flying solo, with a collection of covers from Billie Holiday’s 1958 record Lady in Satin called Think of SpringSpring, which drops December 11, is spare and haunting—just Ward’s guitar and gently grizzled vocals. It’s also his second release of the year. Back in April, he dropped an original LP called Migration Stories that took inspiration from his grandfather’s migration from Mexico to the U.S. in the early 1900s.

We caught up with M. Ward to discuss his lifelong fascination with Holiday’s music, unique recording techniques for Think of Spring, and decision to drop two albums in one year.  (Proceeds for Think of Spring will go to education-focused nonprofits Inner-City Arts and DonorsChoose.) Below is a transcript of our conversation, lightly condensed and edited for clarity."

Read the full interview HERE.

NEW SINGLE, "YOU'VE CHANGED"

“The music for “You’ve Changed” was written in the early 40s by pianist/composer Carl Fischer - a Californian of Cherokee descent,” M. Ward explained of the song’s origins. “He was born into poverty but his parents raised enough money to provide some music lessons and he wrote this song in his late 20s with lyricist Bill Carey. Fischer died in 1954, a few years before Billie Holiday recorded her version of his music for Lady In Satin. The descending chromatic chord progression reminds me of songs Antonio Jobim and Brian Wilson would write a few decades later. To arrange the music for solo guitar I changed “You’ve Changed” to EADGBbD. #cherokeenation"

“You’ve Changed” will be featured on Think of Spring, Ward’s new album of Billie Holiday covers that will be released via ANTI- on December 11. The conceit of Think of Spring is to filter the songs and strings from Billie Holiday’s Lady In Satin through a single acoustic guitar using various alternate tunings and a minimal amount of textures and studio manipulation; most of the songs were recorded on an analog Tascam four track. The title Think of Spring comes from a poem written in 1924 by Jane Brown-Thompson that eventually became "I Get Along Without You Very Well" in 1938 - the first song on the record. Proceeds from Think of Spring will benefit Inner-City Arts & DonorsChoose via PLUS1 for Black Lives Fund.

Listen and pre-order HERE.

THINK OF SPRING Album Announce + First Single, "For Heaven's Sake"

M.Ward has announced his new album Think of Spring today, a collection of songs originally recorded by Billie Holiday – a muse to Ward and many others. To be released via ANTI- on December 11.

Ward achieved the intimate sound of this record by filtering the original songs and strings through a single acoustic guitar, using various alternate tunings and a minimal amount of textures and studio manipulation. Most of the songs were recorded on an analog Tascam four track. The title Think of Spring comes from a poem written in 1924 by Jane Brown-Thompson that eventually became "I Get Along Without You Very Well" in 1938 - the first song on the record. Proceeds from Think of Spring will benefit Inner-City Arts & DonorsChoose via PLUS1 for Black Lives Fund. “I first heard [Billie’s album] Lady In Satin in a mega-shopping mall somewhere in San Francisco,” M. Ward explained. “I was about 20 years old and didn’t know much about Billie’s records or her life or how her voice changed over the years. Anyway, the sound was coming from the other side of the mall and I remember mistaking her voice for a beautiful perfectly distorted electric guitar - some other-world thing floating there on this strange mournful ocean of strings and I was hooked for life.”

In April of this year M. Ward also released his critically acclaimed tenth studio release and first for ANTI-, Migration Stories. Recorded at Arcade Fire’s Montreal studio, the collection is languid and hazy, blurring the lines between reality and fantasy as it reckons with a world that feels more divided than ever before, even as its inhabitants grow more inextricably linked by the day. "The relaxed pacing, Ward’s intimate vocals and tips of the cap to Hank Williams, Elvis Presley and the sounds of the West give the album a decidedly nighttime atmosphere, a drizzle of starlight that settles gently on the ears and the mind," said Associated Press. "The intimate atmospherics, along with Ward’s storytelling acumen, make it an album practically designed for deep listening rather than skipping around to the singles," added The San Francisco Chronicle.

Stream and pre-order HERE.

NPR Tiny Desk

Bob Boilen -- "For me, M. Ward would be the perfect artist to sit next to while he played his songs, perhaps on a couch in a small room. And that's pretty much what you get with this Tiny Desk (home) concert. We see M. Ward in the lounge of BOCCE, a recording studio in Vancouver, Wash. That tender wispy-rasp in his voice and flowing acoustic guitar make M. Ward a musician I'd want to hear up close. Matt Ward took song requests from fans for this concert, so we hear comforting and memorable older tunes like "Poison Cup" (2006) and "Voice at the End of the Line" (2003). Those songs fit so well with music on his new record, Migration Stories, from which he plays "Coyote Mary's Traveling Show." The imagery and stories allow my mind to imagine, conjure, and wander. So shut that door, turn down the lights, and listen." 

SET LIST: 
Instrumental Intro
Duet for Guitars #3
Chinese Translation
Requiem
Coyote Mary's Traveling Show
Poison Cup
A Voice at the End of the Line


CBS Saturday Sessions

"South California singer-songwriter M. Ward is known both for being half of the musical duo She & Him alongside Zooey Deschanel, and his string of critically acclaimed solo albums. He recently released his tenth album, 'Migration Stories.' He joins CBS This Morning: Saturday to perform 'Heaven’s Nail and Hammer' for our Saturday Sessions."


The Late Show with Stephen Colbert

Performing "Migration of Souls" on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.

#StephenAtHome #MWard #PlayAtHome

NPR World Cafe Session


"Since releasing his debut album two decades ago, M. Ward has rarely taken a break. In addition to his extensive solo discography, he's performed in the folk rock supergroup Monsters of Folk and in She & Him with Zooey Deschanel. He's also a frequent collaborator and producer for other musicians.

I recently caught up with M. Ward during some unplanned downtime. Even now, with his tour cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, he's still keeping busy. In this session, we talk about what he's been up to and what inspired his latest album, Migration Stories. Hear our conversation, plus a performance of songs from that album, all in the player above."

LISTEN HERE.

MIGRATION STORIES, OUT TODAY

Today, M.Ward has released Migration Stories via Anti Records. The new album includes the captivating first singles “Unreal City,” “Migration Of Souls” and “Heaven’s Nail and Hammer.”

A prolific writer, producer and performer, M. Ward has established himself as one of modern American music’s most unique and versatile voices. For his tenth album he journeyed to Quebec, Canada to work with Arcade Fire’s Tim Kingsbury, Richard Reed Parry, producer/mixer Craig Silvey (Arcade Fire, Arctic Monkeys,  Florence and the Machine) and Teddy Impakt. Together they recorded a collection of 11 songs inspired by stories of human migration. Languid, hazy and often dream-like in narrative, these songs have their origins in pictures from newspaper and television reports, stories told by friends and tales from Ward’s own family history. At Arcade Fire’s Montreal studios the assembled talents recorded what he describes as “11 largely instrumental ballads - a sci-fi fast forward to a more silent night many generations from here to a maybe-era where movement is free again.” 

Says Ward of the stories which informed these songs, “Some time went by, the stories wove together and I remember them now closer to characters in a dream of how people could treat each other than any kind of front-page news realism. I think music subconsciously - whether writing or listening - is a filter for me. Helping to process all the bad news into something new to build from. Some records to me are like self-fulfilling prophecies - visualizing change to wish something into being. Those records inspired this one.” 

LISTEN HERE.

Q&A: WFUV

"Matt Ward, whose non-solo projects include She & Him and Monsters of Folk, was preparing to tour behind Migration Stories, but like most musicians, he's temporarily grounded from hitting the road, cancelling his North American tour (a UK tour is optimistically scheduled for late October). When WFUV caught up to Matt for our new feature, Quarantined Artists, he was safe at home in Los Angeles with his family. He chatted about the record and also sent along a "Crisis Playlist" of ten songs that have buoyed him through these dark times, including requested selections from Migration Stories."

Read the full interview HERE.

This Music Made Me: M Ward


"Oregon-based songwriter and She & Him co-originator M Ward‘s 10th album Migration Stories consists of songs inspired by tales of human migration. Described by their creator as “largely instrumental ballads,” they constitute “a sci-fi fast forward to a more silent night, many generations from here, to a maybe-era where movement is free again.”

Created before the current coronavirus pandemic, these intricate yet soothing songs – 10 originals and a cover of Al Dubin and High Williams’ 1940s cowboy ballad Along The Santa Fe trail, popularised by Glenn Miller – constitute a brake on the seemingly endless pile-up of bad news across the world. “The stories wove together and I remember them now closer to characters in a dream of how people could treat each other than any kind of front-page news realism,” says Ward. “I think music subconsciously – whether writing or listening – is a filter for me. Helping to process all the bad news into something new to build from.” 

Working out how he built the skills to create this oasis of calm, here Ward mines his music memory for the albums that have influenced him most for his This Music Made Me…"

Read the full feature HERE.

Aquarium Drunkard Interview

"Following the surf-tinged landscape of 2018’s What a Wonderful Industry, Ward’s sprawling and reflective tenth studio album Migration Stories,set for release on April 3 via ANTI- Records, bears its influence with mid-19th century migration folklore and Pax Americana folk, sung to the rustic hum of heavy guitar strings and vintage Americana. We caught up with Ward amidst our own cross-coastal quarantines to talk Migration Stories, bloodlines, the magic of first-takes, recurring earthquake dreams, and the insanity of modern times."

Read the full interview with Charley Ruddell HERE.

Continue Reading...

Aquarium Drunkard - The Lagniappe Sessions

Lagniappe (la ·gniappe) noun ‘lan-ˌyap,’ — 1. An extra or unexpected gift or benefit. 2. Something given or obtained as a gratuity or bonus.

Listen to M.Wards session and read about his selections HERE.

Continue Reading...

What A Wonderful Industry, Physical Release


Last June M.Ward surprised fans with the digital release of his ninth solo album, What A Wonderful Industry. The record will finally receive a proper physical release on January 18, 2019 via M.Ward Records, with the first pressing available on limited edition clouded clear vinyl. Over the last decade Ward has released a string of acclaimed solo albums, as well as six LPs with Zooey Deschanel in the duo She & Him. Ward is also a member of the group Monsters of Folk alongside My Morning Jacket’s Jim James, Bright Eyes’ Conor Oberst, and Mike Mogis, as well as a producer on albums for Mavis Staples, Jenny Lewis, and Carlos Forster.

Via Ward: “This is a record inspired by people in the industry I have known - heroes and villains in equal measure. There’s some beautiful moments when you travel for a living, and I’m grateful for being part of an industry that’s taken me around the world so many times - but you quickly learn there’s a perfectly imperfect balance of cold- blooded and warm-blooded animals in the zoo. This record visits the most memorable characters. There’s a lot of very inspirational people I’ve had the pleasure to work with but there are also a few I wish I’d never met. It all tragically ends with an imaginary Griffin Mill- inspired murder ballad. This album is a reminder to keep your friends close, your enemies closer and don’t let the ones that just need an extra couple hours of therapy bring you down. Anyway I hope you like it. All names have been changed to protect the innocent.”

Recorded in Portland, OR, the album was produced by M. Ward, engineered by Mike Coykendall and Adam Selzer, mixed by Rob Schnapf, and features guest vocals from Jim James. 

Listen HERE.

Mountain Stage Radio Show

Hear M.Ward's recent visit to Mountain Stage Radio Show, available on their podcast 

Listen HERE.

Live On KEXP

Appearing live in the KEXP studios, hosted by Cheryl Waters.

SET LIST:
I'm Listening (Child's Theme)
Girl From Conejo Valley
Little Baby
Confession
Michelle