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  • Writer's pictureBrian Delaney

ZZ Ward Digs Deep and Delivers Her Most Authentic Project to Date with "Dirty Shine"

ZZ Ward, a singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, video director, record label owner, milliner, and new mother, is basking in a surge of creativity. Born as Zsuzsanna Eva Ward in Abington, Pennsylvania, ZZ Ward's roots are firmly planted in the blues. Her father's record collection introduced her to the iconic works of Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters, Robert Johnson, Etta James, and Big Mama Thornton. At the tender age of 8, ZZ began singing the blues, profoundly influenced by her father, who often sang and played the harmonica. Her adolescence saw her performing with her father's blues band, a formative experience that laid the groundwork for her musical journey. In addition to her blues heritage, ZZ's older brother's passion for hip-hop, with his Nas and Jay Z records, served as a second major influence. ZZ recognized the parallels between blues and hip-hop and, at 16, began frequenting hip-hop clubs in Eugene, Oregon. There, she started singing and performing with R&B and hip-hop acts, forging connections between two seemingly disparate genres.

ZZ Ward's musical journey is a unique blend of influences. Beyond blues and hip-hop, she also seamlessly weaves elements from Pop, R&B, Neo-Soul, and Rock into her music, creating a sound that is truly her own and one that is not easy to replicate. While her voice carries an undeniably, raw-authenticity, her lyrical prowess channels the spirit of all of the past artists who have helped to influence her. Since the release of her debut album, "Til the Casket Drops" in 2012, lead by the breakout single "Put The Gun Down," which soared into the AAA Radio Charts Top 10 and remained there for an impressive 10 weeks, she has continued to wow fans and industry vets at every turn. Hot on the heels of her debut album she released, "365 Days," which also achieved chart success by reaching #2 and even found its way into the Billboard Top 40 Alternative Chart. in 2017, she unveiled her sophomore release, "The Storm," which went on to reach Number 1 on the Billboard Blues Charts and featured collaborations with GRAMMY-Award winners Fantastic Negrito and Gary Clark Jr.

With plenty of experience, accolades, highlights and momentum to boast already, ZZ Ward continues to push ahead, steadily building her catalog, fanbase and sound along the way, solidifying the fact that her dedication and creativity are just as impressive and unwavering as her music itself. Dead set on proving herself as one of the most multi-talented, original and forward-thinking artists in the game, ZZ Ward has recently released her first project, "Dirty Shine," as a fully-independent artist; letting her fans (and the world know) that she doesn't need a big machine behind her to make things happen. "Dirty Shine" isn't just a record; it's a declaration. As ZZ herself explains, "The concept of 'dirty shine' is larger than the record. When I put out my first album, my fans and I started saying we are 'dirty shine.' It was about embracing who you are—we are all dirty, a little rough around the edges. I've always had this vibe, but I feel like this time in my life is like 'dirty shine' on steroids. I can fully be myself, and nothing can stop me." This sentiment sets the stage for a creative and personal rebirth.

In ZZ Ward's thriving fan community, the mantra of "dirty shine" embodies the essence of embracing one's true self, warts and all. The term has taken on a profound significance for the alternative, blues, and hip-hop-infused artist as she embarks on an exciting chapter in her career as an independent musician. Freed from the constraints of the major label machinery, she has just delivered her most authentic, unfiltered artistic expression to date on her very own Dirty Shine Records; and it seems that new and old fans alike just can't seem to get enough. "Dirty Shine," is her third studio album, which includes 14-tracks that flow perfectly from one to the next, creating a true sonic masterpiece. While each song brings a vibe of it's own; dynamic production, clean mixes, bold textures, memorable melodies and thought provoking lyrics remain throughout as she digs deep and gives listeners a piece of her soul. From gritty hip-hop beats, to razor-sharp rhymes, infectious hooks, and soulful nuances, the album is a stunning tapestry of ZZ's multifaceted artistry.

To support the project, she has also crafted a string of mini-movies alongside her filmmaker brother, Adam Ward. These mini-movies bring her high-concept, action-packed, and ultra-chic cinematic fantasies to life. The lead single, "On One," featuring artist, musician, and filmmaker Jean Deaux, showcases driving hip-hop grooves and an empowering message, inspired by ZZ's experience as a new parent. It challenges stereotypes about motherhood, emphasizing strength and resilience. The accompanying video is part of a two-part mini-movie that explores a riveting Zombie-Western love story. It's a visual feast that complements ZZ's unique aesthetic, blending blues and Americana influences with a modern twist.

"Friends Like These" conjures eerie Delta blues, juxtaposing gutbucket vocals with gritty hip-hop beats. Meanwhile, "OverdoZZe," produced by the acclaimed composer and producer Ludwig Göransson, defies categorization, traversing pop, hip-hop, R&B, blues, and electrifying rock solos. ZZ's penchant for pushing boundaries shines through. Additional singles, such as "Evil On The Inside," promise to further expand the album's captivating narrative. The album's production boasts a roster of award-winning producers and frequent collaborators, including Mike Elizondo, Jason Evigan, Dave Bassett, S1, and Mark Jackson & Ian Scott. This collective effort results in a richly textured and genre-defying musical experience. "Dirty Shine" is not the endpoint of ZZ Ward's artistic journey; it's a milestone that paves the way for even more creativity.

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