It occurred to me as I watched M Ward walk on stage, baseball cap covering his eyes, that he is a reluctant rock star.
When he prepares to lay into the guitar, he does it by taking two steps back away from the audience. He is not a show off. He’s an understated performer that lets the song have first billing.
For that reason, as a music writer mentioned to me last night at a live session Matt performed for KCRW, he may never be recognized for his guitar playing.
So I wanted to take this moment to say something very simple: M. Ward SHOULD be recognized for his guitar playing. And the songs in this live set, which he played with a full band, are proof of that, from the opener “Chinese Translation” to the encore of “Rollover Beethoven”.
Another noticeable aspect of Ward’s musical persona is that he seems to be from another ere – he’s an analog man in a digital world and says he’s glad he started making music before you had to create a You Tube video to accompany every song. He prefers to have “blinders on everything else except how stuff sounds.”
And while many artists these days seem to be stuck in the 70’s, he digs a little further back for his inspiration. For instance on his latest album, “A Wasteland Companion”, he covers a track called “I Get Ideas”, previously sung by Louis Armstrong and, of course, there is the aforementioned Chuck Berry cover. He finds new ideas in old music and he’s chasing a specific sound that can’t be created in a computer program.
During the interview, DJ Anne Litt learned a few interesting nuggets of information that I wanted to share. He learned to play guitar by playing every Beatles song from A to Z, checking them off as he went. If he wasn’t a musician, he’d probably do something “outdoors” but he’s not a big fan of camping. And best of all, for us fans out there, he has a backlog of songs lying around that tell him when they want to be recorded.
Since this new album, out on April 10, if my favorite of his so far, I hope those songs start speaking up soon.
The session was recorded at Apogee’s Berkeley Street Studio as part of our KCRW’s Berkeley Street Sessions and will air on Morning Becomes Eclectic on April 10 (yes, record release day!).
More photos from photographer Larry Hirshowitz after the set list below.
M. Ward on KCRW Set List
Me and My Shadow
I Get Ideas
Never Had Nobody Like You
Crawl After You
Watch the Show
Fisher of Men