Hello, readers! We’re lucky that for this week’s interview we have Jake Ward hailing from the great state of Texas. He’s released an album titled.“Love Don’t Live Here.”
MW: Jake Ward, thanks for being here
JW: Hey, thank you for the opportunity to tell people about what we’re doing with summer coming up.
MW: So, I’d like to start by talking about the incredible live performance posted on your website featuring the song “Take My Hand.” Can you give us a little background on that?
JW: That video showed heart, soul and joy coming together perfectly that night, and particularly that song. We were booked at Brewster Street Ice House in Corpus Christi – one of the great venues in Texas and a tough place to get a booking. We had been trying forever. Our third single, Take My Hand, had been #2 on the Texas Regional chart all that week and everyone was talking about whether it could make that last rung to #1. Corpus Christi radio really got behind it that week and it was blasting all the time. Then on Friday night – boom: #1! Saturday night at Brewsters was packed. So many people from my life showed up. My first grade teacher was there! The minister from the church I went to through high school. College friends; people from out of town. We were introduced by Austin Daniels, who gave us so much support on his station. When we played that song it felt like electricity was flowing through us –and the fans sang the chorus. So much pride. So much love. We were so grateful and pumped. And you can see it in that great video generously provided to our site by a really good guy who I also want to thank.
MW: You have a very intense stage-persona, has that always been the case or did you have to work on that aspect of your performance?
JW: Thank you. It’s a good question and the answer is --both. I was in musicals as a kid; I could learn lines quickly and hit the notes—but I was in character. When I first started performing I was intense, but I kept my eyes closed. It was partly because of intensity, but it put a barrier between me and the audience. But as I became more determined to put on a great show, I realized that I not only needed to connect with the audience, I needed to interact with the band constantly. We never play a song exactly the same way so we all have to pay attention to each other constantly. We don’t exactly improvise but the feel and dynamics of the song depend on the energy, the audience, the venue, lots of stuff. That requires a lot of intensity and connection, but not at the expense of joy for the music. That’s foremost always.
MW: How did you meet the guys from the band?
JW: Paul and me met in elementary school, lost touch, and met again in college. Paul is an amazing guitarist and friend. He was in a cover band and I was in a band of buddies, some had learned their instruments just to be in the band. It was amazing how quicky they became solid players, but they entered real life early while Paul and me were still college kids in a band. We scouted the musicians in town and actually targeted and recruited guys we wanted: I met Mitchell (bass) and Daniel (drums) in school. We saw Owen playing in another band and gradually lured him over. No one auditioned; we wanted them and they had plenty of options so basically we selected each other.
MW: In listening to the newest album I had a hard time saying “this is straight-up country.” Your rock influence is very prominent but there are also a lot of folk sounds I could hear among a few other genre-defying aspects. Do you feel comfortable billed as a “country” artist or do you have a better word for it?
JW: You’re right. I think it’s fair to say we are a Texas country band because that term suggests the music is less predictable and more diverse simply because there are so many independent acts; when you make music without a record company as most Texas music acts do, it will create a wider range of styles and choices. I think of it as the Texas independent spirit—like the guys at the Alamo who went to make a stand for independence. Not being historical here. It’s just that Texas music has so many independent artists and radio stations who came from all over the Southwest with no money or backing. That independent spirit is in their music. Our music is original with incredible guitar from a guy who cut his teeth on rock and roll, with tight harmonies inspired by Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys, and lyrics that usually talk about feelings more than stories. So to answer your question, do I have a better word for it? One word? I’ll go with TexasCountry with an asterisk for the explanation.
MW: Can you describe how you got started songwriting? Did you have any mentors in your life or are you more self-taught?
JW: My dad taught me how to play guitar and did his best to imprint great music into my brain – which is how I absorbed Elvis and the Beach Boys. He taught me a lot about playing by ear, and I started writing songs on my own. In the past year, members of my family in Oklahoma heard my music and got the wheels turning to put me together with my cousin Kris Bergsnes, who I had never known or heard about, but who is a great guy and a tremendous songwriter. Our great grandfathers were brothers, and they were both great fiddlers in Oklahoma during the depression. Kris has taught me a lot about songwriting and music, and we both feel like there’s a certain amount of fate involved because of our long family history of country music.
Photo: Natalie Rhea
MW: What was the process like in writing/recording “Love Don’t Live Here?”
JW: That song is so special to the band because the arrangement was such a collaboration. I wrote it but everyone’s contribution is so personal and outstanding. Owen’s fiddle, for example, sounds like a string section. On that song in particular we rehearsed a lot and everyone had ideas about how to make it sound so cool and dramatic. Love Don’t Live Here is ouir album title, not because the title reflects our attitude but because it means a lot to everyone in the band.
MW: The arrangements are really quite stellar – how do those come about?
JW: Credit goes to everyone in the band as well as our ace producer Mason Shirley from Corpus Christi, Texas. Look him up Mr. CMA Artist of the Year, but book him in advance.
MW: Any big plans for the near future?
JW: We’re going to start our summer tour, starting April 28 at Brewster Street, where we had such a great night when Take My Hand went #1. Take My Hand was sort of an anthem that said “go for it.” That’s the plan! We’ll be playing our next single, Lonely Street. which is one of my favorite songs. Vocally, it’s a singer-killer – possibly as deadly as the Star Spangled Banner. The range of music and emotions is like nothing I’ve ever done. But I also love it because I wrote with my cousin and it is a shout out to so many things I heard in the car growing up. I mean, Ricky Nelson (another one of dad’s favorites) had a song called Lonesome Town. One of Brian Wilson’s favorite singers --Andy Williams had a song called Lonely Street which is nothing like this but I like the connection. And everyone knows what’s down at the end of Lonely Street right?
To learn more about Jake Ward (including hearing samples from his latest album) please visit www.jakewardmusic.com