Lauren Ruth Ward is a massively talented singer from Baltimore who picked up and relocated to LA to pursue a career in the music business. When I say talented, I mean like Beth Hart talented. Her voice can stop you in your tracks. It is soulful, powerful and raw. But this story sounds familiar right? Here is where this story diverges from the thousands of others that start out the same way. In three short years, Lauren has put together a band and inked a record deal. The former hairdresser is currently on tour in support of her debut full-length record, Well, Hell, and you should go see her while you can still get close enough to see what color her eyes are.
Besides being a great vocalist, she is also grounded, savvy and real. A combination that makes fans and friends come easily. We were fortunate enough to do a quick phone chat with Lauren before her east coast swing and got the lowdown on everything from her writing process to her advice to those making the move to LA.
BIRN: How much insight can someone who doesn’t know you get from listening to your lyrics?
LRW: A Lot. I write the lyrics. So thus far every song is something that I have gone through. Definitely a lot.
BIRN: How do you know when there is something that you want to reach back and grab a moment from? Or do you journal? How does that work?
LRW: I don’t journal as much as I’d like to, but you know iPhones make it really easy, yeah. I definitely save a phrase or a word. The word nullify spoke to me last night. I heard someone say it in a conversation so I put it in my phone. I feel like that act of writing something down or typing something down helps memorize it.
BIRN: Your latest album, Well, Hell, was written by yourself and guitarist Eduardo Rivera. What is your writing process like?
LRW: The concepts are mine. Sometimes I have a little guitar lick, sometimes I don’t really, sometimes I just have a feeling. I sit down with Eddy and either tell him what I’m about to write about, or it’s like, “I have this idea and its like a riff and it feels dirty or fuzzy.” Sometimes I’ll need an effect and he will plug in and it gives me that feeling. I usually have a melody but often times Eddy will do something on the guitar that makes me do something. It’s definitely a co-write. I couldn’t have written what we’ve written together without him. He’s the missing link in my head (laughs).
BIRN: You auditioned for The Voice and made it to LA. You were one of 147 finalists. That was your first trip to LA?
LRW: Yeah, that was a total trip. That was bananas. That’s really all there is to it.
BIRN: Well it seems like it was a catalyst for you to try to keep going in music though?
LRW: Yes and no. I always had the itch and the more knowledge I got…A friend was like “so, why don’t you just start a band?” and you know it sounds so elementary but when you have a mental block, you’re like, oh shit, I never thought of that. I had one guy friend who was just like, “I love your voice” and I was like “I think you’re a great guitar player, lets fuck around and play at house parties.” I was living in Ellicott City from age 19 to 23 and UMBC is right there. Sometimes I’d be there, playing shows at parties, but maybe 10 shows a year. Then he didn’t want to play music anymore and I was like, “that’s fine, whatever.” I was very involved in my career of doing hair, so I wouldn’t miss it for a while and then I’d just kind of get this itch. Something within me always brought me back to wanting it, but what The Voice definitely did is that it played that nurturing role. I was like, “fuck! I am being compared to all these singers…oh my god, everyone is so amazing, I am just lucky to be here.” I made so many friends. It definitely played an active role but I came back slightly defeated, just reflective. The reason I didn’t jump off a bridge was just mentally I knew it wasn’t right for me. There is one little thing that I have, sense of self. They are very contrived and it has to be because it’s show biz. Without hating the game you really just go…Got it! This is not for me. Lets just have fun, just ride this out. 50% of the people are like, god I’m so conflicted because I don’t know what could come of this. I could meet my dream producer that I am not finding and I have been looking for, for three years, or a manager could find me and that’s what I want for my music career right now.
BIRN: Talk about the transition to living in LA. Do you have advice for people thinking of doing the same thing?
LRW: Totally! Have a goal in mind. My goals are usually timeline goals, which really helped me. Be smart with your money. I saved up X amount of money and I moved to Burbank. I didn’t move to Silver Lake or downtown which are more expensive, which of course is where the cooler spot was. Move to Burbank! It is only 15 minutes away from all the good fun. Uber and Lyft rides are still cheap and rent is cheap and you’ve got lots of space to park and there is space to escape and really gather your thoughts. That was a good move! Pun intended.
I let myself live off of my savings and it was terrifying and weird not going to work. I moved in January of 2015, and it wasn’t until September that I got a job at a salon. My goal at that time was to go out and meet people, have fun. Find your tribe. Find those people that are going to help and be my cheerleaders and I’m going to be their cheerleaders. You know, just your people.
Say yes to everything, you know, within reason. I played a show a week. Don’t spend all your money. Don’t be an idiot.
BIRN: You seem like a really natural performer. You are uninhibited. Did it come easily for you or is it something you worked at through playing a lot of shows?
LRW: Both. When I was younger I loved attention and now I just don’t mind it. It’s been really nice because I feel like the behavior that I have on stage is cathartic. I needed to get this off of my chest. This was something that I was missing. Generally, on a day-to-day basis I wasn’t this happy before doing this career, and doing it the way that I’m doing it right now. I do feel that, because I know once I get off stage how relieved I feel and how I still have all of this energy going cause it’s like, I gave the crowd energy, I’m taking energy. It’s an exchange for sure. I need to perform. It’s made me so much happier.
BIRN: After three years now in Los Angeles, how much of you is LA and how much is Baltimore?
LRW: That’s cute. I like that (laughs). I think deep down, you can’t take the Baltimore out of the girl. I speak my mind, I’m scrappy, but you know, I’ve got good southern hospitality cause Maryland’s still got that southern touch. But I’m California. My way of life is all California, the food that I eat, the pace that I like to have my days go. I’m a California girl, man.