by Ziggy Merritt
For the past few years, Lauren Ruth Ward has been rising up through the ranks of Los Angeles-based singer-songwriters and indie upstarts. Ward started playing shows under her own name in 2015 after traveling to Los Angeles from Baltimore where she had a successful and admittedly lucrative career as a hairdresser. Since that upheaval, she has scarcely lost any steam.
Colorful in both the literal and figurative sense, the LA transplant is not afraid to be brash, to be the loudest voice in the room, and certainly does not pull any punches with her songwriting. Sensual and empowering, her music explores desire, distress, and the confidence to push back against your everyday douchebag.
When it comes to her most recent release Well, Hell, Ward displays her emotions in bountiful excess. It can be fierce and combative (“Make Love to Myself”) but then wholly tender and passionate (“Travel Man”) from line to line and track to track. It’s a special blend of her self-described “psychedelic Americana” that opens her up to a broad intersection between the punk and folk-obsessed crowds.
This past weekend, on April 29th, Ward’s mini East Coast tour stopped off for the first time in Philadelphia at Johnny Brenda’s alongside fellow LA-based indie rockers, SLUGS. Just before the weekend and while she was traveling through Boston toward the start of her tour, I was able to hear from Ward herself who opened up about everything from touring to her endearing rococo fashion.
Her current tour is one of her first and her first along the East Coast. One commonly spoken facet of her live performances since then is the physicality of the whole spectacle. “Even when we do an acoustic set, I still like to perform with high energy,” Ward wrote. “This tour is full band, big noise. Lots of energy!”
Summoning the energy and focus required, Ward’s routine has necessitated the development of methods to coax and train her voice to deliver the same intensity displayed on her studio efforts. “I have sensual routines,” she wrote. “I must steam my voice [the] night before a show sometimes or [the] morning of a show.”
Other more traditional and holistic approaches help Ward find clarity on the turn of a dime. “Now that I think of it, there is one thing that gets me focused in my groove and cures my stage fright,” she wrote. “Tequila, water, 2 limes.”
That sage wisdom did anything but falter in her performance the night of. It’s only the day after and I still feel goosebumps creeping up my arm from her performance. Ward is a natural onstage, moving and dancing in a fluid, fun, and sensual style. True to her word and the word of nearly every online publication and blog I scoured in preparation for the night’s festivities, Ward was electric and unstoppable.
Even when she jumped off the stage close to the end of her set and I realized in my usual and ever-constant anxious state of mind that she might interact with me, I felt a strange sense of comfort. She’s not there to punch you in the face after all, just kick you, in a figurative sense, ever so gently with some gnarly tunes.
Ward is also not shy about opening up about her affection for friends and tour buddies, SLUGS. SLUGS is fronted by Marissa Longstreet who is joined by Sarsten, James, and Josh. “I LOVE SLUGS,” she wrote with enthusiasm. “They’re all incredible musicians. I love the girls’ harmonies. Love Marissa’s lyrics and melodies. I’m a big fan.”
And while I’m normally not one to focus on fashion in fear of taking away from the presence and power of the performer, so much of Ward’s personality is tied into her presentation. To create a look as powerful and commanding of your rapt attention, Ward has a few dependable local haunts in LA that have helped in crafting her image onstage.
“I’m always collecting and I love spontaneous finds from different cities,” she wrote before going into her favorite LA vintage establishments.
“Lust and Fond you can buy and rent from. They’re so very talented. They’ve made me custom pieces and dressed me for many shows,” she candidly wrote in praise of their work and their stylists, Eddie and Lamartine. “This is a very new thing for me. I really enjoy expressing myself through clothing so I never thought to work with a stylist. I love their pieces and their brains, they’re always pushing me to do something I would never think of that I end up loving – that is a good stylist. They get me. They get life.”
“Vintage on Hollywood where you’ll spend a little bit more for very special or cardboard pieces, a lot of my groovy pants I’ve gotten from here deadstock with tags!”
“Squaresville is super affordable. I’ve sold a lot of vintage to them as well – they are super fair. I always leave this store with multiple radical items.”
April 29th was Ward’s last stop on her recent East Coast tour. Her debut LP, Well, Hell, is out now. For more information on Ward, head over to her website for all the details.
Stay up-to-date on SLUGS and what they’re working on at their website.