Growing reputation


POSTED: Friday, December 11, 2009

On first glance you wouldn't think Matt Ward had the personality to match his large reputation in indie folk-rock circles. But no doubt about it, the multitalented musician who goes by the relatively anonymous moniker of M. Ward is someone to contend with.

He made his name with his albums, particularly 2005's “;Transistor Radio”; and '06's “;Post-War.”; Last year his profile rose through his collaboration with actress Zooey Deschanel, working together under the name of She & Him. And this year, after releasing the solo album “;Hold Time”; in February to wide fan and critical acclaim, he joined forces with Jim James of My Morning Jacket and Conor Oberst and Mike Mogis of Bright Eyes for an album and a tour as the wryly dubbed “;supergroup”; Monsters of Folk.

With the conclusion of the European leg of Monsters of Folk tour last month, the Portland, Ore.-based Ward gears up for a solo concert on Wednesday in Honolulu.





        » Where: Pipeline Cafe, 805 Pohukaina St.

        » When: 7 p.m. Wednesday

        » Cost: $25 general admission, $50 VIP (all ages)

        » Info: (877) 714-7668 or hsblinks.com/1hd



“;The whole experience with the guys was incredible,”; Ward said by phone last week. “;For five years now, considering the experience we've gathered playing with our own three bands, we always toyed with the idea of trying to tour and perform together. ... What we did was play songs from our own records, as well as those from records that we worked collectively on together.

“;And the bond survived—the best metaphor I can think of is having a dialogue with three of your greatest friends. Even though we'll all be busy with other things in the immediate future, as far as I can see, this project of ours will never die.”;

After the Honolulu gig and enjoying some downtime snorkeling on Kauai on his first visit to the islands, Ward will finish the next She & Him album, then start a U.S. tour with Deschanel. Could a Hawaii date be part of that tour? Possibly, Ward said: “;When she was there earlier this year for the Maui Film Festival, I remember she spoke highly of Hawaii.”;

But for now he plans to offer up in concert a mixed bag of tunes—“;old, new, borrowed and blue,”; he quipped—which will obviously feature songs from the “;Hold Time”; album. The album is like a sampler of well-known folk, pop and rock tidbits, put together by Ward in a seemingly offhanded but astute way. With the exception of his duet with Lucinda Williams on the Don Gibson country standard “;Oh Lonesome Me,”; “;Hold Time”; is filled with short, affecting songs.

Deschanel helps out with backing vocals on the rockabilly fuzz guitar rock of “;Never Had Nobody Like You”; and “;Rave On,”; a languid and sonically expansive cover of a Buddy Holly song with some Phil Spector “;Wall of Sound”; production touches. But there are songs like the understated but lovely “;One Hundred Million Years,”; the country-ish “;Fisher of Men”; and the backwood gospel of “;Shangri-La”; that will sound best suited for his upcoming concert.

“;Certain songs lend themselves to a solo performance,”; Ward said, “;and while I love playing by myself or with a band, I don't mind having to rely on just a guitar and piano to play live.”;

When asked whether he goes into the studio with completed songs or continues to work on them while recording, Ward said, “;Both, although if I go into the studio without a foundation, I end up relying too much on improvisation. But it's not like I have every note in every song already preconceived—I could go in cold and have things happen by chance—but it's important to rely just as much on composition than of being 'in the moment.'

“;A lot of my songs start off by very simple means. For instance, going into 'Hold Time,' I knew I wanted to experiment with percussion, and I used up to three drummers on 'Rave On' and 'Epistomology,' and just that energy in the room was inspiring.”;

Does Ward prefer either studio work or live performance over the other?

“;It's like comparing apples and oranges. They're completely different. The fact that you can arrange and rearrange your songs in the studio requires a different energy than being onstage. When you perform live, it's like bringing complete strangers into your world.”;

As he looks on his music with Deschanel and the Monsters of Folk project, Ward said, “;The main characteristic about the both of them that's surprised me is that I've ended up with collaborations that I never imagined would've come to life. It's just like planting seeds that grow in places you'd never expect to.

“;In the meantime all I can do is keep the music true to myself as much as I can.”;


» www.mwardmusic.com