Lauren Ruth Ward

Preview: Lauren Ruth Ward at Catalyst

Queer rocker breaks free of her label and gets creative

Last December, singer-songwriter Lauren Ruth Ward released a seven-song Doors cover EP called Happy Birthday Jim. She also made a video for each song. The whole thing was done in just seven weeks, a way to keep busy while her label waited for the right moment to release her new album.

“We did that out of sheer boredom. I was like, ‘I am dying, I need to put something out,” Ward says. “They’re being so precious about these songs and the plan. I want to respect it, but my fans are asking me when I’m going to put something out. It really drives me nuts.”

The cover EP was a collaborative project. She gave each of the seven songs to a different videographer, told them what the color scheme should be, and gave them each two weeks to make their videos. She didn’t even watch the videos until they were uploaded.

Despite having released the critically praised, fiercely queer art-rock record Well, Hell early in 2018 on Weekday, a subsidiary of Sony, putting together the Jim Morrison cover record on her own really excited her. There was a freedom to it that she really missed.

“They want you to work with names,” Ward says. “In L.A., if you’re working with somebody in their closet in Sherman Oaks, I understand it sounds sketchy, but I’m like, ‘It is a very creative human being.’”

The label let her make the Morrison cover record on her own, but they didn’t see eye to eye on her overall career trajectory. She was actually relieved in early January when she got the call that Weekday had folded, leaving her without a label.

“I’m super creative. I like to stay active,” Ward says. “That was such a problem. I didn’t foresee that. It would totally dampen who I am as a person, thus affecting my art.”

Since being label-free, she’s already released the highly energetic and self-empowering “Valhalla” as a video, as well as the audio for low-key and reflective “Pull String.” She’s got several more songs and videos in the works, and she can’t wait to get to them all out.

“I don’t really have a passion for an album. My thoughts don’t feel like they’re coming together as a chunk,” Ward says. “I’m just having a notion and writing about it, seeing a visual and creating it, and then releasing it as its own thing. That’s always been who I am.”

Originally from a small town in Maryland, she left her life as a hair stylist in 2015 and moved to L.A., where she entered the music scene full throttle. There she also felt a freedom to explore her sexuality. She’s now engaged to female singer-songwriter LP.

Ward is fiercely creative musically and visually. Getting signed to a label seemed like the opportunity she needed, but she found that she’s much better suited to being independent and having no one telling her what she can and can’t do. She still works as a hair stylist in L.A. In fact, in the four years she’s lived there, she’s been able to build up her client base enough that she can now fund her music videos herself, and pretty much express herself how she wants.

“I see visuals for every song. Sometimes I see the music videos before the songs are finished, or when it’s being written,” Ward says. “Before the label, I wanted a music video for everything, but I couldn’t afford it. Now after the label, I have a day job that I can use to fund projects.”

She’s had the unexpected offer this past year of joining a newly revived Divinyls. Through mutual friends, she met Divinyls guitarist Mark McEntee, who was blown away by her voice and energy, which reminded him of original singer Crissy Amphlett. They recorded a version of “I Touch Myself” with Ward and it was incredible. He booked a Divinyls tour in Australia earlier this year, but it got postponed due to some personal issues he was dealing with. She’s hoping it gets rescheduled soon.

“My generation does not know them at all. I’m excited to be a megaphone for my generation to be like, ‘This band was insane,’” Ward says. “Some of my friends were like, ‘I saw you post about going on the road with some Australian band. And I looked them up and holy shit, Crissy Amphlett, I lived my life not knowing who this person is.’ I was excited to put them on blast, because they deserve it.”

INFO: 9 p.m. Wednesday, April 24. Catalyst, 1011 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz. $12 adv/$15 door. 423-1338.

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