Last year was quite a ride for the indie-Americana powerhouse Lauren Ruth Ward. The free-spirited singer, who is coming to Oakland’s Fox Theater this Saturday, is now preparing for a five-month-long touring season — on top of wedding plans and the aftermath of dropping her record label, Weekday Records.
Ward signed to the label in the fall of 2017. After Ward encountered differences with her label regarding when songs should be released and whom she could work with, Ward decided the company was not the best fit for her.
“I didn’t feel like I was seeing eye to eye with the head of my label,” Ward said in an interview with The Daily Californian. “That’s just an uphill battle for both parties when no one is on the same page.”
Ward continued: “Regardless of the last conversation not going too well, I still stand by (the label). I don’t think anyone was trying to be malicious.”
To most musicians, having a label means having upfront money for touring, high-quality photo shoots and music videos, and better content. Ward, however, warned of the “crapshoot” that finding the right label can be: “There’s an element of luck that goes into all of it,” she said.
“I was extremely cautious,” Ward said. “I’m an independent human, and I’m very pragmatic. … Naturally, I just know more now. … I don’t think all record deals are bad — they’re all different, and we’re all different artists. I found out what kind of artist I am through the record deal.”
Since leaving the label, Ward has released “Valhalla” — her first single since dropping Well, Hell in 2018 — on her own accord. This ballad of female strength and resilience was accompanied by a music video that Ward called “my proudest piece of art to date.”
Inspired by the frustration she has felt in the past year, Ward also self-produced Happy Birthday Jim, which she released last month. The album is a seven-song compilation of songs by the Doors that Ward covered and called her “passion project.”
“I was just trying to channel my frustrations into being creative … and it was just seemingly difficult to put something out when I wanted it to be out,” Ward said. “I was like, ‘Let’s do something kind of extra.’ I love birthdays, I love Jim Morrison, my favorite number is seven, it’s his 75th birthday.”
This project wasn’t just a cover album but also a series of watercolors that Ward painted for each song and posted to her Instagram. Additionally, Ward released seven separate music videos directed by different videographers she had wanted to work with for a while.
“I’m just going to go back to what I know best, which is curating and creating and putting out content,” Ward said. “It’s not that hard. I’m excited to have control of how quickly I can put out my music and who I get to work with.”
Ward continued: “I think it’s empowering to know that you can (be a musician) independently,” which to Ward means being organized, having a day job, knowing your sound and living in an area of opportunity for your craft. “Living in LA, there’s a bunch of producers that I can afford (while working) as a hairstylist. I don’t have to spend five grand on one song.”
Now that her time with Weekday Records is behind her, Ward has the time to focus on 2019 — to her, this means one tour after the next. Starting this week, Ward will be opening for her fiancée, the musician LP, on the “Heart to Mouth Tour 2019.”
“We’ve been engaged for a year and a half, so we’re just chilling,” Ward said. “We weren’t in a rush when it happened. We’re both really busy, and we’re slowly putting together what our thing is going to be.”
Ward and LP have talked planning a “friendship ceremony” in somewhere natural such as Joshua Tree National Park or a place where they both have many fans, such as Italy. But as Ward said, she and LP are “all over the place.”
As for her career moving forward, Ward is ready to release five songs she has recorded recently and to expand her touring to Europe for the summer season. If there’s anything Lauren Ruth Ward has proven during this last year, it’s that absolutely nothing will slow her down.