In her East Los Angeles abode, indie songstress Lauren Ruth Ward is spending her newfound free time organizing her prized antique collection, her hoard of postponed tour merchandise and her thoughts as COVID-19, colloquially known as the coronavirus, is stumping recording artists everywhere.
Still riding the high of a newly released album, titled Vol. II, Ward is ready to get touring — unfortunately, she has quite a while to wait until that dream can become a reality.
“I’m all for not being a selfish douche canoe and not f—— up the whole world — I get it. … I (just) wish I was touring in the summer,” Ward said in an interview with The Daily Californian.
While Ward’s previously scheduled U.S. and international tours are in talks to happen later this year, the vocalist is scared about the impact that a second wave of cold and flu season could have on her winter months’ performing capabilities.
“I was really excited to have both of these tours,” Ward said. “We were going to be touring the 13th of March all the way until June 8th, and I was f—— stoked because I’ve seldomly gotten to tour more than, like, two weeks in the summer and there’s just no extra bulls— — I don’t get sick.”
Since the California shelter-in-place mandate did not hit San Diego — the starting location of Ward’s now-postponed spring tour — until March 19, the March 13 tour date was the only show the vocalist actually got to see through.
“We were serious. I did merch with gloves and then I made little spray bottles — I mixed vinegar, rubbing alcohol and lavender, and I made everybody disinfect their phones. We had a system, it was cool,” Ward said. “Every time a fan wanted to give me a hug, I straight up had to be like, ‘Oh no, I’m sorry, but let’s play footsie and rub foots together.’ Dude, every fan was like, ‘Uh, OK, sure.’ ”
Now, Ward is finding her own peace within her home, sharing the space with her partner, Laura Pergolizzi, otherwise known as recording artist LP. “We had both been home since mid-December, and she was like, ‘I wish this pandemic would’ve come after, like, three months of touring,’ ” Ward said.
But while the timing is never ideal for a situation like this, Ward is managing to make the most of her self-isolation.
On March 20, Ward put handmade merchandise packages up on Bandcamp, which waived its revenue share on sales to help artists impacted by the pandemic. As the vocalist said, the boxes of stamped vintage scarves, signed guitar picks, tie-dyed T-shirts and handmade leather tags “went like hotcakes.”
“(Fans) are, at times, the entire reason why — I want to say ‘we’ because I feel like I could speak for lots of people — but why we do what we do,” Ward said.
Ward expressed much of this passion for her fans on the cover of her new record, which features the artist’s face surrounded by dolls of herself that fans have gifted her over the years. After deep struggles with her previous label, a time of her life that is documented on Vol. II, the artist grounded her forward intentions in the love of her fans.
“My way of healing was really just remembering why I was doing it, remembering the fans,” Ward said. “It just felt right to have them on the cover. … I just wanted to have them be a part of (the album) in a way that they didn’t see coming.”
Vol. II may not be played live for a while, but for the time being, fans can still appreciate the intricacies of Ward’s songwriting from at-home streaming devices, CD players and vinyl record players. Chronologically following Ward’s journey since her 2018 album Well, Hell, Vol. II is a mature detailing of the trauma she faced amid her departure from Weekday Records.
“I remember when all that started to kind of crumble,” Ward said. “I was feeling really sh—- … it was a really traumatizing feeling to not feel supported by people who owned your intellectual property, and I was terrified.”
Ward released the song “Valhalla” first after returning to independent distribution. “I was kind of like, ‘Well, f— it, I’m not going to stop creating,” Ward said.
“ ‘Valhalla’ is about an abortion that I had, and that was the first time I really started thinking it would be OK and talking about it, not feeling shame,” Ward said. “I’ve been following all these abortion bans and what it means to me to have the choice — it’s indescribable and at the same time, I just have so much to say about it.”
And this is just the first in a cathartic 11-song compilation, which showcases Ward’s grit, maturity and growth as an artist.
“It’s about my empowerment,” Ward said. “I’m honored to say that my music is ‘female-empowering’ — I get that often in write-ups, but I prefer just ‘empowering’ in general.”
“I love when I see a straight man at my concert enjoying my music, knowing the lyrics,” Ward said. “That’s what I want — it’s there for all to heal. I may come across as physically femme, but I feel equally feminine and masculine internally, and that’s how I want my music to come out.”
The artist’s plans may have taken a major shift this year, but it would be difficult to say that Ward isn’t thriving, even in the hard times.
“During Well, Hell, things were starting to make sense,” Ward said. “I feel like I was really able to be like, ‘OK, what the f— am I feeling and what does this mean?’ … It’s hard to put it into words, I guess. I’m better off singing it than talking about it.”
This article is part of a series in which local artists and art organizations discuss how closures due to the COVID-19 outbreak are impacting them.