Ryan Imondi

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October 23, 2012
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Glide High grad ZZ Ward kicks off album tour

Douglas County’s countryside started Zsuzanna Ward on her way to success as a singer.

Ward, known commercially as ZZ Ward, has broken into the charts with her debut album, “Til the Casket Drops,” which was released last week.

The album, distributed on Hollywood Records, a subsidiary of the Walt Disney Company, landed in the top 10 among alternative albums and top 20 among all albums on iTunes.

Ward shares the Hollywood Records label with musicians such as Miley Cyrus, Jesse McCartney and Selena Gomez.

She is headlining her first solo tour and will perform Wednesday in Eugene at the WOW Hall. The tour also will take her to New York, Philadelphia and Nashville.

Ward performs a style of music she refers to as dirty-shine, a fusion of traditional jazz and contemporary hip hop. Ward leads on vocals and plays guitar. She is typically backed by a band.

A 2005 graduate of Glide High School, Ward said in a phone interview last week that her success can be traced to her formative years in Douglas County. She said she had downtime to appreciate musicians like Etta James in her youth.

“It was so quiet where I grew up and there was so much beauty and nature. It gave me a chance to be creative,” she said.

Ward joined her first band when she was 12 and took any opportunity to perform.

She sold her CDs in parking lots and played two-hour solo sets at the Mark V restaurant in downtown Roseburg.

A North Bank Road neighbor, Dick Calafato, said he remembered Ward coming over to sing for him and his wife, Kit.

Calafato said people who knew Ward as a child are ecstatic with what she has accomplished.

“We’re amazed at how well she’s done and how competitive she has been,” he said.

Ward’s music ambitions took her to Eugene when she was in high school, where she participated in the hip hop scene.

“It was my baby steps of getting out of Roseburg,” she said.

Ward performed at the WOW Hall in high school and sang in the chorus for hip hop artists.

Her tour bus stopped on its way through Roseburg in August in a parking lot where she once sold CDs. Ward said she was coming back from a concert in Portland while traveling back to California. She said it was surreal to come back to the place she started as a musician.

Ward doesn’t have much time to reminisce. She said her schedule has her moving from place to place so quickly she is often unsure of where she will be next. Lately, she has few opportunities to relax at her L.A. home.

She said her life can get crazy, but she said she enjoys being recognized by fans.

“I’ve had a lot of experiences, and I really like having fans now,” she said. “I have fans in all of these cities I play.”

The Roseburg-based duo CHAMPIONship will open for Ward in Eugene.

•You can reach reporter Ryan Imondi at 541-957-4211 or by email rimondi@nrtoday.com.

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The News-Review Updated Nov 8, 2012 08:51AM Published Oct 30, 2012 11:14AM Copyright 2012 The News-Review. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.