Kristen Ward
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Kristen Ward

Seattle, Washington, United States | SELF

Seattle, Washington, United States | SELF
Band Americana Rock


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This band has not uploaded any videos



"A Moment with: Kristen Ward singer-songwrtier"

Kristen Ward's second album attracted fans even before it arrived earlier this year: The Ballard resident had taken to the Web to fund the recording of "Drive Away," and the response was overwhelming. The interest continued once listeners heard Ward's finely crafted lyrics, often evocative of the Southwest, and her band, which features guitarist Gary Westlake. Oh, and once Pearl Jam followers noticed a certain musician credited on her song "With You Again": Mike McCready."She just has a natural ability to really sing from her heart. As a listener, you feel what she's going through," McCready said last week.
Here, Ward, who joins the Dusty 45s and Tiny Vipers for a pair of Gimme Shelter benefit shows (for the Downtown Emergency Services Center) Friday at The Triple Door (tickets: $20), reflects on McCready and the creation of "Drive Away."
On swapping downloads of her first album, "Roll Me On," for e-mail addresses in order to finance "Drive Away":
I gave this record away free to all these people and tried to get people interested, then basically used all those e-mails and sent out a mass fundraiser-type thing. "So you can play this record to get some idea, then if you want to donate, after you donate $100 you get your name in the liner notes." It was unbelievable. I had people from all over the place contribute. People gave $1,000; someone gave $2,000. And I didn't really even know I had that sort of fan base out there, other than Seattle musicians.
On her introduction to Mike McCready:
It was a blistering hot summer day. We were in Chroma Sound (studio) recording, we're on like our 10th day, we're exhausted, and I thought, "I'll believe it when I see it. If he comes in, great. I'm not going to get my hopes up." At about 4 o'clock the door slams opens and here comes Mike McCready. It was surreal. And he puts on the guitar and he starts playing like he's playing to an audience of 100,000 people.
On McCready's observation that her songs can be seen as "painting an audio picture":
That's how I remember relationships in my life. I remember what the light was like outside, I remember the car we drove in. And during my songwriting, that's how I relate to feelings and my surroundings, and the seasons and the air and all that stuff. It's funny, because I don't try to do that, but it ends up coming out that way.
On writing songs with her band in mind:
Sometimes I just have a very basic melody, but most of the time I can hear all the different parts when I'm writing the song.
On her heritage and the Southwest connection:
I feel that I have somewhat of a spiritual connection. My mother is from Arizona and, as a child, a lot of my family was still in Nevada, so we always traveled down there. But, actually, my mother's of German descent and my father has Native American -- Seminole -- and African-American (roots). - Seattle Post Intelligencer

"Kristen Ward"

Kristen Ward exudes a dual personality on her second album, "Drive Away", and the Seattle-based artist's contradictions are apparent from the track titles. At one point, she sings that all she wants to do is "Drive Away," yet a few tracks later she wails, "I Want to Go Home." This seeming duality fits well with her alt-country aesthetic, which reflects both an edgy sensibility and an innocent nostalgia for the "good old days."
The album's production allows the listener to focus on Ward's lyricism and - in the tradition of Johnny Cash - she is strongest when she takes on dark subjects. During a verse of "Faith," Ward tells a child to "draw a sunny picture ... because the way you think can make me smile," before moaning the chorus: "Faith comes easily / Faith dies quickly." On the refrain's last note, she descends to a key that is nearly too low for her range, but that only emphasizes the depth of her despair. Her alto vocals are smooth enough to soothe a bourbon hangover, and her vocal hiccups, runs and other inflections keep the listener's attention without distracting from her emotions.
The instrumentation on the album is superb and guitarist Gary Westlake uses all his alt-country tricks, such as the wandering double-stops on "All Alone" and The Allman Brothers-influenced licks on "Good Time Man." Kevin Suggs' pedal steel provides not only the melancholy atmosphere, but also some of the most memorable hooks (see "Loneliness"). Even Pearl Jam guitarist Mike McCready makes an appearance on "With You Again." His screechy leads bring the raw emotion that counterpoints Ward's subtle delivery.
Though Ward covers familiar territory, there are plenty of exceptional moments that make this album special. However, her setlist could benefit from at least one song whose beat really cooks – all of these ballads fit comfortably in the down- to mid-tempo range, and even the honky-tonk flavored tunes are barely quicker than "Stand by Your Man." Still, Ward is an exceptional songwriter and singer who takes traditional elements and presents them in ways that convince of their authenticity. (Self-released) - West Coast Performer

"Kristen Ward: Drive Away"

The Pacific Northwest isn't normally thought of as a hotbed of country music, but the region, and in particular the Seattle area, has in fact served as launching pad for the careers of a number of notable country and roots rock singers, including Neko Case, Jesse Sykes, and Brandi Carlile. Add to this list Kristen Ward, whose second album, Drive Away (financed by pre-sales from anticipating fans), follows in the path of those singers and their powerful, plaintive voices and skilled roots songcraft.
Ward's voice has the deep, warm wistfulness of Caitlin Cary, dashed with Kathleen Edwards's water-tumbling-over-rocks vocal grit. And while her songs don't diverge from familiar country tales of loneliness and drunkenness, struggles with faith and with men, and finding oneself on the wrong side of the law, the buoyant guitar hooks that Ward and her backing band wrap around these stories, alongside Ward's forthright delivery, make Drive Away a deeply satisfying listen. - Pop Matters

""Drive Away" may put Kristen Ward on road to stardom"

In the past few years, Seattle has launched several extraordinary female voices, including the old-school country wail of Neko Case, the powerhouse pop of Brandi Carlile and the slithering noir-country of Jesse Sykes. All have earned exceptional respect on the national level, and seem poised to have long, thrilling careers. Is Kristen Ward the next in line?
This raw, fresh talent is showing signs that she just might be ready to make a huge steps forward. Like Case, Carlile and Sykes, Ward has a rich, full voice; and, like the others, she is hard to pin down, wandering into several musical territories. While "alt-country" is perhaps the best way to describe her, like Case, she has elements of classic country; like Carlile, she easily slides into balladeering; and like Sykes, she has dark, femme fatale accents. Ward's new album is called "Drive Away," and perhaps she will - from Seattle, that is. While she hasn't performed outside the Northwest, this powerful recording might her ticket to ride right away from the waiting that's been the theme of her life, the past few years. Ward has been paying the rent by waiting tables as she waits for her music career to take her places. Last week, the soft-spoken, dark-featured (imagine a younger sister of Angelina Jolie) Ward sipped a beer at a Belltown bistro and discussed the curious back story to "Drive Away."
First, there's the rock star cameo.
Gary Westlake, her guitar player, is part of the Pearl Jam camp and plays in Mike McCready's Flight to Mars side project. He shared some of Ward's demos with McCready, then told Ward that McCready wanted to play on the album. "My mind set is I don't expect things to happen until they happen," Ward said. But she booked the studio time, and McCready showed up as scheduled. He ended up playing guitar on "With You Again." While that's one of the album's strongest songs, the jump-out cut on this album is "Shoot Me Down." Oddly, it's not Ward's voice that makes this so memorable, but a fascinating harmonica breakbeat. That's Ward playing harmonica on the song, which also features the talents of drummer Mike Stone, pedal steel guitarist Kevin Suggs and guitarist Brad Zeffren. The latter also produced the album, as he did on Ward's previous recording, "Roll Me On."
Another unusual element of "Drive Away" is the way it was financed. Ward didn't make much money on her first album, but she promoted it heavily on MySpace, giving away free copies. That helped her build a huge e-mailing list, and, when she was ready to make her second album, she sent out a mass e-mail asking fans to contribute to production costs. Many responded, and Ward ended up raising nearly $10,000 from her fan base. "Most of the donations were $30 to $50," Ward said. "But a woman from Illinois gave $1,000 - she flies here to see my shows. "I ended up raising enough money to pay for studio time and recording costs. ... Without [the donations], it would have suffered, sonically. It would have been basement recording style."
Speaking of suffering, Ward says she has put her personal life on hold, to throw all her energy into her music: "Everything in my life is ready to happen. I work as a waitress, I have no mortgage, I have no husband - I don't even have a boyfriend." Ward takes a swig of beer, and continues. "You give up things to do music. There's days when I think, 'I'm done. I can't do this anymore.' But deep down inside, I know I can never stop." Even with seed money from her fans, it's up to Ward to promote and distribute her album. Struggling musicians can relate to Ward's dilemma. "You spend thousands of dollars - everything you do is for this one thing. It's like a black hole that everything goes into." It's quite a dangerous bet for an individual to make, risking that time, energy and finances will disappear into nothingness. But with a few of the right connections, Kristen Ward's talent might launch her into orbit as Seattle's next rising star. - Seattle Times

"Kristen Ward: Drive Away (Independent 2008)"

... reminding you of the dark, noir-ish country of Neko Case whilst the predominantly minor key melodies are plucked out by a guitar whose twang on songs such as 'Loneliness' and 'With You Again' is washed in atmospherics, recalling Angelo Badalementi's soundtrack to that paragon of north-western weirdness, 'Twin Peaks.'
Crowning these brooding grooves is the voice of Kristen Ward, deep and mossy, without a hint of the over-sweetness suggested by the album cover, abetted by a unique phrasing which further distinguishes her distinctive song-writing style. In addition to the minor key menace of her work, there is a quite staccato quality which emphasises the unease and whilst the songs sometimes comes across as overly clipped, this is largely not a criticism. It lends them a unique, idiosyncratic swing best heard on 'Shoot Me Down' and 'Red Roses' which stand as the album's highlights.
'Drive Away' also benefits from a very unified sound, with only occasional acoustic textures such as on 'Let Me Go' offering any great diversion. - Americana UK

"Kristen Ward: Capitol Hill Block Party 2008"

Broadcasting live from KEXP at Neumo's stage, Kristen Ward opened the second day of the Stranger's Capitol Hill Block Party with country-based folk-rock songs of class and passion. A striking brunette with a voice that is much more mature than her years, Ward sounded like the perfect kind of adult rock suited towards a packed night at the Tractor Tavern.
But just as well, in the performance of songs like "Shoot Me Down" and "Drive Away" (also the title of her latest album) there's a strange feeling that she and her band -- featuring pedal steel expert and studio sound master Kevin Suggs, and the classy vintage guitar showmanship of Gary Westlake, also doing backing vocals -- could soon be headlining at the Paramount. Ward has two albums out already, but her performance today shows she's ready for the next level.
If I were to describe her sound, I'd point first to how people enthusiastically describe Transmissionary Six. But TM6 are more tied to experimental styles and noir chanteuse seduction, whereas Ward's work is more mainstream, polished and less subversive. The third song in the set was a shimmering hymn of transcendence and three songs later she and her band were rocking out almost ska-billy on an anthem, showing an encouraging diversity to her sound. Beginning my second day of the Block Party on a happily diverse but oddly sophisticated note. - Three Imaginary Girls

"Artist Kristen Ward"

Kristen Ward covers familiar alt-country territory in Drive Away: the loss of love and faith, running from the law and nostalgia for the past. But what makes this album different is Ward's visual approach to her subject material. Rather than singing about broad themes, Ward focuses her lyrics on small objects and scenes that connote her meaning: the result is visceral rather than conceptual. Her warm voice is low but not gravelly and the well produced album feels very clean with its strong percussion-guitar base, along with well-placed harmonica and pedal-steel accents from the inimitable Kevin Suggs. But overall, the strength of this album lies in Ward's haunting ability to show and not tell. - SOUND Magazine

"Upcoming on Audioasis: Kristen Ward & The Girls"

At the quarter-century mark, Kristen Ward (6PM) represents the next in line of the Northwest’s country noir talent. On her latest, 2008s Drive Away, Ward laments as or more convincing than the genre’s elders, complete with brilliant pedal steel from Kevin Suggs and even some guest guitar work from Pearl Jam’s Mike McCready Recorded by Brad Zeffren at Seattle’s Chroma Sound Studio, Drive Away is a must listen. - 90.3 KEXP Blog

"Kristen Ward gears up for new album, My Last Night on Division"

Now living in Seattle, the 26-year-old musician is preparing to release her third album, My Last Night on Division, with the help of a crew of talented musicians.
As of late October, Ward said she had written most of the songs and was deep in the pre-production phase. The album’s release is scheduled for this spring.
"My Last Night on Division is a band record,” said Ward. “For my last two records, I hired studio musicians for a lot of the basic tracking. I had struggled to find my core group of guys, but now I got ‘em. And so the vibe is more relaxed and cohesive. I think the songs are a bit more rocking, more edgy, more guitar-based than previous albums.
“We are playing around with some different feels. Sometimes our tones are straight out of the '80s. Other times, we find ourselves in a riff-driven ‘what would Zeppelin do’ moment. But, it’s always fun, and we laugh a lot. Things are evolving. The country thing still comes forward from time to time, but overall, the music is transitioning away from traditional Americana.”
Inspired by singers such as Neil Young and Lucinda Williams, Ward’s lyrics generally have a folk-rock feel, along with invented storylines and adherence to other people’s perspectives.
“Songs usually just come to me,” she said. “I often times write at the kitchen table. I write alone and become easily distracted. I do have a bank of ideas turning around in my head 24 hours a day. And when the time is right and the stars align, a good song will come. My favorite songs I write in under 30 minutes. I write mostly about my life and my truths, but I also enjoy putting myself in the shoes of another person, who I might identify with on a level.
“I have done this in ‘Little Gun’ and ‘Shoot Me Down.’ Both songs are dark and touch on issues of depression, desperation, feelings of being lost and out of control and even homicidal tendencies,” she said.
In addition to her musical talents, Ward also uses her creativity to find ways to support her music financially. She has found a way to have her fans financially support her music even before selling her CDs.
“I started a deal online where fans could download my first album Roll Me On in exchange for an email address, which I would add to my mailing list,” she explained. “I used this as a way to develop a fan base, etc. When it was time to record my second album, I found myself with (1) no money, and (2) a shit-ton of email addresses. I decided to try and make the best of things, and so I went to my newly acquired fan base. I just put it out there. I told them what I was doing, and I told them they could be part of it. I flat out asked for money, and you know what? They gave it to me! I raised enough to make Drive Away.”
She did the same thing for her upcoming album My Last Night on Division, but due to the economy and other things, Ward had to find other ways to make money. She did this by selling records, art, and hand-drawn posters, and of course, playing lots of shows.
“The painting is something that came to me around the same time I decided to do music professionally,” she said. “Painting, like singing, was something I had no training in, but I had always wanted to do, and so I just started. I have had two solo art shows, which have been a lot of fun for me. Visual art is a wonderful outlet. It's very meditative, and it challenges a different part of my brain. These days, I do a lot of hand-drawn posters, which I sell at my shows and online. I also plan on doing something with my album covers at some point.”
Ward’s artistic ambitions are no doubt inspired by her mom, Julie Neuffer. As a kid, Kristen loved to sing, but her mom refused to let her get voice lessons because it would change her style. She encouraged Kristen to let her voice develop on its own, resulting in the unique voice she has today.
“My mom is an amazing lady, and for much of my childhood, she pursued a musical path,” Kristen said. “She wrote and sang country/bluegrass and put out an album titled Brand New Pearl when I was 14 years old. She had a great band and so much talent. As kids, we grew up singing with her. She played a beautiful Guild guitar and would teach me and my brother all kinds of old folk songs which we would sing each night before bed. My mom later went on to get her PhD and is now a history professor. Outside of the obvious musical influences, what inspires me the most about her is that she really lives her life. She isn't governed by fear, and she really does what she wants with herself.
“I believe being an artist is just as much about how you live as it is about the art you actually can be an art form. My mom is the real deal and an incredible inspiration to my life and music,” Ward said.
Despite her love for music growing up, Kristen wasn’t always sure that she would pursue music as an adult. When she was 21, she was working in France as a cook when she decided to make the change. She quit her job, put a band together, and has been doing music ever since.
Gary Westlake is one of the many people who thinks that Ward made a good decision. Westlake is a long-time guitar player, and he currently plays for Ward. This partnership between Westlake and Ward had an unique beginning.
“OK, this is the God’s honest truth, it sounds like a line, but I was at a club here in Seattle playing a Bob Dylan tribute night,” Westlake said. “I was sitting backstage being all jaded with all these other jaded people when we heard somebody singing ‘Just Like a Woman.’ I remember looking at one of my most jaded friends, and we were both like, ‘Who the fuck is that?!!’ I rushed out to see who it was, and there was Kristen; I think it may have been the third or fourth show she’d ever done.
“I was totally blown away by her! Right after she’d finished, she was standing backstage, and I stepped (maybe it was a stagger?) backwards and stood on her foot. That is how we met. I was in her band two months later and have been there ever since.”
As Westlake explained, when he and Ward play live together, they have a connection where they seem to know where the other is going without communicating. “It happened at the third gig we did together; I can remember the moment as clear as day,” he said. “I went up to her after the gig and told her she was my musical soul mate.
“I’ve been around a while, I’ve played with a lot of people, done a lot of sessions, toured all over, met many, many people through my work, recorded with Jim Carroll, Pearl Jam, hell, I’ve even won a freakin’ Grammy recording with Peter Frampton. The artist with the most potential I’ve ever worked with is Kristen. She has that quality of greatness that you can’t force or fake. She is truly the most talented person I know.”

- Innocent Words

"The Stranger: Border Radio, Kristen ward"

"One of the most distinctive elements of Ward's debut album, Roll Me On, released on the Chroma imprint earlier this year, is her earthy, full-bodied vocal timbre; think Christine McVie with more oomph, Linda Ronstadt at her rawest."

-Kurt B Reighley, The Stranger

- The Stranger, Seattle


Kristen Ward "Last Night On Division" (2012 Self Released)

Kristen Ward "Charles" (2010 Self Released)

Kristen Ward "Drive Away" (2008 Self Released)
-tracks "Drive Away", "Shoot Me Down" and "With You Again" are played on 90.3KEXP and 104.9FM.

Kristen Ward "Roll Me On" (2006 Chroma Sound)



Kristen Ward is an American singer-songwriter. She was raised in rural eastern Washington where she received a first-hand musical education from her mother, a country singer, who pursued her own career in Nashville as a recording artist. Surrounded by country-western musicians in her youth, Ward began writing music at an early age.

She released her first full-length recording of original songs at age 23. Since then Ward has been hailed as one of the most powerful and original female voices from the Pacific Northwest in the last decade. Her work and performances have been featured in publications ranging from The Seattle Times to USA Today and have garnered endorsements from Guns and Roses’ Duff McKagen and Pearl Jam’s Mike McCready.

A striking brunette with a voice well matured beyond her years, she has earned a reputation for being uncompromising to her musical vision. Her songs are unapologetically heartfelt and gritty. While still based in a roots rock sound with country and blues flavors, Ward’s music continues to evolve. She defied expectations when she chose to record her fourth full-length album, Last Night On Division, with legendary hard rock producer Terry Date (Soundgarden, Mother Love Bone, Smashing Pumpkins). The album, which features special guest Mike McCready, was mixed by Glenn Lorbecki (The Rolling Stones, John Mellencamp, Violent Femmes).

Kristen Ward has sung her way straight into the hearts of her ever-growing audience and has shared stages with acts like, Leon Russell, Country Legend Ian Tyson, Gillian Welch, Matt Kearney, JJ Grey, Jesse Sykes, Alan White (Yes), Natasha Bedingfield and even rock legend Roger Daltrey (The Who). Ward has performed live and/or recorded with multiple Northwest heavy hitters including, Mike McCready (Pearl Jam), Duff McKagan(Guns n Roses, Loaded), Andy Stoller ( Tracy Chapman), Gary Westlake, Kevin Suggs (The Shins, Brandi Carlile, Evangeline) and many more.