"I know for myself, when I'm listening to music, I don't really love being able to place exactly when or where it was made," Portland-based music man, M. Ward, unsurprisingly assesses. This is a man whose first love is guitar, who still records on a four-track recorder, and who once told Pitchfork that "Amazing Grace" is his favorite tune. "I like that involvement that you have as a listener, finding out in your mind or in your imagination where this possibly could have come from, as opposed to hearing a drumbeat and knowing it's the '80s. All that does is close off possibilities."
The guitarist explains, he's definitely not anti-technology but has an affinity for the human element in instrumentation. "Maybe I'm crazy," he says, "but I still prefer to hear an actual human play the drums when I hear a song. Maybe that makes me old-fashioned." And though not old-fashioned in his product, Ward certainly crafts timeless songs.
You may know him from his high-profile collaborations with Connor Oberst in the supergroup Monsters of Folk or as the "Him" in She and Him with America's sweetest Renaissance woman, Zooey Deschanel. He says that finding like- and open-minded artists is key to a good collaboration. "I'm fortunate to be friends with great singers and songwriters." And, he explains, endurance is all about chemistry. "My favorite collaborations are the ones that are ongoing and the ones that I'm still involved in right now."
Ward has one of those voices you could identify if he switched it up and started singing salsa. But he says playing guitar has always come first for him. It was only in 1999 with his first record, Duet for Guitars #2, that he noticed that "other people had an interesting reaction to the vocals." And why wouldn't they? His voice sounds like the Earth if the Earth were a man.
Ward is currently working on his next solo album, his eighth in total after 2012's A Wasteland Companion. He'll spend his summer on tour in Europe, but first, let M. Ward transport you to a place with no days or hours where you can possibly catch a sweet cry at Culture Room this week.
M. Ward. With Mount Moriah. 8 p.m. Friday, May 2, at Culture Room, 3045 N. Federal Highway, Fort Lauderdale. Tickets cost $20 plus fees. Call 954-564-1074, or visit cultureroom.net.
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