Jake Ward is an indie pop-rock artist out of Santa Cruz, California. He grew up in a musical family, playing multiple
instruments at the age of 6 completely self-taught. Jake has had a strong passion for music ever since he was a child that constantly drives him to create. Jake makes sure that he is always surrounded by music and influences. His most recent single to look out for is titled “Wake Up.”
Was there something (an experience) or someone in your life that was the "catalyst" for you to start writing music? Tell us about it.
I've been obsessed with music for as long as I can remember, but I was never serious about writing songs until I discovered The Goo Goo Dolls when I was about 13. Something about their music has always grabbed me, and I've always felt a special connection. I distinctly remember listening very early on to one of their songs called "Black Balloon" and thinking "wow, if I were to write this song instead, I would have done everything exactly the way they did it." I also had a very distinct visual idea of a music video for the song, long before I had ever seen the actual music video. I discovered a little while later that my vision of the video and the actual video were almost eerily similar. That's when I knew something was up and I needed to start writing. I knew there were amazing things down that road.
Let's get this out of the way. What is the CRAZIEST thing that has ever happened to you in your music career?
"Crazy" is a fantastic word because it can be used to describe extremely terrible things, or extremely wonderful things. It's up to whoever is using it I guess! I think the craziest thing that has happened to me in my career so far was when I entered a local songwriting competition when I was 16 and placed 2nd out more than 200 adult applicants. I was genuinely shocked, because until that point I really hadn't had much outside feedback about my writing aside from close friends and family. All of the sudden, I realized that I might have something special, and I'm yet to have a crazier or more important moment in my career than that.
What has been the high point of your music path?
The high point of my musical path has definitely been connecting with people who I would have never, ever known and hearing the way my music has affected them personally. I suspect this will always be the high point. There is magic in this, and it has nothing to do with album sales or fame, and everything do with what I like to consider true success. While I want to go as far as I can and sustain a career that lasts as long as possible, the fact that I've already managed to create music that matters to someone, somewhere makes me a success by my own definition.
So, how do you approach songwriting or what is your creative process like?
I'm self taught, so I do everything wrong! I have no idea what chords I'm playing or what key they are in, and I often play songs in really weird customized tunings. Hide your guitar if I come over! Basically, my strategy for everything I do is to mess around until I hear something that makes me feel the way I always feel when I first discover great new music. Most times I start with a guitar, and I mess around playing random things until something sounds good. Then I listen and see what vocal melody sounds good on top of it. Then, I listen to both together and see what it feels like, and I start writing lyrics. I follow no rules or guidelines for writing lyrics, but I always want to make a clear statement and my lyrics almost always rhyme (I'm not sure why, but I feel that things ring truer when they rhyme). My process is fairly routine, but completely unprincipled and based entirely on nearly-blind exploration. All that matters to me is that I listen intently for that certain something and I hold on to it. In this sense, I actuall think I discover my own music much the same way other people might discover it later on.
What do you see as the biggest challenge facing Indie Artists today? Or, if you could ask the music industry to change one thing, what would it be?
I'd say the greatest challenge for any artist is integrity. We live in a society where we are compelled to follow strong, deliberate narratives about what we should aspire to be, what we should achieve, and what success should look like. As an independent artist, I've experienced firsthand how present these narratives are in the music industry, and how hard it can be to avoid following the instructions of our corporate masters. All of my favorite artists are those who ignore people's expectations, sacrifice nothing from their own vision and make no effort to fit in with conventional society. Fundamentally, I believe art serves a purpose in society to destroy conventional narratives and free people, not to reinforce the familiar story everyone is comfortable with. I wish the music industry as it is today was more welcoming of dangerous ideas and genuine, substantive controversy. I also believe that, with today's advancements in technology, independent artists have the power to change a lot more than they think.
If you could share the stage with one other artist or band, who would it be and why?
Peter Gabriel. I absolutely adore his music, and he always fills the stage with a dozen or more of the greatest musicians from around the world. There is just an incredibly unifying quality to his music, and I have always admired the dramatic way he brings it to people.
What are your rehearsals generally like? Or, how do you prepare for a live show?
When I'm preparing to play, I always get in touch with what it is I really want to say, and why I'm saying it. Each and every time I get on stage I want to make sure that I'm making the statement I want to. I can't pretend that this is easy! I have a lot of experience performing, but it seems to always bring new surprises and I feel like I'm still constantly learning.
Pick one song that was your greatest challenge to write. Tell us about it!
The song "Never Letting Go" on my first album, Sound With Intention. Before I wrote that song, I hadn't ventured too far into the realm of very serious, emotional themes. I think I was afraid to. When I went into the studio to record that album, I had barely even finished the song and I was sure it wasn't ready. This time around, I was also paying to record it, so there was a time crunch and for a while I was set to cut the song off of the album entirely. Despite this, somehow it all came together, and the result was a song where I felt I had encased a profound and powerful statement. To my surprise, that song has also been by far the most successful off the album, and it awakened something in me that has been pushing me even harder forward ever since.
What's coming up in the future?
I'm currently working on a new, full-length album called "The Lighter Side Of Darkness." From writing the songs, to mastering the final mixes, I am doing it 100% by myself and I'm dying to finish it so I can share it with the world. I've never created music that has made me more excited and I've never written songs that meant as much to me as these 12 do. Wake Up is the first single I've released, and very soon I will release another, so stay tuned!
Where can fans can access your music?