If one is to follow the writings of August March, one begins to note a definite twist toward Tejas.
March’s fascination with music from the state that lies mostly to the east but somewhat to the south has its roots in his own history and upbringing. Dude was born in El Paso to a family of musicians who favored the violin. His paternal grandfather made people’s heart melt with his fiddle, for instance.
So as March proceeds along his search for new and beautiful sounds to write about, the stuff coming out of the Lone Star state tends to have a bit more favor, then say the sounds coming out of modern Philadelphia. Texas is certainly closer to New Mexico, he reckons. And March still goes on and on about the conversation he had with Edgar Winter abou the sounds of Texas before a gig in Burque.
One thing always leads to another and it wasn’t long until your local music critic was exposed to the music of Texan Josh Ward. Ward, it so happens, has just crossed over into Billboard’s vaunted Top 40 with a sly yet saucy slow burner called “The Devil Don’t Scare Me.” Like all of his work—and his last ten singles have all gone to Number 1 on Texas radio—it’s meticulous, heartfelt and just a little bit dark. It’s also sublimely subversive.
Ward avoids all the trapping of rocanrol, sings from the viewpoint of an outsider and tends to celebrate experiences outside the normative—in defiance of what modern country sometimes signifies.
Since he wanted to know something about Ward’s oeuvre, March listened to the country crooner’s latest record More Than I Deserve and then sent the artist an email, inviting him to chat on the phone.
On Friday morning, Ward telephoned and the two talked about country music.
Weekly Alibi: Hey, I’ve been listening to your new album; it’s very captivating. Can you tell me about your music, please?
Josh Ward: Well, I appreciate it, man. I kinda get pigeonholed as a Texas artist, but if you ask me, I’m country.
After listening, I’d say it’s a really pure country sound.
I’ve heard some people call it neo-traditional. We still have steel guitar in our music, we’re playing songs that have feelings, you know, ballads.
There is a lot of beautiful balladry on the record. Where do the ideas for your songs come from?
I team up with a great set of writers every time I do a record and I do write some myself, as well. Country music is about the ballad, about the heartache and the song that comes after. It’s nothing that I have to try to do; it just happens. Country music comes easy to me.
You seem informed by life and experience in a poetic sense, true or false?
It’s about real life stuff. You can fabricate songs however you want. You don’t necessarily have to live in that moment. But a lot of stuff in my songs is about the emotional part of life, stuff that I’ve been through, good or bad. I try to write honestly about real life. If I’m not the one doing the writing, if I’m picking the songs—I feel like the great songs [about life] need to be heard. And, man, I came across some really great songs for this new record. These are songs I believe in, as in “I’ve been there, I’ve done that.” I can see myself singing these songs for the next 30 years while being true to them.
Where have you been, and what have you done?
I’ve been a drifter all my life. Whether it was working the rodeo or the oil field or making music, they all go hand in hand. I’m always on the road, always on the go.
So who is Josh Ward, ultimately?
I’m out here doing what I’ve always wanted to do. Everybody says it’s living the dream and it is like a dream.
So your job’s not a job, it’s a damn good time?
That’s it, man. I love what I do for a living. It all makes it worthwhile when you come to a place that you’re not from and there’s a room full of people who know your name, know your music. We’re all doing what we’re supposed to do.