Backstage Pass: Lauren Ruth Ward on Los Angeles’ Thriving Music Scene

Backstage Pass: Lauren Ruth Ward on Los Angeles’ Thriving Music Scene
Backstage PassMay 14, 2018

We’re clearly fans of Lauren Ruth Ward – she’s a 17 time Sofar alum! She started off as a hairdresser in Baltimore, but moved west to Los Angeles a few years ago. She’s since played Sofar LA, San Francisco, San Diego, and even her hometown Baltimore! Lauren just released her first album, and we chat with her about dating another musician, the benefits of LA’s warm weather on creativity, and what it took to follow her dream music career.

First Sofar as a performer:
Sofar LA at WorldArts headquarters in Culver City. We filmed my song “Did I Offend You?”

Favorite Sofar artist she’s seen:
I just played a show in San Francisco, and one of the other performers Caleborate got stuck in traffic and had to arrive late. He came in with a great attitude and killed it. Also the group The Seshen that night was great too.

Dream Sofar act:
Shakey Graves

If she could play a Sofar anywhere in the world, it’d be:
I was invited to play at a Sofar meet-up at Big Bear of ambassadors and team members, and I got to meet the London Sofar crew. I also haven’t played a New York City one yet, and I love NYC.

Favorite Sofar performance:
Vista Kicks - "Chasing Waves" and Foxtrax - "Underwater". We all played together at the Sofar LA 6 year anniversary show in January 2017.

Artist she’s loving right now:
Jen Cloher. She’s Courtney Barnett’s girlfriend, and just put out an album. A couple of Jen's songs are about the perks and the dark sides of dating a touring musician.... my life.

Why she moved to LA for her music career:
I lived on the East Coast my whole life, and when I moved to NYC in 2013, I couldn’t really find my music tribe. My first manager found me through a YouTube cover I’d done, and she suggested checking out LA. It sounds like such a cliche, but I really fell in love with the city. I’m a pescatarian so there are so many more food options for that, there’s tons of hiking, and I love being outdoors. It has nature and the city, and just oozes creativity. I got a job cutting hair at Rudy’s Barbershop, and they had a whole section in their employee handbook about artists and what to do if you’re going on tour, or doing a painting residency in another country. It’s amazing to live in a place where your dreams have a space to be spoken about maturely and realistically, which is important for you to be able to realize them.

Lauren Ruth Ward playing Sofar LA

On her creative career thriving on the West Coast: When I was cutting hair on the east coast, I would tell my clients I was going to quit my job and move to LA to explore my music career, but it sounded insane. I don’t blame people for thinking that sounded crazy. I had this feeling that this was my life and there was no “more,” but I wanted “more”. Music didn’t feel real to me to explore, but it was real. We’re the gatekeepers of the limitations we put on ourselves.

Something that was a huge change to me immediately was the weather. In Maryland and NYC I made certain decisions based on the climate and felt like I was hibernating six months out of the year. Now in LA I feel like I’m able to do two years worth of goals in just one year. I’m in such a “get shit done” mode.

On the ongoing “Women in Music” conversation in 2018:
It’s a great time for women, but it’s also the same time for women. My girlfriend LP is on a festival lineup every year like Coachella this year, but only like 15 artists out of 50 were women. There aren’t really women on the lineups, but it’s not because we aren’t out here.

As musicians, we don’t just get to do our art. We still have a lot to say if we care to say it, which I do. Some days it depends how much fight is in me, and how necessary it is to say something. In general though we can’t just create, but we have to create with mad thought and input without trying to be too preachy.

What it’s like being in a relationship with another musician (Sofar alum LP, they’re engaged!):
We’re both songwriters who write about our lives’ trajectories. Just from being in each other’s lives, we affect each other’s writing. Sometimes it’s more cryptic, but sometimes it’s like “This song is about when you’re gone.” One of my songs, “Sheet Stains,” is specifically about that.

The effect of recording a video with Sofar: When I played my first Sofar, I was such a baby and didn’t have any professional videos up online. That first video really helped me. That’s what I sent out to get a manager, to get shows, to show what my songwriting was like, and this is what I sound like. It was so helpful to have a well-produced, well-mixed video and the name of a reputable company behind it when I was just starting out.

Lauren will be on tour with Shakey Graves for a few shows at the end of June. See where you can catch her live!

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