ZZ Ward, the edgy, blues-inspired artist known for her unique blend of hip-hop, pop, R&B, neo-soul, and rock, has announced ‘Dirty Shine,’ her first album as an independent artist, slated for release on September 8th via her own Dirty Shine Records. A cinematic 11-song album, spilling over with an intoxicating cocktail of bold electronic textures, rugged hip-hop beats, fierce rhymes and pop hooks, acoustic Delta blues riffs, sensual R&B singing, and juke joint harmonica, ‘Dirty Shine’ represents a new chapter in ZZ’s career, as she embraces life as a new mother and removes the constraints of the major label system. The album embodies the creative freedom she now enjoys and draws on the strength and determination she’s found through motherhood.
To celebrate the announcement, ZZ has released a music video for the album’s latest single “On One.” Featuring artist, musician, and filmmaker Jean Deaux, the single boasts driving hip-hop grooves and an empowering message inspired by being a new parent. “People think being a mother makes you weak, but this song is about how it’s emboldened me,” ZZ says. Enjoying an outpouring of creativity, ZZ has been partnering with her filmmaker brother Adam Ward (Parole Officers, Bad Advice) to create ambitious mini-movies for her songs, bringing her high-concept, action-packed cinematic fantasies to life that blur the lines between music and film. Featuring choreography, stunning visuals, and makeup and visual effects by the renowned artist Jay Q, the new music video for “On One” is part two of a mini-movie that explores a done-wrong Zombie-Western love story, the follow-up to the music video for “Forget About Us.”
ZZ started singing the blues at the age of 8, inspired by her father’s record collection. At 16, seeing the similarities between blues and hip-hop, she ventured out to the clubs in her hometown of Eugene and began singing and performing with acts around town. She busked, booked her own tours, sold demos in parking lots, and slept on an air mattress at her brother’s place while hustling for shows. It wasn’t long before she became a buzzed-about artist, earning a record deal with Hollywood Records. She quickly broke into Billboard’s Top 40 with her debut release, and her sophomore album peaked at #1 on the Billboard Blues chart, highlighted by singles featuring GRAMMY-Award winners Fantastic Negrito and Gary Clark Jr.
In ZZ Ward’s fan community the phrase “dirty shine” means being your authentic self; imperfections and vulnerabilities all included. Recently, “dirty shine” became something of a mission statement for ZZ. “The concept of ‘dirty shine’ is larger than the record,” she explains. “When I put out my first album, my fans and I started saying we are ‘dirty shine.’ It was about embracing who you are—we are all dirty, a little rough around the edges. I’ve always had this vibe, but I feel like this time in my life is like ‘dirty shine’ on steroids. I can fully be myself, and nothing can stop me.”
Now, the singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist is also a video director, record label owner, and even a milliner. Her iconic fedoras, once a source of confidence on stage, now serve as a personal expression of her newfound energy and confidence, as she handcrafts and sells fedoras directly to her fans, sharing the gift of “confidence” that these hats have bestowed upon her. By removing the influence of big corporations, ZZ has fostered a profound bond with her fan community, engaging with them directly every morning, and strengthening the connection that fuels her artistic vision.
The addition of motherhood has brought profound changes to ZZ’s life, as she discovers a new connection within the community of parents. This shift in perspective has fueled her determination, as she recognizes that her music now carries a deeper meaning beyond her own self-expression. Balancing the demands of motherhood and a music career has required ZZ to find equilibrium, but as a touring musician and a mother, she understands the importance of maintaining flexibility. With her husband, the GRAMMY-winning songwriter Evan Kidd Bogart, serving as label partner and manager, this time of creativity and personal growth is especially meaningful.
Her third studio release, ‘Dirty Shine’ was produced by a who’s who of award-winning producers, and frequent collaborators of ZZ’s, including Oscar, GRAMMY and Emmy-winning producer/composer Ludwig Goransson (Oppenheimer, Black Panther, Mandalorian, Childish Gambino, Haim), Oscar and GRAMMY-winning producer Mike Elizondo (Encanto, Twenty One Pilots, Carrie Underwood), GRAMMY-winning writer/producer Jason Evigan (Troye Sivan, Dan + Shay), GRAMMY-nominated Dave Bassett (Elle King, Vance Joy, Alice Merton), iconic hip-hop producer S1 (Eminem, Drake, Lorde) and the alt-rock producer-duo Mark Jackson & Ian Scott (Bishop Briggs, Dorothy).
After finishing this liberating, career milestone of an album, you would think ZZ would take some time off to pat herself on the back. Nope. She has tours to book, mini-movies to produce, and fan messages to answer, and she’s loving every minute of it. “I’m so proud of what me and my team have accomplished,” ZZ says. “This album gave me new life. It taught me to be a fighter, and allowed me to let my dirty shine.”
1. Welcome to Dirty Shine
2. Ride or Die (feat. Vic Mensa)
4. On One (feat. Jean Deaux)
5. Slow Hum Hymnal
6. Dead or Alive
7. Forget About Us
8. Friends Like These
9. Baby Don’t
10. North Bank Blues
12. Cut Me Loose
13. Tin Cups (feat. Aloe Blacc)
14. Don’t Let Me Down