Ward is greeting 2017 with something that we could all use: a groovy, upbeat soul number called “BodyFeelGood,” one of plenty more singles to come this year. The tune will be officially “released” at his Grog Shop show on Jan. 13. Right now, Ward happens to be one of the most buzzed-about artists in Cleveland. We put him on the cover of our magazine last summer, and we caught up with him again as the calendar flipped anew to discuss the song and his upcoming plans.
“BodyFeelGood” is the first song he wrote among his current batch, the incremental follow-up to last year’s Little Sunshine. It’s also the first song that Ward has played live bass on in the recording studio.
“I’ve been playing bass for years,” Ward says. “I started off in electronic music, and progressed into, you know, what it is today. I think focusing on bass as an instrument made it more upbeat and funky and visceral. You can feel it in your bones.”
Indeed, listeners will catch cascading lead guitar riffs against Ward’s steady, thumping bass work. It’s sure to add to the repertoire that he’s been building for the past few years here in Cleveland.
You can call it what you like — “progressive pop” “art pop,” etc. — but Ward hails from a rich variety of musical traditions locally. Perhaps you’ll recall the stuff he released under the moniker Freeze-Tag. Even through that creative outlet, though, picking up shows all across town and getting that name recognition that’s sometimes so elusive in a saturated local market like ours, Ward was seeking something more. He dropped the pseudonym and returned to the bass.
What Cleveland received was Little Sunshine, an album that threw Ward’s vision on the table and told the city to make of it what it will. Ward’s audience grew in size with each show — and grew more active, dancing and dancing — and he found that people were digging it. He also picked up a licensing deal and, late last year, sold out a show at the Beachland and performed at the House of Blues. This weekend sees his first headlining show at Grog Shop. Onward, upward.
Along with the strategy of releasing singles after that last record comes a focus on “release shows” — like this weekend’s gig — and videos to accompany them.
One other thing that Ward’s particularly excited about for this Grog Shop show is the partnership with visual artist Kevin Jackson — that ubiquitous force of lighting and imagery at electronic shows all over Cleveland. The show promises to be a full-on sensory cornucopia. (The day after the show, Ward plans on releasing the “BodyFeelGood” tour, so tell your out-of-town friends to keep their eyes peeled for that. He mentioned, also, a stop at SXSW this spring.)
Marcus Alan Ward
with Thaddeus Anna Greene and Samfox
8 p.m., Friday, Jan. 13, Grog Shop, 2785 Euclid Heights Blvd., Cleveland Heights, 216-321-5588. Tickets: $8 ADV, $12 DOS, grogshop.gs.
The song begins with a simple, beach-combed riff and the squirming high end of vocal melody and, soon, Marcus Alan Ward’s own words. From there, we dance.