Diane Ward: Songwriting is Like Catching Fireflies
Diane Ward (photo obtained via dianeward.com)
Diane Ward is a singer/songwriter whose music and story are more than worth sharing and telling.
Staying true to her roots, she is still a resident in the Floridian corner of the world in which she grew up, but her music has always been a virtual escape.
“I became interested in music when I was very young,” she shared. “My sister’s husband was in a band and they used to always rehearse in the garage of my parents house. I became infatuated by the drums, and found out much later in life that my mom pawned her wedding ring to get me my first drum kit.”
You may have the same question I did though—when did Ward find her powerful voice?
“It was kind of a fluke during college,” Ward admitted. “I went to college for music and began messing around with the keyboard and guitar, you know, just writing for fun. A bass player I knew wanted me to join his band on the drums, and I did. In the beginning I was just singing backup, but one day our lead vocalist didn’t show up – she went off to be with her future husband that night,” Ward joked.
I sang the songs from behind the drums and we collectively realized how much more money we could make from gigs with one less member. The vocalist was okay with it since her priorities had changed a bit too, and everything sort of fell into place.”
Beautiful Ways, Ward’s fifth and most recent album, was released this year on Oct. 21. When she started working on the album, Ward had no idea the challenges she would face in order to finish it. Halfway through the creative process, she was diagnosed with breast cancer, and made the bold and brave decision to continue working on the album throughout the chemotherapy and radiation process.
“There was a little bit of wavering toward either end of the spectrum,” said Ward, when I inquired whether the idea of finishing the album once she was diagnosed was unanimous or not. “There were days that were really hard with my energy level and such. The way you feel physically and emotionally makes it really hard to escape and focus on something else. At the same time, the recording process was a wonderful escape from what was happening at that time,” she revealed. “It took a long time to finish the album however, because I was simultaneously recovering from what my body was going through.”
She had many supporters that played a role in the process of creating Beautiful Ways, one of whom is Jack Shawde, a longtime supporter and friend of Ward. Shawde co-produced, recorded, and played multiple instruments on the album.
“Sometimes my voice would disappear at times and it got scary,” Ward admitted. “Jack has been with me from the beginning of my solo career and while he was very gentle and patient during the engineering process, he revealed to me later on just how frightening it was to him as well. He is someone who knew my voice from the very beginning, so to hear me, at times, completely voiceless was just as jarring for him as it was to myself.”
After listening through Beautiful Ways for the second time, I wondered what song resonated with Ward the most when all was said and done.
“They’re like my children,” she said jokingly, “it’s so hard to pick one. If I had to choose, I’d have to say I really love the title track ‘Beautiful Ways.’ The way that song came together just aesthetically and from a melodic point of view made me very proud. I love that song and Motorcade, which I think has a really nice playfulness to it.”
It is easy to understand why those two tracks are the “favorite children” off of Ward’s new album. They’re the ones that come home from school with all A’s on their report cards. Both tracks are beautifully constructed from strong melodies to poetic lyrical lines, making them seamlessly flow through your speakers and into your heart. After hearing some of her main musical influences, it is easy to see where this melancholy-like sound resonates from.
“I gravitate towards artist that write, coupled with a piano. I’m a huge Lennon and McCartney fan, and I love all of the Beatles. Also, artists such as Billy Joel, who write solo with a piano draw me in because I always gravitate towards melodies. Personally though, I am most influenced by my mom and dad as corny as that sounds,” she laughed. “I have a wonderful family, and if I can become half the person each of them are, I’ll be happy.”
When listening through some of Ward’s previous work, I picked up on a noticeable difference in her songwriting, as if her music grew up alongside her.
“The songwriting process is really organic for me,” she confessed. “Sometimes I can sit down to write and it will work, but other times it happens when I’m at the grocery store or driving in my car and I have to stop what I’m doing and jot down the idea before it leaves me. It’s like catching fireflies,” said Ward. “You never know where the idea is in the ultimate grand scheme of things, or where it comes from, but when you see it, you need to capture it.”
I found Ward’s comparison of songwriting to catching fireflies extremely fitting, as Beautiful Ways is a wonderfully magical creation, just like a mason jar of lightening bugs on a summer night. When you bring a million flickering fireflies to one place, you are left with something mesmerizing.
Diane Ward successfully turned a million fleeting thoughts into a collection of stories that captivate the listener, taking them along for the ride, while simultaneously inspiring them.