Interview: David Ward

Q&A by Nick Mee. @Nickjmee

You recently decamped from Vancouver to London to help promote your third release, the ‘Transitioning’ EP. Cold this be a permanent move?

I came here in September thinking I would take off in three months and it is now January. Haha. It's an inspiring city to be a part of and I have a lot more shows and plans lined up for the new year here. 

How do you find London life? 

What stood out the most for me when I first arrived was the extremes of what I was experiencing in this city. In the first week here we were vomited on riding public transit in the afternoon only to attend a civilised lecture on the importance of art from Brian Eno at the British Library that evening. It's a silly and small example but it felt as if London was revolving that way for me. Though, I suppose when you are 'travelling' everything is experienced in extremes, everything is that much more heightened. More than anything, I've met some incredible people and I have been to some life-affirming shows.

What do you miss most about home?

 My family and being on the ocean.

Although it’s a five-track EP, almost 15 minutes long, ‘Transitioning’ is a one-movement piece, a ‘rhapsody in five parts’, designed to be listened to in one sitting. Has this made it more difficult to secure radio plays and press coverage compared with previous releases? Or are the concepts of ‘lead singles’ and so on not so relevant any more?

It has been more challenging this time around, yes. It is difficult to pinpoint exactly why something didn't get the press coverage you had hoped for, however it doesn't stop the hundreds of imagined reasons from going tumbling through the heads of your team. We didn't do a radio campaign but, the power of radio, no matter how much the industry has changed, is still palpable, particularly in the pop realm. For what I do, the advent of digital radio has offered a broader range of programming opportunities, and in the UK, with taste-making stations such as BBC6, I think 'lead singles' are still relevant, though maybe not the be all and end all. 

A full band performs on the EP, including a seven-piece chamber orchestra. Do you have any plans to perform with the band in a live setting or will you be playing solo? Do you have to change the songs’ arrangements much to account the number of musicians involved?

Yes, I do have plans. We're hoping to stage Transitioning over three nights in three different musical contexts. Early days still but we did something a little bit similar in Vancouver. We're talking to musicians and hope to make announcements by the end of January or early next month. However, for now, the rest of my shows are solo and yes, the songs shift and change but that is what is exciting about the freedom of a solo outing. 

‘Transitioning’ is concerned with themes of war, forced emigration, loneliness and sanctuary, which are all hugely relevant to our times. What are your thoughts on how Europe, and the rest of the world, has dealt with the refugee crisis?

It's not something I feel particularly qualified to answer but something that continues to unsettle me. I've written on these subjects since my first album, I suppose as a way to try to wrap my head around them – the atrocities, the kindness, the loss of basic human rights, the loneliness, the despair, the courage, and the division that afflicts the lives and relationships of those separated from their families and homes in the face of war. The red tape, multiple lines of communication between various organisations and levels of government, and fear make things frustrating, challenging and complicated but I admire the work of those that are helping people in need.

It’s the start of another year – are you optimistic for 2016, personally and universally, and have you set yourself any goals?

Looking through my feeds, I can see that my community is becoming more and more engaged in world issues through social media. It's not always easy to see how that translates into something tangible but it felt like it did recently in my home country of Canada where there has been a lot of angst and anger over the last few years. In October, after witnessing months of angry posts, sharing of articles, signing of online petitions, a new party took office. It's inspiring to be a part of change and to see people moved to make a change. The optimism that has followed is both refreshing and exciting.

I always try and start the year off with optimism. It seems pointless to start it any other way. As for goals, I always have lots, whatever the time of year.

Transitioning: A Rhapsody In Five Parts is out now.

David Ward plays The Finsbury, London N4 on Tuesday 12 January