State of the Ward 

Musician Matt Ward proves there's still plenty of beauty in the world

Until I got a copy of Matt Ward's End of Amnesia CD last week, I was really starting to worry that I'd been damaged. But there it is: a revelation and a relief, one highlighting the fact that there's still plenty of beauty in the world and that a disproportionate share of it comes out of Portland, Oregon. End of Amnesia (Ward's second solo record) will come out on San Francisco indie label Future Farmer in July, but you can see Ward playing the Great American Music Hall on June 6 when he opens up for Howe Gelb (of Giant Sand fame). He'll also be living in San Francisco this summer, teaching reading skills to kids.

I couldn't wait for him to get down here, though. So I used the journalist's mantle of integrity to call him at home and gush. This is a transcript of our talk (edited to maximize talk of shepherds).

Hi Matt! I have some very important questions.

Okay. I'm ready.

I've been describing your voice to friends as a ragged clarinet. Should I stop doing this?

Ahh, no--I like that. I definitely like that. There's been a lot of interesting, uh, comparisons. But ragged clarinet is a nice one.

You must get a lot of Neil Young, too.

Neil Young and Will Oldham. And Howe Gelb.

What advice do you have for the heartbroken?

(Pauses) Um.... Hank Williams?

The sequencing on this record is perfect, with the right two first songs creating momentum into the album, every down song picked up and put back on its feet by its neighbor, three stunner acoustic tracks that manage to be both interludes and the continuation of the story-in-progress, and just when you think things can't get better, the album ends on a baseball diamond. What thought went into choosing song order?

For me, something I love is when you can create some kind of high contrast. Like in a photograph. Or a movie when there's something that... well, I don't want to talk forever about David Lynch. But usually when he has an image on the screen, especially when he has one of his weird characters, he'll offset it with one of his more normal characters. On Twin Peaks he'll have this weird giant dwarf standing right next to Kyle MacLachlan. Which for me is really interesting.

If you think of [the spleen-meltingly beautiful instrumental] "Psalm" as a short story, where do you think that song would be set?

The first thing that comes to mind is the Book of Psalms and having... for some reason... a shepherd would be in there. (Laughs) Well... the setting would not have anything to do with shepherds. The setting would be the Book of Psalms.

And what story would it be telling?

I guess according to the album, right before "Psalm" there's some kind of apocalypse. So whatever's going to happen after an apocalypse is going to be what is happening in that. I'm not quite sure what happens. But it's definitely not a bad thing. It's a good thing.

Involving shepherds.

No, I'll scratch that. Scratch that thing about the shepherds. It's more involved with something that I can't really say; it's just the opposite of apocalyptic.

Do you think that the good guy gets the girl in the end?

In life or on the record?

In life.

Hmm... The good guy gets the good girl. And the bad guy gets the bad girl. And vice versa.

Do you think the good guy gets the record deal in the end?

Hmm. Let me answer that this way. When I was in Tucson, there was a restaurant that had a sign above the cash register and it was for the patrons and it said, "If you want it bad, you'll get it bad. And if you want it worse, you'll get it worse." Meaning, if you want something--if you're dying to have something, then you're gonna get it in a different way than it just happening.... Well, anyway, I copied it down.

As far as music business stuff, I feel like I'm not really sure if the good guy gets the good record deal. But I don't think it matters.

What are you most looking forward to moving down here?

The ocean. And the sun. And the winds that you guys get down there. Especially down by the coast. But also burritos.


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