In “On the Rise,” the Daily Bruin profiles up-and-coming musicians in Los Angeles. Though our subjects do not necessarily have direct connections with UCLA, they are artists who have brought their sounds to Los Angeles and have taken advantage of opportunities within the city’s thriving music scene.
Lauren Ruth Ward gave up her shears for a microphone about two years ago.
The Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter cut hair for close to a decade while living in Baltimore, Maryland, before moving to LA to advance her music career.
“Baltimore’s a beautiful city, Maryland is an amazing state – I just feel like if you want to pursue something artistic and take it to the next level, you have to go where that art is thriving, like California,” Ward said.
Ward met her band members Eduardo Rivera, Livia Slingerland and India Pascucci, a few months after moving to LA. Now, they perform their own brand of old-school rock ‘n’ roll music with strong R&B influences, and finished their first album titled “Well, Hell” this summer.
Ward received her first guitar as a gift for Christmas when she was 10 years old, but she said she didn’t begin teaching herself how to play the instrument until three years later. She wrote her own songs and kept binders of guitar tabs and chord progressions that she found online. Although she said she felt her guitar skills were strong for having taught herself, she hit a plateau around the age of 16.
However, after she turned 21, Ward said she became interested in making music again after her then-boyfriend dedicated a song to her. In return, she wrote him a song and the two began performing around Baltimore together.
Ward would perform live whenever she got the chance, but during the week she would spend her days cutting and styling hair to make a living, simultaneously running a wedding service. Ward said she only did about five live performances per year while she was living in Baltimore, mostly at restaurants and friends’ houses.
When Ward moved to LA in 2015, she avoided getting a salon job until she released her first EP almost a year later. When she began cutting hair again in LA, she said she prioritized her music, limiting her time in the salon so she could focus on her music.
Although Ward didn’t officially move to LA until 2015, she had visited California a couple of times beforehand, visiting her former manager to work on developing her artistic image and deciding whether she would perform as a solo artist or in a band, eventually settling on the latter.
“I’ve always been (community-oriented),” she said. “I’ve always naturally gone (more) toward a band than a solo artist.”
Ward first met Rivera, the band’s guitarist, in December of 2015 after he came to one of her shows when she was performing with a couple of friends who filled in while she was looking for a permanent band.
“I thought she was awesome,” Rivera said. “So I asked her if she needed a bass player, and she said ‘Yes, what are you doing this weekend?’”
Although Rivera started out playing bass for Ward, he eventually became the band’s guitarist after Ward heard him playing around on the guitar during a band practice together and was impressed at his skills.
The two eventually began collaborating with Slingerland, the band’s bassist, after seeing her perform in another project, and with Pascucci, the band’s drummer, who was a classmate of Slingerland’s at USC. They played their first show together at Echo Park Rising in 2016.
Rivera said that the band generally takes a stream-of-consciousness approach to their songwriting process – he and Ward begin with a chord progression or catchphrase and then the lyrics follow. Slingerland added the process is very free-form – Ward and Rivera allow her a lot of creative freedom to produce bass lines that work well with their compositions, she said.
After they recorded their album “Well, Hell” this summer, Ward signed to the record label Weekday Records in September and also quit cutting hair for good.
“I moved to California to pursue music,” Ward said. “I moved here with the intention, ‘I’m not doing hair, I want to play shows.’”