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Singer and harmonicist Liam Ward on his new album, living in Stroud, and the blues

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Author: Thomas Hadfield, Posted: Tuesday, 29th October 2019, 09:00

The Liam Ward Band (L-R) Matt Jones, Liam Ward, Gareth Davies and Martin Hill The Liam Ward Band (L-R) Matt Jones, Liam Ward, Gareth Davies and Martin Hill

Liam Ward has been performing for as long as he can remember.

Born and raised near Manchester, Liam has lived in places including Canada and Wales, before settling in Stroud around a year ago.

“I grew up in a musical family and I was in the family band from a young age,” he said.

“I started out as a drummer and the family band played Brazilian samba, then Latin jazz, then – when I took up the harmonica – rhythm and blues.

“I was gigging way before I knew what I was doing, so it was a baptism of fire that helped me get used to the lifestyle.”

Now a full-time musician, Liam has found his home in the rhythm and blues genre and has been officially recognised as one of the country’s best harmonica players.

It’s clear to see his passion for the genre and instrument.

He continued: “The harmonica lends itself best to blues because it showcases the raw, emotional strength of the instrument, so it felt natural to me.

“Harmonica is my passion, and I only sing because it helps me to get in a band!”

The Liam Ward Band features Liam on vocals and harmonica, guitarist Matt Jones, Martin Hill on bass and Gareth Davies on percussion.

“We play original rhythm and blues,” said Liam, “covering contemporary topics in what I hope is an interesting and entertaining way.

“I also play with the Jake Leg Jug Band, who play lively 1920s and 30s music – jazz, folk, Gospel, blues and ragtime. In January we’ll be touring a new album of drinking songs to commemorate 100 years since Prohibition came into force in the US.”

The Liam Ward Band’s debut album ‘Uprising’ was released this summer, and has received positive reviews from blues fans and critics.

“This is my first album to be made up of completely original material,” explained Liam.

“It feels really precious to me because of that, and it’s received good reviews so other people must like it too! We crowdfunded the album, which was very rewarding, offering some cool perks in exchange for support – including gigging in living rooms across the country.”

The album was recorded at Sonic One Studios in Llanelli, with the mastering and post-production taking place at one of the world’s most famous studios.

Liam continued: “Working at Abbey Road was a real privilege – the road was full of tourists wondering who the ‘famous’ musicians going inside were!

“We had a tour and saw lots of equipment used by The Beatles and many others. And the mastering process really helped the music to jump out of the speakers. I’m really chuffed with the result.”

However, he also admits that his music could be seen as somewhat controversial on the blues scene.

By tackling topics that relate to the modern world, but with a musical style that is nearly a century old, Liam thinks the blend of new and old makes the album really stand out.

He said: “The blues scene is very conservative so I always know that my music won’t appeal to everyone; I try to respect the history of the genre but add my own spin.

“I concentrate on issues that are happening now rather than writing about living in a shack in Mississippi in the 1920s.

“I love the blues but the first wave was of its time – especially in being very sexist – so I try to avoid that. There’s a song on the album called ‘The Insidious Kind’ about women still facing everyday sexism.

“I see it as men’s responsibility to talk about these issues, so that it doesn’t remain a ‘women’s issue’. Overall, the writing process is very freeing and exciting, and it’s also a relief because you’re getting something out of your head that needs to be released!”

Liam will be performing virtually non-stop over the next months, with shows in Gloucestershire and the surrounding counties.

Now settled in Stroud with wife Leah, he says he is enjoying living and performing in the town.

“Performing is different every night, even if you play the same songs,” he added. “The subtleties of the song will change, but also the atmosphere of each venue differs, as does the audience. That’s what I love about gigging – you can never step in the same river twice.

“We value being in a politically active, artistically diverse town. The topography reminds me of the Peak District, where I’d go walking as a child. It’s a great place of inspiration for a musician.”

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