You already know exactly who M. Ward's 'What A Wonderful Industry' is about
You might recognize M. Ward as the "him" of She and Him, as a member of the supergroup Monsters of Folk or you might recognize him simply as M. Ward, the solo artist. His most recent album is “What a Wonderful Industry” and we are playing the song “Miracle Man” from that album on 88Nine.
In a recent phone interview, I talked to him about George Jones’ timeless voice in a song he can't stop listening to, "No Money in This Deal" and about his new project, which involved no traditional record deals at all.
To self-release "What A Wonderful Industry," M. Ward bypassed most parts of the industry that he critiques in the album. He did it somewhat out of necessity (you know, the criticisms) and partly as an experiment.
"It is every artist’s dream to be able to record a song or record and release it immediately," Ward says. "That is what I tried to do with this one. It is sometimes agonizing to wait six months to a year or more before the record label or the management feels that
It's something that a lot of artists can relate to—being ready to move on to the next album before the current one is even released. So to break this cycle for himself, he released new music immediately, just to see how it felt.
"The best part was the satisfaction of immediate gratification of having something be available to the public within 24-48 hours," he says.
The hardest part, he says, is that the album wasn't "on the cover of anybody’s sheets" and promotion, sales and press coverage were slower than he's used to.
"I am lucky that there’s a fan base and there’s definitely some pillars that are already up, but if I had done this with my first couple of records I would probably be doing something else for a living right now," he laughs.
But he didn't just make this album for himself, or even his usual fans. He says the music is just as much for other musicians in the same "wonderful industry."
"The record is mainly meant for artists more than anyone else and for friends of mine," Ward says.
His lyrics in this album call a lot of people out, but the names are changed because they ultimately don't matter. The point is a reminder to keep your enemies close, but your friends closer.
When people ask me, I normally say that they know exactly who it’s about.
"The more people you talk to in 'the industry'—it really doesn’t matter what industry you’re talking about—there’s always some villain in the story. The more stories you hear from friends and coworkers it kind of feels good to know that maybe that contract you signed when you were a kid, you’re not alone in that."
The song we're playing "Miracle Man," takes on the more positive side of this. Ward says its about his music heroes who have inspired him in his 20 years in the music industry. He names Mike Watts of the Minutemen and The Firehose as one of them, though it's about a vague number of others too.
Even the last track "Bobby," which sounds as direct as it can get, is kept general. Ward says that he did write it about a specific critic, but finds the general character more significant.
"When people ask me, I normally say that they know exactly who it’s about, but I’m never explicit on who," he says.
That's what makes "What A Wonderful Industry" and M. Ward more than an insider's artist—because we all know a "Bobby."
Buy or stream "What A Wonderful Industry" here.