Sound & Vision: M. Ward on His New Album Migration Stories

Sound and Vision
Emily Fox
photo by Renata Steiner

KEXP's Sound & Vision airs every Saturday morning from 7-9 AM PT, featuring interviews, artistry, commentary, insight, and conversation to that tell broader stories through music, and illustrate why music and art matter. You can also hear more stories in the new Sound & Vision Podcast. New episodes are out every Tuesday. Subscribe now and listen below.

For M Ward’s tenth studio album, the folk artist focused on migration, spurred to write new songs after seeing the response by Western governments to an influx of refugees and displaced people.

“Just spending time on tour and noticing the similarities of the different immigration crises in Europe and in America,” says Ward.

In the midst of this larger story, Ward was inspired by a little bit of his own story, tracing the movement of his grandfather, who immigrated in the 1920s from Mexico up to Los Angeles. The final product was Migration Stories, an 11 track album following an amalgam of people across the world throughout history.

Sound & Vision host Emily Fox spoke with Ward about the album and the stories behind it.

On the breadth of narratives in Migration Stories:

There's definitely no limit as far as time constraints. The more I read about my family's history and the European history that I've gleaned, these stories come from the history of mankind. And the more I dig into these current crises, the more you realize how similar they are to what's been going on since people started moving from country to country from the beginning of time.

On Ward finding inspiration for the album form his grandfather’s story of migration:

The biggest one is my grandfather's story that I've been piecing together from different family members. And we recently did this DNA historical program where you give them a piece of your skin. Then they come back and tell you who your ancestors were. I had no idea that I had Native American and so much Mexican heritage. I knew that both my grandparents were born in Mexico. But beyond that, it's an incredible story for me to uncover.  

On the track “Unreal City:”

Growing up in Los Angeles, we're constantly reading about this earthquake that's about to hit and I think it creates this underlying fear of the future. And it's a strange fact that people have to deal with. What is this fear turn into eventually? It can either turn into paranoia or in my case, what I've found happens is subconscious thoughts, fears, dreams turn into songs.

On the effects of COVID-19 on touring:

Everything’s been canceled. I had a couple of months of touring planned to release this record and everything's been canceled. So, it's been crazy. Half of our touring party was coming from international airports. So, when the federal ban on flights from Europe went down, we canceled pretty quickly after that announcement.


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