Originally from Philadelphia, PA producer Ray Ward writes, records and performs under the moniker of *Chi. And as *Chi, his work reflects his own personal experience wandering around — thematically, his material concerns itself with constantly being in transit and of finding some sort of steadiness. “All My Woes” is his latest single and in some way it reminds me quite a bit of Radiohead, if they decided to cover Neil Young or a little bit of a contemporary band such as Junip. In any case, the song possesses a quiet and thoughtful beauty that’s quite affecting, i think.
Philadelphia producer Ray Ward (aka *Chi) creates music that seems to be in a constant state of flux — whether it’s the movement between musical styles or simply the transition between lyrical ideas and themes. Having played in reggae bands in his hometown, a rock band in Connecticut, a blues band based in New Jersey, and a Brooklyn folk band, Ward has used this history of transitory creativity to inform the music under his own *Chi moniker. Drawing on such disparate influences as Johnny Cash, Gorillaz, and The Velvet Underground, his music finds the chameleonic musician switching genres and sounds as easily as changing clothes. And as with many musicians who inhabit multiple musical landscapes, the tendency is to force as much into each song as possible, but Ward forgoes these bloated inclinations and simply allows the music to develop naturally, without an overabundance of outside interference.
On his latest single, the acoustic rocker “All My Woes,” he blends gently plucked guitar notes, an insistent bit of percussion, and his own expressive voice into something whose influences can’t be easily dissected and categorized. You may recognize the foundation, but Ward meticulously layers mournful strings, ghostly backing vocals, and subtle electronic flourishes until we’re left with a song that feels indebted to its origins, though not bound by them. As he repeats the song’s refrain, “I guess I’ll let you know all my woes,” he bends the song inward, drawing the listener close. It’s this feeling of inclusivity on Ward’s part that allows us to feel as though we’ve become apart of some larger narrative, a detailed life that we’re only know starting to understand.
Beats Per Minute is pleased to premiere the newest single, “All My Woes,” from Philadelphia songwriter *Chi.
“All My Woes” Music Video from Hiu Kwong Yau on Vimeo.
Directed and Produced by Hiu Yau, Nicole Ward, and *Chi
*Chi is an amalgamation of all the genres and locations that gave Philadelphia native and producer Ray Ward his start. Prior to launching his independent project, *Chi, Ward began his musical career as a bass player, inspired by his father’s jazz band that practiced in his house as a child. He then went on to play in Philadelphia reggae bands, a rock band based in Connecticut, a blues band based in New Jersey, and a folk band based in Brooklyn. Now landing in Boston, Ward says, “I guess I’ve been on the move a lot, and the music probably reflects that — it’s never static; it’s always changing and evolving.”
As Ward bounced around from state to state, it’s no wonder that a lot of the songs are about being in transit, trying to find a home and a sense of steadiness. Some of his songs are about the efforts to find personal growth amidst confusion. He says, “I’m really interested in the people out there who aren’t satisfied with the cookie cutter versions of ‘happiness’ that are presented to us. But, questioning authority and developing awareness also causes a lot of disorientation and pain.” His songs tap into a dilemma between wanting the easy way out and the choice to take the road less traveled.
The project combines elements of different styles and genres, a result of coming from a musical household where he grew up with an appreciation for all kinds of music. His parents named him after Ray Charles, but they never forced music on him. He says, “I taught myself how to play for the most part. Seeing the fun that my dad had playing in his bands was the best kind of training — it showed me what a fun experience making music could be.”
Wards influences are just as diverse as the music that informs *Chi; a range which includes Blur, Johnny Cash,the Gorillaz, Velvet Underground, Bonobo, and Neil Young. Ward says, “I’ve joked that *Chi is ‘Psychedelic Indie Folk Trip Hop Electronica’.” Most of *Chi’s songs are written on the acoustic guitar and grounded in the traditional songwriting of alternative rock, but he often fills in the details of the songs with elements of electronica and hip-hop.
*Chi began as a side project where Ward could focus on doing his own production. He says, “I realized that doing all of the production and playing all of the instruments allowed for a really consistent vision to come through. There were no compromises to navigate around. I love collaboration, but this project allowed me to sink my teeth into all the elements of musical production, from writing the songs, to recording them, to editing them and ultimately producing a final version.”
While experimenting with keyboards and production techniques, he wrote and produced two songs: “Calling” and “L.A. Sugar”. *Chi will release several singles over the next year to begin satiating the appetites of his early fan base.
In his new project, musician and producer, Ray Ward, takes a cue from the theme of his song, “All My Woes” by getting everything out in the open. That everything is a culmination of genres that merge seamlessly to create a brand of indie rock that incorporates elements of rock, blues, folk, and undertones of jazz.
Review: *Chi – 3 Singles
Chi – 3 Singles (Independent)
August 13, 2013
Chi – LA sugar
Singer/songwriter Ray Ward has undergone a transformation into a new alter ego, *Chi. This side project features some new music with a different feel than his other tracks. Ray (*Chi) has recorded all the instruments that you hear on this song and I love it! I like the laidback vibe of “LA sugar” and it’s very pleasing to the ears. I’ve had the pleasure of being in the recording studio with Ray taking some pictures of the magic being made and he has so much talent.