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Interview: Eleri Ward Talks Opening on Tour for Josh Groban, Her Second Sondheim Album & More!

BroadwayWorld caught up with Eleri Ward about how her life has changed in the year since our first interview with her!

Interview: Eleri Ward Talks Opening on Tour for Josh Groban, Her Second Sondheim Album & More!

BroadwayWorld last spoke with TikTok sensation Eleri Ward in April 2021, just as she was preparing to release her first album, a collection of Indie/Folk covers of Sondheim tunes. In the year since that interview, Ward signed a distribution deal with Ghostlight Records and released her album to great acclaim under the title A Perfect Little Death, began playing live shows, and caught the eye of one Josh Groban, who was so impressed with Ward that he invited her to open for him on his upcoming summer arena tour.

BroadwayWorld caught up with Eleri about how her life has changed in the year since our first interview with her!


So much has happened since we last spoke to you! How are you feeling about everything that's been happening in your career?

I'm so grateful. Exactly a year ago I had finished recording my album in my closet, with absolutely no expectations whatsoever, and now my life is completely different. Since my first Q&A with you came out, I signed a distribution deal with Ghostlight Records, have played sold out shows, and am opening for Josh Groban this summer, amidst so many other amazing opportunities. It's been overwhelming in the best way. It really has been a testament to putting your work out there because you never know who is watching and where it can take you. Before this, I had little to no performance opportunities, barely any credits on my resume, and was technically just a nobody making singing videos in my room. I made my first Sondheim cover on March 1st, 2019 with no traction, and now three years later, look at where it's brought me...it's absolutely wild!

BroadwayWorld spoke to you right before the release of your album A Perfect Little Death. How does it feel to have that album out in the world?

It feels mystical and amazing. When I last spoke to you, I planned on releasing the album independently with no idea of what it would become. Because of our Q&A, I got the attention of Ghostlight Records and signed a distribution deal with them to release the album. A year ago, I had a relatively small audience and now it seems that this album continues to find new listeners on the daily who tell me that it's healing or inspiring or that it's the thing that keeps them going. I can't believe that something I created in a walk-in closet has had that effect on people, but I'm so appreciative.

It reminds me that as artists, we give gifts that we may not even know we are giving to others by way of our art, and that is reason enough to continue creating. Above all, to have Sondheim's music heard by folks who may not have picked up a cast recording means a lot to me. Changing someone's opinion of a song from negative to positive, or introducing someone to Sondheim for the first time feels like an honor. Sondheim means a lot to me, as I know he does to countless others, and if I can be a vessel for his masterful work, I feel like I've brought some good into the world. Having learned that Sondheim himself loved the album and loved that his music was being brought to new audiences is so validating and encouraging to keep doing what I'm doing.

What has it been like getting to perform your music for live audiences?

What a whirl it's been! Going from a year and a half of singing alone in my room to sold out audiences has been overwhelming and electric. I have found so many new things in these songs from sharing them with an audience, which has been incredibly special. It's also taught me so much about myself, being someone who struggles with nerves and staying present in performance. To be in the moment and breathe with an audience who is as invested in this music as I am is nothing short of magical. Thank you to everyone who has come out to a show so far!

From your live concerts came the opportunity to open for Josh Groban this summer on his arena tour. Can you tell us the story of how that came about?

It feels like something out of a movie. The day before my concerts at Rockwood Music Hall in NYC, I got an Instagram notification that Josh Groban had shared my Johanna (Reprise) music video to his story with some kind words about my work. I couldn't believe it, but I messaged him and thanked him. He replied by telling me that Kevin Gore, president of Warner Chappell Music, had recommended the album to him, so he gave a listen and loved it. The next night when I arrived to soundcheck, I was made aware that Josh and Kevin would be coming to the late show. I met him afterwards, bonded over Barbara Cook, and we stayed connected after that.

A couple months later, he called me and asked if I would be his opener for his summer arena tour, saying he didn't care if I did Sondheim or my original music or both, only that he wanted me to be heard, which meant a great deal to me. When I hung up the phone, I started shaking and crying to my boyfriend who had just set dinner on the table, and we opened a bottle of wine to celebrate the news. I could barely eat my sushi! It is quite a fantastical set of events, and I think I'm still in disbelief that this is a real thing that happened and is happening to me!

What are your thoughts as you prepare to make the jump to performing for arena crowds?

First thought: I AM SO EXCITED! Second thought: I AM SO NERVOUS! I think about walking out on these stages, just me and my guitar, and it's a wild vision. But all I want to do is share my art and my heart, and if I touch even just one person in any given audience, I'll be fulfilled. I'm so thankful for this opportunity, for Josh, and for the learning experiences to come!

You are also making your second Sondheim album. What can you tell us about that?

I am so excited to be making more music, and to have so much support in doing so. This album is continuing the story I began to tell with A Perfect Little Death, but it's a new chapter, so naturally there will be different songs and new instrumentation choices. The heart of my point of view remains the same though: to strip back the arrangements in a way that highlights the darkness and light within each song. That's what I love most about Sondheim, and so I want to continue on my journey of exploring that duality and the juxtaposition I find so fascinating. The album will have fourteen tracks with acoustic guitar at the base of them all, but with variations of strings, electric guitar, keyboard, and even some banjo. There's going to be a lot of movement and color, as I want the album as a whole to take you on a ride through the many peaks and valleys of these songs. I love each of these tunes so much and am truly enjoying the process of creating my own versions, letting my inner voice guide me through each arrangement.

Do you have any final thoughts you'd like to share?

I would simply like to encourage those who are questioning whether or not to keep going or to put themselves and their work out there. You never know who is watching, who is taking note, and which one of the videos/songs/self-tapes/works of art you put out into the world could change your life. Something I conceived back in early 2019 is the thing that has my career taking off in 2022, so please don't discount your work if it doesn't catch peoples' attention right away. Keep going! I would also like to extend my deepest thanks to you folks at BroadwayWorld for being a part of my journey, the listeners and fans for supporting me, to Ghostlight Records and Warner Chappell for believing in me and trusting my voice, and to Stephen Sondheim for his validation and of course, this one-of-a-kind canon.
You can find all streaming and ticketing info on my website, www.eleriward.com, and can stay up to date with me on Instagram, TikTok, and Twitter @eleriward
Photo credit: Rebecca J Michelson


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