Matthew Stephen Ward, known by his stage name M. Ward, is a singer-songwriter and guitarist who rose to prominence in the Portland, Oregon music scene. In addition to his solo work he is known as a member of She & Him and Monsters of Folk.
Ward's solo debut, Duet for Guitars #2, was released by Howe Gelb on his Ow Om record label. Ward's 2001 album, End of Amnesia, was put out by Future Farmer Records and Loose Music (Europe). A collection of live recordings, Live Music & The Voice of Strangers, was a self-released disc that was sold at his shows in 2001. His subsequent albums have been released on Merge Records.
He has guested on recordings by Cat Power, Neko Case, Beth Orton (with whom he co-wrote the title track to her album Comfort of Strangers), The Court & Spark, Bright Eyes (with whom he toured on the 2004 Vote for Change tour with R.E.M. and Bruce Springsteen), Jenny Lewis (whose debut solo album Rabbit Fur Coat he co-produced), and My Morning Jacket.
In 2004, Ward played guitar for Bright Eyes on a taping of The Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn. During the performance, Bright Eyes' singer Conor Oberst yelled out "M. Ward for President!" This prompted Newsweek to run an article on Ward and his next album Transistor Radio. Also in 2004, Ward had his song Transfiguration #1 featured in Chris Malloy's surf documentary A Brokedown Melody.
In 2005, Ward was along with Aaron Burtch, Jason Lytle and Jim Fairchild from Grandaddy, Scout Niblett, Marie Frank or Jeremy Gara involved in Howe Gelb's project called Arizona Amp and Alternator, which had officially no band members but a lot of guest musicians (M. Ward's voice can be recognized on the track "Aaaa(3)").
In 2006, he helped produce and contributed a song to the John Fahey tribute album I Am the Resurrection. He also appears on Norah Jones' album Not Too Late, performing backing vocals and guitar on "Sinkin' Soon", and toured as the opener and a member of her "Handsome Band" for the album in the spring of 2007. Also his cover of David Bowie's song "Let's Dance" is featured on the soundtrack of the 2007 New Zealand film Eagle vs Shark. Ward was previously a member of the band Rodriguez with Kyle Field of Little Wings. Their album Swing Like a Metronome was released in 2000 and produced by Jason Lytle of Grandaddy.
In 2006, he released Post-War, which was described by Vanity Fair in its August 2006 issue as thematic on the question "How will America heal once this craziness in Iraq is over?" Ward said in that article that he looked to the post-war music of the late 1940s and 1950s. "I had the naive, simplistic idea that producers and writers and artists of the time helped in a minuscule way to change the mind-set of America." The album was released on Merge Records and features cameo performances by Howe Gelb, Jim James and Neko Case.
Ward and Zooey Deschanel performing as She & Him at the Newport Folk Festival (2 August 2008)
From the music blog It's Hard to Find a Friend: "According to the Omaha City Weekly: ...Also with recording plans for the winter is Conor Oberst. Beginning in the new year, Oberst is slated to begin recording two new albums one a solo record in Mexico (the album is self titled "Conor Oberst") with Jake Bellows playing a role and another with a new band being formed with M. Ward".
In 2006, Ward recorded a duet with actress Zooey Deschanel, a collaboration which resulted in the formation of the band She & Him. The duo's album Volume One which Ward produced was released on Merge Records on March 18, 2008. Ward and Deschanel performed (along with Yo La Tengo) on Late Night with Conan O'Brien on April 22, 2008. Returning from She & Him duties, M. Ward released his sixth solo studio album, Hold Time, on February 17, 2009. Ward has said that he doesn't enjoy playing shows very much: "In general I like it. I don't like being away from home that much. So it's O.K. It's a part of the job." He has also taken steps recently to restrict fans' use of cameraseven point-and-shootsduring his live shows. Both Ward and Deschanel also agreed to be judges for the 9th annual Independent Music Awards. In doing so, She & Him are using their growing influence to assist upcoming independent musicians' careers. Ward's music has influenced subsequent singer-songwriters such as Jesse Marchant of JBM.
Monsters of Folk, the project Ward and Oberst began, finally released their self-titled debut album in September 2009. The band also includes Jim James of My Morning Jacket (credited as Yim Yames) and Mike Mogis from Bright Eyes.
A Very She & Him Christmas was announced on Pitchfork.com in September 2011. The twelve track Christmas album was released October 25, 2011 under Merge Records.