I recently saw Ruadhan Ward play as the opening act for a Girls Rock! Chicago benefit, one I mentioned earlier here on the website. Ruadhan (pronounced like Row-an) is an alum of the Chicago-based rock camp for girls ages 8-16, and she’s an amazing example of what can happen if you encourage young women to pick up an instrument. Her playing is passionate, honest, and unpretentious. And at just 16, she has tremendous guts and ability when performing. I expect we’re going to be hearing a lot about Ruadhan in the future.
Here’s what Ruadhan had to say:
How did you get involved with the Double Nickels benefit?
I got involved with the Double Nickels benefit through Girls Rock! Chicago. The guys in the band wanted a girl from camp to open for them, and the organizers at camp immediately thought of me. When they asked me to do the show, I couldn’t answer yes quick enough!
I read that you were inspired to start playing guitar at the age of 12 by a Chemical Romance video. Can you talk a little bit about that?
I was inspired to play guitar by MCR’s video for I’m Not Okay when I was about 12 or 13. The video is basically these guys at a prep school, who are the nerds and they’re getting picked on by the jocks. The video ends with a giant showdown scene where the two groups run at each other, and after the video ended, I was certain I’d never seen anything cooler in my life. The part that really got me was the guitar playing though. The video has scenes where the band is playing and the middle of the song has a crazy guitar solo. I watched the lead guitar player, Ray Toro, play that solo, and afterwards I was like, “I want to do that.” Funnily enough, once I picked up the guitar I realized I didn’t have much of a mind for lead guitar playing, and so my skills went to the rhythm guitar playing/songwriting bucket. Still, without that video, I’d probably not be doing what I’m doing now.
How did you get involved with Girls Rock! Chicago?
I got involved in Girls Rock! Chicago in a fairly typical way. My mom and I heard about the organization, found there was one in Chicago, and I decided to sign up and be a camper. I only wish I would have found out earlier! Last year was my last year as a camper, but I’m excited to come back as a counselor.
What was the camp experience like?
The camp experience was really great. It’s such a creative environment where you can be yourself. You learn a lot, make new friends, and make some really awesome music. The end of camp show is the best part, because you get to hear what everyone’s been working on during the week completely finished!
Music critic Jim Derogotis name-dropped you on his blog after watching the rock camp performances. Were you surprised?
The Jim Derogotis review was insane. It was so cool reading what he said about all the other girls, but I was speechless with what he said about my and I. It was hard to believe that a renowned journalist in the music scene compared me to Arcade Fire. I mean, it’s Arcade Fire! They won the Grammy for best album this year! After I recovered from my speechlessness, I called my mom and cried. It was such a great moment for me. If I ever meet Mr. Derogotis, I’m going to thank him for that name-drop!
Tell me about your setup. What guitar(s) do you have? Which do you prefer?
I just got a new amp that I really love. It’s a little Vox, and it’s got so much power for a little amp. I’m really lucky to have a lot of guitars. My first guitar was a red and black Fender Stratocaster from my uncle. I also have a white Stagg hollow-body. It’s an electric acoustic, with a really great sound. My two pride and joys though are my acoustic and my electric. My acoustic guitar is what I do almost all of my writing on. It’s a 1960’s Airline that I got in Northern Wisconsin for $30. It’s has such a beautiful sound, that’s really full and resonant. Instead of the usual circular soundhole, it has two f-shaped holes. It’s probably the best $30 I’ve ever spent. My other love is my alpine white Gibson Les Paul Studio. I saw it in my local guitar shop. I wasn’t looking for a guitar at the time, but I fell in love with it. I spent three months in debt and most of my free time was spent babysitting, but when I finally bought that guitar, it was worth the work. There is nothing that sounds like a Les Paul, and it’s my amazing to play. I treat it like my child.
You are a songwriter as well as a guitarist and singer. Can you tell me about your songwriting process?
My songwriting process is really natural. A lot of my songs start with a chord progression I really like or a melody in my head. Then I sit down with my guitar and see what happens. Once I get started, the rest of the song usually comes fairly quickly. I also keep lyrics in my phone. I don’t always have time to sit down and write when good lyrics pop into my head, so I save them in my phone and come back to them when I’m at my guitar. I never push the songwriting process. If the song isn’t coming together, then I walk away from it and start again later. I’m very much of the thought process that the song will write itself.