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M. Ward’s Surprising Loves: ‘American Idol,’ Yacht, Ronettes

M. Ward

For a decade-plus, the otherwise discreet folkie M.Ward (né Matthew Stephen Ward), 38, has been exposing his undergarments of influence in interviews (his favorite Beatle: George; his favorite film: Being There) and his various musical projects (sunshiny girl-group pop with Zooey Deschanel in She & Him; rollicking Americana n his Monsters of Folk super group; his own melancholy solo output). We discovered a few more of the Portland, Oregon songwriter’s favorites on the heels of his first solo studio release in three years, A Wasteland Companion. Recorded in eight different studios in six cities, with plenty of special guests (Deschanel included), the album itches with the discomfort of being away from home, each scratchy layer of road dirt and accumulated wisdom counterbalanced by exhalations of humility. The only thing we couldn’t get out of the man was his favorite record: “It’s too hard,” he says. Fair enough.

Favorite girl group:
The Ronettes. It’s gotta be the Ronettes.

Favorite blues artist:
A guy named Hubert Sumlin. He played with Howlin’ Wolf, and I got to meet him a couple years ago. He passed away last year, but he’s probably my favorite blues guitarist.

Favorite country artist:
The Louvin Brothers.

Favorite new artist:
I’m gonna say a band called Yacht. I think it’s really hard to put a sense of humor into music and make it sound interesting, but they do that. And it’s not just the lyrics. I think the music is really interesting too.

Favorite song for a sunny morning:
That happens a few times a year [in Portland]. I think Harry Nilsson would be good, anything by him, but if I had to pick one, it would probably be this sort-of strange record called Aerial Pandemonium Ballet.

Favorite song for slow dancing:
The first thing that comes to mind is Sam Cooke, anything by Sam Cooke.

Favorite concert:
I saw Brian Wilson at the Sydney Opera House a few years ago. He played all of the Beach Boys hits and it was incredible.

Favorite instrument:
The first guitar that Gibson gave me. It’s called Johnny A. I have two of them. That’s my main guitar that I play on tour, a black electric guitar called Johnny A.

Favorite book:
That one changes all the time, but if I had to pick one book that I keep going back to, it would be Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, a classic.

Favorite natural wonder:
The Grand Canyon. I grew up in Southern California, so it’s just kind of a place you go to if you’re in need of a natural wonder. The desert has the weirdest natural wonders.

Favorite body of water:
The Mediterranean. The South of France is one of my favorite places in the world.

Favorite place to think:
While driving in the car.

Favorite food:
My grandparents are from Mexico, so I grew up with great Mexican food. I’m just going to say Mexican food.

Favorite Twin Peaks character:
I don’t really watch TV series because I don’t want to get hooked on them and have them suck up all my time. Twin Peaks is the one exception I’ve made. I’ve seen every episode. I really like the Giant.

Favorite Portlandia sketch:
Journalists all over the world have been asking me that, but I’ve only seen like one sketch, not enough to comment on it. I love Carrie [Brownstein], though. She’s great.

Favorite guilty pleasure:
I do watch American Idol sometimes. It’s not really that pleasurable… I take that back. It is the epitome of a guilty pleasure. Sometimes there’s some good singers on that show.