Josh Ward is on a bit of a roll as musical success stories go. His latest album, More Than I Deserve, debuted at No. 5 on the iTunes Country Albums chart and logged more than 250,000 streams in its first month alone. Ward has landed ten straight singles atop the Texas Regional Radio Chart.
Ward sold out Big Texas Saloon in Spring in January, and it’s a safe bet he’ll do the same when he plays Big Texas on Friday night. This is what happens when you log more than two million views on YouTube.
“Well, it’s never a bad thing when people are liking your music,” Ward said on a recent phone call. “It just goes to show you that if your fans get behind you, as well as radio and the industry as a whole, good things can happen. It’s amazing, whenever you’re able to do something like that.”
Not that Ward’s success was expected. Nor was it overnight. In fact, Ward’s story could very well be its own country song.
Ward, who hails from nearby Montgomery, was essentially on his own by age 15. He soon began working in the oil fields to make ends meet, but still carved out time to pursue his true passion – music. That includes playing tailgate parties outside concerts and rodeos. These makeshift concerts weren’t meant to make any real money. Rather, they were meant to simply entertain Ward’s friends while allowing him to play before a live audience, no matter how small.
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“Nothing is handed to you in life, and that’s just one of those deals,” Ward said. “I knew that if I wanted it, I was going to have to go get it. You play in the parking lot, you do whatever it takes to get your music out there. But that helped me get where I am today, to be so strong-willed.”
Ward’s hardscrabble roots, coupled with his credibility as an old school country singer-songwriter, have even inspired a catchphrase – “all grit and no quit.”
“That just means you keep pushing on and doing what you need to do, and those holds true for life in general, whether with music, working in the oil fields, whatever,” Ward said. “You can’t let off the gas pedal at all. I’ve had a very strong work ethic from a very young age, and I guess that’s what’s kept me in this crazy game for so long. Whatever dirt is thrown in your face, you get up and keep slinging. Tomorrow is a different day.”
Obviously, Ward has come a long way since his formative years. He is one of the most acclaimed, in-demand artists on the Texas country scene. He sells out honky-tonks and dance halls from coast to coast.
Country fans, who are celebrated in their loyalty, still buy records and listen to terrestrial radio. And they are vocal in their support of Ward as well. If anything, one wonders if it’s hard for Ward to remain humble, what with his level of success.
Not so, he contends.
“Man, I keep it right down the middle, and I’m the same guy now that I was then,” Ward said. “Staying humble means knowing who I am and where I’ve been, and that approach has gotten me this far. Sometimes, it is tough, and it gets trying on the road. As far as losing perspective or forgetting where I come from, that just ain’t me. I’m still the same ol’ humble dude every day.”
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Considering Ward’s success was far from instantaneous, he witnessed his star rise gradually. What began in rodeo parking lots, where he served as “cheap entertainment” for his friends eventually moved into supporting slots for more established acts. In turn, word of mouth and Texas country radio play eventually led to headlining gigs, bigger rooms and a noticeable uptick in both album and merchandise sales.
Ward was conscious of all this as the process was ongoing. But, even now, he occasionally has to remind himself that it all actually happened.
“I have these moments every night when we’re on stage, and I’ve had to pinch myself sometimes, but to go out and get to do this for a living, it’s pretty cool, man,” Ward said. “It’s a little scary out there, when you start taking off, because you never really quite know how it’s going to turn out. But I can tell you now that we’re on a course and have been for a while now, we’ve really felt it pick up speed. It’s been a ride, that’s for sure.”
Josh Ward's show is scheduled for for 10:30 p.m. on Friday, June 22 at Big Texas Dance Hall and Saloon in Spring, 19959 Holzwarth. For information, call 281-353-8898 or visit bigtexassaloon.com. $12-$20, plus fees.