'All the songs create problems but also have solutions,' he says of the new collection.
Credit: Sarah Cass

M. Ward is familiar with rain — so familiar that he decided to give it a starring role on his ninth album, aptly titled More Rain.

“I normally start the day with The New York Times front page,” Ward told EW in December. “Terrible things. So the idea of ‘more rain’ also sounds like another way of saying more bad news, how are you going to deal with it? All the songs create problems but also have solutions. So it’s a balance.”

More Rain is the first album Ward’s released since putting out Classics, an album of covers, with She & Him partner Zooey Deschanel in 2014. Since then, he’s been mostly working on his solo career and producing Mavis Staples’ latest album, out now. But he guesses he’ll eventually make more music with both She & Him and Monsters of Folk, the supergroup he formed with Bright Eyes’ Conor Oberst and My Morning Jacket’s Jim James in 2009.

“Something, I’m sure, will surface at some point,” he says of both projects. “It’s just a matter of finding time in everyone’s schedules, which is the trick.”

For now, though, Ward’s busy touring. Below, the veteran singer-songwriter shares how More Rain began as an experiment and how actual rain ended up on the album.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: The album kicks off with a minute of rain sounds. How’d that come about?

M. WARD: The studio that I made most of the record at in Portland is the top floor of an old factory, and so you hear the rain while you’re recording and it just seemed like a good backdrop for the record, almost like a beginning of a stage show, like a high school play. It seemed like a good way to start the show.

This was originally going to be a doo-wop album.

It started off with this simple idea: I just wanted to use guitar and voice and layer my own voice as an experiment. And that’s how about half the songs started, but then some time went by and I wanted to see what would happen if we added different elements like drums and then they just grow, and that’s the way records should be. I don’t want to stop the growth just because I had some crazy idea four years ago.

Do you feel like this is different than your other albums?

For me it is, because it was more experimental with the voice. That’s the biggest difference.

Obviously being in Portland affected this record and how you wrote it. How does location play a part in writing?

I actually get most of my inspiration from older music. That’s kind of the way it’s always been. Where I happen to be has an influence on how much time I have for writing. You have to just create space to start writing, as you know, as a writer. Sometimes it’s challenging because there’s a lot of things to do. No matter where you are, the carve-out time for me, it’s with the guitar, and something happens. It’s not always good. But something happens.

What track is the most important to you from this album?

The first one I would call a quote unquote successful experiment is “I’m Listening.” It was an attempt to start off with almost a doo-wop structure and then we built from that. That’s the song that comes to mind.

More Rain is due out March 4, and see M. Ward’s upcoming tour dates here.