Look up “vulnerable” in the dictionary and you’ll find the word comes from the Latin for with wounds. Spend five minutes in conversation with Charity Ward, a singer songwriter from Detroit, MI, and you’ll realize why vulnerability in the artist is so important to her: because good music — the kind of music that makes us bob our heads, the music that makes us think, that demands we roll down the car windows and belt along — that kind of good music, Charity believes, has the power to heal.
Charity grew up in Detroit, a city that’s familiar with wounds, but even more familiar with healing. During blistering winters, you’ll find a community huddling closer together for warmth. Here, early Negro Spirituals opened her ears to music’s ability to connect; the soul music of the ‘70s showed her how music can move the body. John Mayer’s guitar guided her to explore her own instrument and fellow-Detroiter Stevie Wonder taught her about the key of life. At 18, Charity left home for Nashville, TN, where she studied Classical and Jazz guitar at Tennessee State University. A historically black school, TSU provided the young singer-songwriter with an opportunity to study both music and her cultural heritage. Now graduated, Charity now focuses on her music and teaches elementary-aged students with academic disabilities. For her, both are acts of healing.
It’s tempting to call Charity a soul singer, but that’s not entirely accurate. Elements of R&B and funk have a place in the songs, too. And her lyrics spin tales like only true folk singers can, creating images so vivid it feels like we’re dancing across the floorboards with her, feeling the sun on our skin, and living in her tonal daydream. Love, family, civil rights, feminism — all of these topics inspire Charity’s music. Still, when she sings, “You’ve got beautiful moments,” the object of her singing could be a lover, a parent, a city, or a people. With a voice that starts from a shimmering timbre so playful it feels like a wink, and then swells till even the listener feels invincible, Charity can turn the most understated chorus into an anthem. When a singer sounds this fragile and yet utterly unbeatable, you’ll realize why No Fear is tattooed on Charity’s arm, and you’ll believe her when she tells you music is here to heal us.