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WITF Music: West & Ward

Chance encounters and pandemic persistence

Elijiah Cross, left, and Macy Leonard of West & Ward perform as part of the latest installment of WITF Music.

 Jeremy Long / WITF

Elijiah Cross, left, and Macy Leonard of West & Ward perform as part of the latest installment of WITF Music.

Listen to the feature:

Elijah Cross, of West & Ward, approaches WITF’s Steinway piano like a kid in a candy store. Billy Joel and Ben Folds flow effortlessly from Cross’s hands in-between takes of West & Ward’s performances—and when Macy Leonard’s harmonies are added into the mix, West & Ward are a musical force to be reckoned with.

Cross is no stranger to the stage, having previously been in a band. But after leaving, a contract dispute meant that magic and comedy became the only options on the table for live performance until it was resolved, allowing Cross to perform music again.

“I discovered that I know how to tell a joke—so I wrote some! And so I was actually doing the festival circuit just before the pandemic hit.”

West & Ward first performed together impromptu—after playing the same gig, Cross asked Macy Leonard to share the stage.

“I said ‘Hey, come up on stage with me. That song you do, that Nirvana song? Let’s do that right now.’”

From that moment on, the duo’s connection only grew, Leonard says.

“We’re pretty much always on the same page … we’re just kind of really in tune with each other, and it just makes the music so much easier because of that.”

That’s reflected not only in the music, but also in the name.

“I wanted to pay homage to … the spirit of great teams,” Cross says, and came up with Adam West and Burt Ward of Batman fame. The band shares a laugh over which one of them is Batman.

“It’s very obviously me,” Leonard insists jokingly, but Cross agrees.

“If you have two people and one of them, in their spare time, has been involved in roller derby, and rock climbing, and slings beer rounds [Leonard], and the other one just really loves close-up magic [Cross], that first person’s Batman every time.”

The pair had a rapport, a name, and a goal, but the COVID-19 pandemic kept them from performing for a while. In fact, a bout with the virus landed Cross in the hospital for ten days. In the meantime, the duo kept connected by sending music back and forth for inspiration.

“I started sending prompts [to Leonard] via text saying ‘Send me a song that makes you happy that music exists,’” says Cross. “ … And I went back through all that stuff later, and I was just like ‘I’ve got to write music.’ … It’s literally what my function is: to take this mess and try to make some sense of it, and help other people make some sense of it.”

West & Ward’s songs tackle a range of topics: from valuing the best things in life, in “Ages,” to the more unique mental health advocacy of “Battlefield.”

“It’s a struggle for a lot more people than people realize,” says Cross. “As the bridge [of the song] notes, you can be looking at somebody who seems perfectly fine, and is just waging an internal battle. So it’s really important to just treat everybody carefully.”

It’s songs like “Battlefield” that Cross hopes “[help] people communicate,” and that’s the heart of the band’s music—connection, both through chance and in the face of uncertainty. And one thing is certain: West & Ward are truly a dynamic duo.

Keep updated with West & Ward: Facebook, Instagram and website.
Crowdfunding for new album: West & Ward Record their Debut EP by West & Ward — Kickstarter

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