Tré Ward for Afro inspired Magazine cover
Tré Ward for Afro inspired Magazine cover | Foto: Tré Ward for Afro inspired Magazine cover

Tré Ward The Power of Passion and Purpose

Por: Karen Limón

14, February, 2022 en Afro Inspired

Singer, songwriter, model, social worker, and activist Tré Ward is a man who wears many hats but projects versatility in the roles that he plays. He is synonymous with a life filled with passion and purpose.

As a child, Tré would emulate sounds that he heard on the radio and reenact skits from his favorite television shows and movies to perform in front of his siblings. “While growing up, my dream was to be a performing artist. I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to do between singing, dancing, or modeling, but I knew that I had an uncanny ability to command and maintain the attention of an audience and liked the feeling that accompanied it. For as long as I can remember, music, film, and fashion have served as vehicles to escape my own reality by introducing me to new worlds and characters that I probably wouldn’t have been encountered otherwise,” he shares.

Tré was raised in Third Ward, a small community in Houston, Texas. “Much of what I witnessed growing up was domestic violence, drug use, and gang activity. My parents struggled with substance use and incarceration, and as a result, my siblings and I were placed in the custody of child protective services,” he confides. Throughout most of his childhood, Tré was involved in after school programs, summer camps, church activities, and other extra-curricular events that would temporarily help him run away from his dark reality. “School also served as an escape for me because it was a place where I could receive guaranteed meals, socialize with my peers, and receive the attention that I lacked at home. Reading and writing were always my favorite subjects in school because they acted as portals of new realities and fresh ways of communicating. Writing became my way of manipulating my narrative and getting the last word. It allowed me to shape worlds around my perspective,” he adds.

After going through a rough childhood, Tré found his solace in writing. “I experienced sexual abuse at a young age and refused to tell anyone about it. I only wrote about it in my notebook. Writing became my safety net and my notebook became my safe place where I could write freely about my greatest dreams and worst nightmares. I turned those writings into poems and many of those poems later became songs which I would create choreography to and force my siblings to perform with me,” he discloses.

After graduating from high school, Tré was bent on pursuing a career in the performing and visual arts field but wasn’t specifically sure what he wanted to do. He attended a two-year community college and majored in Theater Arts. “After a few semesters, I realized that although the courses were fun, I wanted to do work that made me feel like I was making an impactful change in the world. After a short hiatus from school, I returned with a new plan to attend a four-year degree majoring in Social Work at a university. I chose to pursue a degree in Social Work because I wanted to ensure that no other young person involved in the child welfare system would have to experience the injustices that I faced,” he unveils.

Tré Ward for Afro inspired Magazine
Tré Ward for Afro inspired Magazine

Before graduating from college, Tré worked as a Studio Manager for a local photography and videography company where he had the privilege to practice wardrobe styling, creative directing, and set design for many local artists. “Although the position did not pay much, I enjoyed it because it allowed me to remain connected to the passion while pursuing my purpose. It also gave me the chance to learn the behind the scenes of the industry and many other valuable skills which I would later apply to my own career as an artist,” he states.

After earning his Bachelors’s degree, Tré landed his first job as a Youth Case Manager at The Salvation Army. “Many of the young adults whom I managed were older than me and could probably teach me more about survival than I could ever teach them. Thankfully, my dual role as a peer and a service provider offered me the opportunity to authentically engage with them in a way that they could relate to and connect with. I knew how much performing arts and creative writing saved my life and I knew that the young people that I worked with possessed so many natural talents, they just needed someone to believe and invest in them,” he confides. This inspired Tré to organize the agency’s first creative writing club where they hosted weekly open mics, writing ciphers, and live performances for young people to explore and expound upon their natural talents in front of an audience that they trusted. They also set up a recording studio on their campus to serve as an incentive for young people who reached their weekly goals. “Writing and recording alongside my peers became the best part of my day, it made work feel like fun not afforded me the privilege of merging my passion with my pleasure,” he adds.

After working so hard to recognize and develop the talents of others, Tré realized that he had been neglecting his own talents out of fear of being in the spotlight. “My students adamantly encouraged me to upload my original content to SoundCloud, and per their request, I released my first single “Dreams” in late 2016. To my surprise, I received so many positive reviews from listeners.” He beams with pride. This milestone compelled Tré to pursue his passion for music. During the summer of 2017, Tré bid his hometown goodbye and moved to Oakland, California to fiercely pursue his purpose and passion. In addition to music, Tré continued as a social worker and served as a youth homelessness advocate as well as a sexual health educator. In 2018, Tré released another single entitled “Ugly” as well as four follow-up singles, before releasing a full-length EP project in December of 2018 on all streaming platforms.

Tré’s sound symbolizes elements of hip hop, R&B, and urban-contemporary gospel music. His musical style flawlessly blends thought-provoking lyricism with heart-warming vocals. Tré utilizes his vocal proficiency as an instrument to augment the culture and struggle of his community while offering language for healing-centered dialogue. His platform serves as an advocacy for the equity of marginalized communities & individuals.

Tré Ward for Afro Inspired
Tré Ward for Afro Inspired

With all the models, musicians, and social workers out there, Tré has navigated his own path with tenacity and zeal. “What makes me different from the rest is that I lead with purpose and passion. I work to keep those values at the forefront of everything that I do in my life whether on stage or off stage as well as exploring new creative ways to merge the two. Many artists, models, singers, serve as conduits, muses, or vessels serve as loudspeakers or megaphone to project a pre-made message. I believe that I come with my own messaging. I am a physical embodiment and representation of the struggles and accomplishments of my ancestors. I hold myself accountable to a set of morals, experiences, values and I refuse to compromise those things for a moment of glory or recognition. My sense of purpose keeps me accountable for my talent which reminds me that I have a beautiful voice and can use it to drive change and make a difference in this world with the right purpose. Leading with purpose and passion inspires me to work towards cultivating and explore my tools and talents and not allow them to lay dormant or be manipulated by others,” he declares.

What Tré loves most about his role as an artist and activist is the ability to express the totality of his identity without having to compartmentalize pieces of himself or his journey to fit in. “I have given myself full permission to bring all of myself and experiences into any space that I occupy, I also love that in the process of healing myself, I am also helping to heal the world around me. I am very conscious and intentional about creating music that drives healing, stimulates dialogue, and offers people the language to effectively express their emotions. My music is my way of telling people that they are not alone,” he verbalizes. Tré’s music allows him to share his personal thoughts, opinions, and feeling that he would have otherwise kept to himself. “I love that in the process of existing in my full identity I can find new parts of myself. I love having the ability to reach people who speak other languages all across the world. I believe that music is a universal language that connects us all, and through my music, I can weave indelible bonds between my listeners and myself,” he adds.

Like all artists, Tré has his own method of unleashing his creativity. “I would describe my creative process as nothing less than a process. First, there’s the feeling phase, which is the time in which I feel all of the emotions that I’m experiencing. I’m usually not able to write during that time while those emotions are still processing. Once the lesson is learned from that experience, I move into the writing phase. During the writing phase, I begin with a free write where I purge all of my thoughts and ideas onto paper before organizing them into lyrics and verses. Many of the songs that I write are about my personal experience. However, I draw on many external things for inspiration. I often write songs with other artists in mind and imagine how they would perform with the emotion that they would put behind it. I also take advantage of pop culture, news, and tabloids as a source of inspiration. The life and experiences of celebrities are accessible for all to see and gossip about and although it may come at the expense of the person, it allows me to write great content,” he reveals.

Once the writing is complete, Tré moves on to the next stage which is recording demos on his laptop where he transfers all of his creative ideas from his mind into a microphone to be able to get an audible playback of how he would like the project to sound and feel like. “It is my opportunity to make mistakes and learn from them. Next up is my least favorite step, the studio recording which is a lot less forgiving from recording my own demos at home. I loathe standing inside of a box, screaming into a germ-infested microphone, with a producer who is probably scrolling through door dash as you feel the pressure of a perpetual time clock ticking which is directly linked to your bank account.” He grins. “I find this part of the process as a bit stifling and I prefer to record at home or in a much more open environment. Up next involves the mixing and mastering phase. I typically send my songs to different producers to mix and master to obtain different perspectives and styles, Finally, the song is complete and ready for release. Although it is the most anxiety-inducing part of the process, this is my favorite phase because it allows me to release and move on. Lastly, there is the marketing and promotion phase which is one of the most important parts of the process because what good is a hit record if no one can hear it. Through trial and error, I have learned many tips and tools for constantly improving my process to ensure for me to create the best content that I possibly can,” he adds.

One of Tré’s greatest achievement is the ability to ban the darkness of the world from dimming the light that he possesses inside. “I am very proud of developing the courage to truly believe in myself and my abilities. Working many years behind the scenes as a wardrobe stylist, set designer and creative director allowed me to remain hidden from the spotlight because of the fear that I wasn’t good enough. Trial and error became my best friends, and I learned that to overcome my fears you must face them head-on. As I worked harder to develop my craft, the more I began to believe in myself and my talent without seeking validation from others. Although these milestones and achievements don’t come with a certificate, they have helped me become a better person and artist,” he says.

Tré has faced many setbacks yet has risen and overcome the adversities in his life. “Somehow, I managed to emerge from each situation as a stronger and wiser individual and use the lessons learned to help others succeed. Most of the challenges that I’ve faced while pursuing my career as an artist are internal. I still struggle with self-esteem issues, I constantly question if my music is good enough. I overanalyze everything and always feel that there are a few more finishing touches that could be added. Had I waited for my music to be perfect I would never be able to release it to the world. Perfectionism isn’t even my goal, I want authenticity to connect with my listeners and hope they resonate with my music. Another obstacle that I’ve faced is identity. As a same-gender loving person in a heterosexual dominated industry, I never saw real representation that I could identify with. Although music and pop culture has evolved and is taking great strides towards becoming a safe and affirming space for LGBTQIA+ artists, it is still a weird topic begrudged with stereotypes, troughs, and other means of discrimination. I want to create content that uplifts and enlightens my community rather than play into industry stereotypes and troughs. Some of the external challenges that I’ve encountered while pursuing a career in music are two things that are essential to any independent artist. Before creating music, I had no idea how expensive it is to create an album, plus visual and promotion. This forced me to learn as much as I could about budgeting, money managing, even taxes which I had no clue about. It has taught me to be resourceful by applying for grants, fundraising, and other financial resources.” he relays.

As Tré, wears many hats, he believes that balancing between his passion and purpose became more than what he bargained for. “Being a full-time artist and a full-time social worker began to take a toll on my mental and emotional health. I decided to take a hiatus from music in 2019 to focus solely on my career as a social worker. The conundrum of being an independent artist is that unless you have unlimited amounts of money at your disposal, you’re forced to find a nine-five job and reserve your talents for after 6pm, finding time to sleep somewhere in between. It became draining emotionally, physically, financially trying to cover the expenses associated with recording, releasing, promoting, and touring all music on my own. I decided to use my downtime as an opportunity to focus on improving my financial literacy and emotional stability as well as create new content. As an artist and activist, I give so much of myself and this period of my life has taught me the value of self-care. If I didn’t choose to save the best parts of me for myself then I would always end up feeling depressed and depleted,” he confesses.

Tré believes that his ultimate purpose in this world is to use his experiences to help others. “All of my greatest accomplishments and worst failures are not mine alone. They serve as road maps for those who will come after me. I believe that it is my duty in this life to use my voice and existence to make impactful changes in the world around me. It helps me to smile through my darkest days knowing that the lessons that I learned in my storm can help someone overcome their own. I believe that I was put on this earth to be a source of light amid the darkness. I hope that my resilience, vulnerability, and sheer tenacity can help to inspire someone else to keep pushing toward their goals even in the face of adversity,” he proclaims.

Tré’s future goal is to officially merge both his passion and purpose by creating an art therapy non-profit that focuses on the healing power of art and creativity. “I plan to use my services by spreading the magic of love through art for juvenile and adult detention facilities, nursing homes, and orphanages. I’m also excited to be releasing new music this year for the first time in over two years. I look forward to sharing my new journeys and all of the lessons learned along the way. I will be launching my official website where viewers can view exclusive content, purchase merchandise, and stay up to date with me. In addition to all this, my ultimate goals for this year entails building stronger connections with my audience, as well as securing official representation as a model and as a performing artist.”

Tré concludes our interview with powerful nuggets to live by. “If I could offer any advice to a young person who would like to be like me, it would be to be yourself. I spent a large majority of my youth trying to conform to what society, my family, and friends said that I should be. I tucked the best pieces of myself underneath to not offend or upstage anyone. I compromised my greatness so that I could fit in, which caused me to become something that I could hardly recognize or love. Believing in myself was the best investment that I could have ever made. Another piece of advice that I would offer, is to seek validation from within. The music industry is built on external validation from industry executives, listeners, and so many more that you can easily forget your purpose. Create a plan, know your purpose, and pursue it with passion. What matters most is that you make yourself proud. You can receive standing ovations at Carnegie Hall or earn the adulation of everyone you meet, but if you don’t love what you see when you look in the mirror you will forever search for validation. Put yourself and your health first because if you are not well, how can you help others. The best lesson that I have learned is to face my fears instead of running away from them. My fear of stage fright paralyzed me from performing on stage for so long and I was afraid of being judged that I wasn’t good enough, but I took a leap of faith. Anxiety is a natural human emotion, it is meant to be faced not feared. Instead of running away from your fears, confront them boldly knowing that you already have everything that you need within you. Lastly, I would like to share that your past does not determine your future. As a person who has survived many challenges that would have disabled others, I never allowed those things to dictate my trajectory. Don’t brush past those formative moments no matter how dark they may be because they could possibly help someone else overcome their struggles.”

Tré Ward serves as an inspiration for all of us and gives value to living a life filled with passion and purpose.

Instagram: @tr3.ward

Photographer: VINCENT GOTTI @vinniegotti