These days, many people know M. Ward as one-half of the pop duo She & Him. He’s the guitarist and producer who crafts the musical foundation on which lead singer Zooey Deschanel has shined vibrantly through two albums and a Christmas release.

Before he was “Him,” Ward’s career as a musician and songwriter was already in full bloom. He released his first album in 2001, which featured a colorful blend of Tin Pan Alley guitar playing, memorable pop hooks and a crooner’s warm vocal delivery. Since then, he’s expanded and refined that sound over seven albums. The latest, “A Wasteland Companion,” arrived in stores this April.

“The way that I learned how to play the guitar was by learning the Beatles catalogue,” Ward said by telephone. “And when you learn the entire Beatles catalogue from A to Z, you end up learning songs by people like Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly and Carl Perkins, and that begins to expose you to all of the genius songwriters and genius guitar players. So that grabbed ahold of me when I was in high school, and it has not let go.”

“Then I heard Sonic Youth and bought an electric guitar,” he added. “So it was a strange beginning, and nothing’s really changed much.”

Ward, who cites the records produced by George Martin, Phil Spector and Brian Wilson as the music that spoke to him the most, produces albums that are lush with tone and texture. His songs have a vintage quality, sounding as if they could have come from the same dusty bin as an old Cole Porter album. Some artists write songs about romance; Ward’s songs themselves are romantic.

“I think romantic music really isn’t that interested in storytelling that has narrative twists,” he said. “That’s what I would say the big difference is. There is a great interest in telling a true and honest story, and that’s the never-ending pursuit.”

Despite a passion for production, Ward also cherishes performance. “In order to make an interesting live show, you have to figure out ways of keeping the song alive. And that means sometimes reinventing the song.

“I’m not somebody who feels that the live performance of the song needs to be exactly like the recorded version. So it’s just a constant process of reinvention.”

Robert Ker is a Portland freelance writer.