By Mike Dunn
CALGARY – On his upcoming fifth release, Both Ways, singer-songwriter Donovan Woods has expanded his sound to include some more atmospheric elements in the instrumentation, a move he admits comes from trying to fill larger venues with sound, while still getting the songs across.
“I’m always trying to move forward. When you make an intimate folk record and you end up in a larger theatre, there are songs that you can’t really play, because they don’t fill up the space. You end up changing the arrangements, and you’re not playing the stuff that’s on the record, so I wanted to have songs that’d fill the spaces I’m playing in.”
Woods has developed a more distinct voice over the course of his career, moving from an abstract lyrical approach in his younger years to a more refined, straightforward course more recently.
“I was a kid, I didn’t know what the I was doing. People still tell me they like those songs, but it’s like looking at a picture of yourself and going, ‘Is that what I look like?’ and everyone else who knew you just goes, ‘Yeah, that’s what you look like.’ I think I’m more clear now. When I was a kid I didn’t think it was cool to make sense, like, ever. I was so resistant to anything that sounded like a straightforward lyric that I would just erase anything that made sense.”
Along the way though, Woods found a bit more of himself in the traditions of the style. “I didn’t think it was cool to be a folk storyteller, you know? I just wanted to be misunderstood and mysterious, which at the time feels like the cool thing to do, but as you get older it just feels like a cop out, because writing songs that are specifically about something is really fucking hard.”
Woods has spent the last few years living between his Ontario and Nashville, where he spent some time in the Music Row writing rooms, with other writers bouncing ideas back and forth and trying, as he puts it, “to just write good songs.”
“I’m mostly working as an artist now, but in the beginning, I was mostly with other writers,” explains Woods. “When I started out, you listen to the other writer, and get a sense as an artist of what they do, but then you just get in there and just try to write the best song possible, because what they do is them, and it’ll come out. I thought it’d be two separate jobs, that I would write for other people, and then I’d have my own thing that I’d protect, but as I’ve gone along it’s become the same thing. I don’t approach it any differently now. Any time I go into a session with someone else, we’ll just write a song, and maybe they’ll want it, or maybe I’ll keep it. In any style, a good melody is a good melody, a good song is a good song.”
Donovan Woods plays the Starlite (Edmonton) on April 26, and the Gateway at SAIT (Calgary) on April 28.Both Ways, Donovan Woods, SAIT, Singer-Songwriter, The Gateway, the Starlite