Slick, Smooth, Versatile

Royal Wood looks cool—hair slicked back, dressed in vest, tie, white shirt.

He has a voice to match, a slick, smooth voice that’s soft, yet full. He’s also a versatile musician, moving between piano and guitar.

Wood is an acclaimed songwriter who has been compared to Rufus Wainwright, Hawksley Workman and Ron Sexsmith.

In 2010, he was nominated for a Juno for his 2010 CD, The Waiting, and he iTunes awarded him its honours for Songwriter of the Year, as well as Best Pop Album and Best Pop Single.

The Peterborough, Ontario, native showed his interest in music very young.

“I started playing by ear when I was about four. I started with piano and picked up other instruments along the way—guitar, drums,” Wood says.

“My parents decided that I should be able to read what I’d been playing, so they put me in piano lessons, for which I’m very thankful,” he adds.

“In school, I played in the concert band and the jazz band. It wasn’t until I was in my early twenties at McGill that I started writing my own songs on guitar. Until then, I was playing mostly playing instruments. By the time I was 24, I had a body of work that became my EP,The Milkweed.

“Songwriting is cathartic,” Wood explains.

Screen shot from Royal Wood’s video, “Do You Recall”, shot in Iceland Credit PHOTO: Jeth Weinrich

“I take inspiration from my experience in life, in books I’ve read, anything. I began as a kid, writing lyrics, rhyming, anything that sounded good. I was still finding my voice then. By the time I was in my twenties I built up experiences, brick by brick, and turned them into songs.”

While Wood usually performs only his own songs, he recorded an EP of songs by other artists, The Cover Sessions.

“I had a day off in Halifax last year, a rainy day off, and I heard this song by Foster the People, “Pumped Up Kicks,” he says.

“I liked it so much I had to Google the lyrics, which were so dark in contrast to the music, about a latchkey kid with absentee parents.

“I played it on my guitar the way I would arrange it if I wrote it, recorded it in my hotel room on my computer and posted it online.”

The response was so great, Wood says, that he asked for more cover song suggestions and recorded four more songs in one day, giving away a limited number of the EP to people who pre-bought his next CD (available this June).

While that EP is now out of print, the songs, including covers of Adele, Sam Roberts and Tom Petty, are streaming on YouTube.

Several of Wood’s songs have been used in TV shows such as Private Practice, This is Wonderland and Being Human.

“Artists depend on TV shows more than ever these days,” he explains.

“In Canada we’re lucky to have public radio, CBC, that can provide some exposure, but mainstream radio will only play a handful of major artists. TV has become the resource for worldwide exposure.”

Such shows don’t actually go away, Wood adds.

“People download, stream and share these shows. It’s a definite boon for performers to have a song placed on a show.”

His show in Whitehorse will be the end of Wood’s current tour.

“I rarely get offers to come up that way, so I’m really looking forward to it. I’m hoping to see as much of Whitehorse as I can.”

Royal Wood plays the Yukon Arts Centre on Wednesday, March 28 at 8 p.m.

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