Interview: Royal Wood

Royal Wood is a Juno nominated singer songwriter, who calls Lakefield home. Though he doesn’t get home often, performing over 250 dates a year, Royal will make a pit-stop at Showplace on Valentines Day, when he’ll perform songs from his latest CD “Ghost Light.” Busy? You bet! Later this year he’ll be supporting Bonnie Raitt on her Canadian tour! Mb caught up with him by phone from somewhere in Dublin…

Mb: Hello Royal. Can you hear me?
Royal: Hello? Can you hear me?
Mb: Ok, got you.
Royal: Welcome to cross continental chatting!
Mb: No, kidding! How’s the weather over there?
Royal: Pouring rain! Pouring rain, cold and damp.
Mb: Oh well, it’s snowing over here so…
Royal: Ah, well I’ll take this.
Mb: You take the rain over the snow?
Royal: At this particular time. I think when I left I was happy to get a break from it so…
Mb: Looks like you’re gigging tonight?
Royal: Ya, it’s a thing called the “Ruby Sessions.” The main gig is actually tomorrow.
Mb: Is it a club or a theatre?
Royal: It’s a club, but it’s where you play as a songwriter. Ya, everyone has played there. It’s a room I look forward to playing.
Mb: Are you performing solo?
Royal: For this one, ya. This tour was very much a, how do I put it, making up for one I had to cancel. My father passed away a few months ago, so all the tour that was originally scheduled was obviously cancelled, and the only way to make up a few of these dates was in early January. It’s not the best time to be touring in Europe because usually everything shuts down. So I just did a few of the key dates that I had lined up and then I’m coming back and getting right back to work on everything else I’ve got going on. North America and then I’ll tour Europe again in March and make up for time I’ve lost.
Mb: I see by your tour schedule, you’ve got just one show in Peterborough and then the rest throughout the States.
Royal: All through the states and then all through Germany and then a bunch of recording when I’m in Europe. I’m back to Nashville as well.
Mb: Do you like the travel?
Royal: You know, it’s what I’ve done since I was 24 years old, so I don’t remember whether I like it or not! It just is. It’s just my life and I do it all the year round.
Mb: I can see that your career has really taken off since you received The Wire’s “Bigtime Award” a few years ago…
Royal: (laughs) Yes, I remember that night well, actually!
Mb: So, what about your new record “Ghost Light”… Looks like you played most of the instruments on it.
Royal: Ya, I got back to the way I first started making records. When I was a kid, those first few, I was playing all the instruments and producing it. Actually, the first ones I was mixing it too. This time, it was just something where I was in the studio and wasn’t sure whether I was going to be making a record, but I just started recording and… I was working with this guy Bill Lefler in LA and I played everything and he played the drums and we just jumped around and by song three it seemed we were making a record, so we just kept going. We cleared our schedule and the record was so fast. It was 2 weeks to make and I over-dubbed some strings and horns back in Toronto and the record was done. It was fast, but it was energetic and fun and I think I just had to get that record out of my system, to be honest.
Mb: Be it that you were making music you heard in your head rather than thinking commercially about radio play and careful planning?
Royal: Ya, to be honest, I can say I’m done thinking about radio play. That was an odd time in my life when I made “We Were Born to Glory.” It was a time of trying to make a radio song. Funny thing is, when I made “The Burning Bright” I had zero desire to make it to radio. I just wanted to make a record, and that was one of the biggest records I ever made! It was the biggest single too! “Forever and Ever” was a total hit for me. I had no intention of that being anything. I think it’s best you just get out of the way and make music and rest just happens.
Mb: Maybe it’s the moment you stop really trying, all the success comes?
Royal: Ya, that’s it. It’s in the letting go. I’ve definitely let go this time, that’s for sure.
Mb: Lots of fun and songs you really enjoy performing?
Royal: Lots of fun and I feel the band’s never been better. We’ve never been more connected, on stage and off stage. Everything just seems to be gelling. It’s the way it’s suppose to be. I think we’re out of our heads and into our hearts. So we’ll just keep doing that and enjoy the run. Certainly losing my father sort of added weight too… “Just do what you love every single day.” You have to, or what’s the point.
Mb: Looking ahead and wondering how many years are left for anybody…
Royal: Exactly, not just for myself but with my friends and family. I’ve definitely a more balanced life now, than I’ve ever had before and it’s very worth while.
Mb: 2016 seemed to be one of those years where we lost so many people. Talk about facing one’s own mortality.
Royal: Absolutely! A time within the arts where the foundation of the music that myself and my peers were raised on, they’re all hitting that age now and we’re going to lose a lot in the coming years and it definitely brings home “Oh ya, it’s a whole other wave that’s coming.” So enjoy it.
Mb: So what else is going on over there? You punking around drinking some beers? You a beer lover?
Royal: I am absolutely am a beer lover! To be honest, I’m actually recording and making some music for the new record. That was one of the biggest reasons I wanted to be in Glasgow in the first place. A label I signed to on the last record, they put that one out. We did some work and then I flew to Ireland and will do the shows then take a few days off and then I head back. It’s full steam ahead, Nashville and LA, the UK, touring the States and….
Mb: How’s the musical environment in Ireland compared to home?
Royal: It’s kind of like being on the East Coast, I think. It’s a little louder. It’s a little more, not drink heavy but, everyone’s definitely ready to have a good time. There’s nothing stuffy about playing in Ireland, that’s for sure. They’re excited for music. They’re excited to have a good time. Everything’s later. Shows are later, it’s just a different feel.
Mb: What time does a show start there?
Royal: Well, if you think about theatre stuff at home, I’ve been on as a head-liner by 7:30 at night. But you wouldn’t be caught dead doing anything before at least 10pm here. It’s just the way things roll, especially in the club circuit.
Mb: So as an old man, how are you mustering it up for 10 o’clock calls?
Royal: (laughs) Easy now, easy now. I’m doing just fine.
Mb: So when you get back home, Nashville, LA. You’re doing some writing there…
Royal: Ya, there’s a bunch of writing for me as well as some writing for others. I have a publishing deal with a company called Peer and they have me flying all over the place. Between that and my own career… you have to have a wide bandwidth if you’re in the arts and want to have a career for 50 years so…
Mb: You enjoy writing for other people?
Royal: I do. You get to wear a different hat and you’re not precious about it because it’s not for you. It allows you sometimes to write something that maybe wouldn’t have connected with you personally as an artist but connects with you as a listener.
Mb: And allows you to explore different genres of music?
Royal: Absolutely! I write everything from pure pop stuff to country. It’s kinda fun. Actually it’s more than fun. You’re making music for a living so, I definitely feel grateful everyday.
Mb: How many dates are you doing in a typical year?
Royal: A typical year? 250 or so…
Mb: Wow!
Royal: Ya, I am not home much.
Mb: Well you’re home with a stopover in Peterborough on Valentines. Good date for you!
Royal: Ya it was a good day to pick, I’ve got to be honest.
Mb: It’s great to see you come back and play a bigger venue every time. Must feel good to see your career build at home. You played the Musicfest a few years ago…
Royal: Ya, I love the Musicfest and I love being back in Peterborough. When I first started, it was funny because when you start in your home town you can’t get arrested, and then you leave and get a career and finally get to come back. When I first started, I was playing the Peterborough Arms once a week and it wasn’t til I left and then came back and played the Gordon Best and… You don’t think of it when you’re away, you just come home and play one bar… but now the one place I want to be is home, back in Peterborough. Funny how that all comes full circle.
Mb: And it must be great playing close to home so friends and family can come out.
Royal: Ya, absolutely. It’s coming home. What doesn’t feel better than that!
Mb: By the way, your old teacher Mr Larock says “Hello!” He’s also taking all the credit for your success!
Royal: (laughs) Mr Larock. Well you know, my very first performance was in his class room. I played the piano and my two friends just stood beside the piano. I sang, and they just stood there. (laughs) It was my first boy band!