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Donovan Woods’ work is guided by a mantra that only sounds simple: Good songs win.
Woods, a Juno Award nominee, was raised in the small city of Sarnia, Ontario, to the sounds of country music, with a healthy dose of folk and pop, a combination that instilled in him a strong belief in the power of a good melody, the importance of everyday language and the potential of a carefully-crafted song. While amassing a catalogue of rousing and acclaimed music of his own, he has worked with some of the top songwriters in North America to craft cuts for performers ranging from Alan Doyle to Billy Currington.
It’s not that Woods makes music that is a product of both country and folk; it’s that he makes music that shows how distracting the line separating the two can be. Like with so many songwriters of note, what matters isn’t what you call it, or where it comes from, but the stories you tell, and the voice you use. And whether it’s Tim McGraw singing from atop a full-throttle stadium-show stage or a line whispered by Woods himself in a more intimate environment, one thing remains clear: Woods’ is a voice that demands attention.
That attention has been quick in coming, bringing international accolades, a growing number of fans inside and outside the music industry, and proclamations like “Canada’s best-kept secret,” “piercingly honest” and “quietly anthemic.” Throughout his work, Woods has remained focused on his one deceptively unassuming intent: crafting good songs – with an emphasis on ‘craft’.
It’s that mastery of the craft that places Woods squarely among the long line of great Canadian songwriters that have come before him: Artists whose work showcases the art of songwriting, and the painstaking effort to perfect everything from the title to the delivery. You can hear these forebears, and his contemporaries, in Woods’ music, but you can also hear the tradition being carried forward: Stripped down, but never simple; direct and poetic; new and timeless; all delivered with a confidence and in a voice that you wouldn’t expect from someone as young, approachable, or humorous as Woods.
And so, the trials and tribulations of living in a rustbelt town, the legacy of a CFL champ, navigating Facebook – all, and more, are fair game. All are probed with Woods’ unique combination of sharp eye and singular voice, and all ring equally familiar, and true. They are songs that come from experience and observation; from the journey of the songwriter who has been there – and one that’s just as comfortable telling you about it onstage as he is offstage.
What unites all of Woods’ material is the people he sings to and about. Rather than an idealized working-class-hero version of “The People,” it’s the people that we know – the people that we are. Donovan Woods knows how we speak, think and act, and has a way of saying exactly that – and so much more – in a voice that we’ve been hearing for as long as people have been singing, and the likes of which we’ve never heard before.