Donovan Woods is a Canadian singer and song-writer, making really mellow acoustic tunes. Below is one of my favourite songs by him.
Let's see what he has to tell us!
When and why did you start playing?
I started playing guitar when I was 13. A kid down the road had one and he could play “Enter Sandman” by Metallica and “Come As You Are” by Nirvana and that was mind-bogglingly cool to me, so I had to learn. Also, my sister told me in no uncertain terms that I was not exceptionally physically attractive and would need skills and/or abilities to get a girlfriend. I appreciated her honesty then and I do to this very day.
How would you describe your music?
It’s folk music, I hope. That’s a lofty goal though. In England they call me country or Americana, and either is fine. I really like songs and I try to make the song my primary focus, if that makes sense. I try to make songs that are clear lyrically and mood-wise. I hope to be as direct as possible without being demonstrative. I like my songs, as much as is possible, to be made out of common, colloquial language.
Which musicians have you learned from? What is your favorite artist/band? Why?
I’ve learned so much from everybody. I try to listen to everything without prejudice. I listen to new country radio a lot. I listen to hip-hop. Everything. Michael Buble (love that dude). Everyone. I like to think it all just globs together and makes a musical vocabulary in my head that I can reference. That feeling of knowing where a song needs to go next, that’s just referencing something you’ve heard before. So, I need to hear everything. I couldn’t really ever answer the question of who my favourite artist is. Though Fred Eaglesmith would certainly be in the running. I’ve been listening to him all my life. He’s one of the best songwriters in the world, if you ask me. His writing is so simple and clear and pithy and perfect.
Who would you want to do a duet with? Why?
I think anyone who writes folk or country music would love to sing a duet with Emmylou Harris. I mean, her voice is just an absolute touchstone. It settles in so sweetly and turns songs into something altogether different. Something sweet and sad and hopeful. I love it, and I’d be honored to sing anything with her.
What is your favorite thing to see in the audience while you are on stage?
To see? I like to see no crossed arms. I like to feel silence though, of course. I like to make something happen in the room, beyond people just standing and looking. I like to change the mood to a thoughtful, contemplative one. This is hard and not possible every night. But in the right room with the right group of people, you can make exciting things happen musically in the silence. I toured with a UK singer/songwriter named Benjamin Francis Leftwich who could make that magic happen every night. He played incredibly quietly, and people went right inside the songs with him. It was great to watch. I learned a lot from him.
Who would you want to do a tour with? Why?
It’s a tough question because most of the musicians I love I’d never want to meet. I’d like to maintain my own personal view of their greatness and when you tour with someone you inevitably get sick and tired of them. So, I guess I’ll just say I’d love to tour with anyone nice. Anyone nice who likes to stop at lots of coffee places to try different coffees and then discuss the coffees.
Where was your first live show and do you have any special memories of it?
My first actual planned show was opening for a Canadian band called Elliot Brood who are pretty famous in Canada these days. They were just beginning to work together as a band back then. We played at a bar in Toronto called C’est What? They were very nice to me. I was extremely nervous. I make a lot of jokes during my sets and people were laughing at my jokes. I remember having sudden terrible thoughts that people were laughing at me, and not with me. I don’t think that was the case, but the thought kept going through my head. I sat down in a chair, closed my eyes and played my seven songs. The only ones I had.