Clever and engaging, clear and succinct, the music of Donovan Woods draws a listener in and asks you to take your coat off and stay awhile. An eviscerating singer-songwriter in the vein of Damien Rice and Iron & Wine, Woods invites us into his world through crafting meticulous tales full of triumph, rejection, and love.
Donovan grew up singing with his local church choir in Sarnia, Ontario. Named after legendary musician Donovan Leitch (“Mellow Yellow”), Woods was introduced to folk music at an early age.
“We’d listen to Arlo Guthrie, Canned Heat, or Paul Simon for hours,” recalls Woods. “In the beginning I hated it, hanging out with Dad, but now I wish I could go back and hear what we were getting into”.
He picked up the guitar and piano at an early age and his sustained devotion to both instruments becomes obvious once you hear his songs. Like little tableaus, they display the commitment of family life and the understated romanticism of blue-collar towns, making picture books of the extraordinary aspects of ordinary lives. Donovan presents to us the brilliance of guttingly harsh realities - including the melancholy that can result when you grow up and make a move to the big city.
In his songwriting, Woods firmly believes in simplicity, something he attributes to touring with The Andy Kim Band. After being handpicked by Kim, Woods joined the band in a national tour in 2006. Working and touring with the writer of the American classic, “Sugar, Sugar” had a profound influence on him and resulted in the release of his first studio album, The Hold-Up.
The Hold Up received critical and public attention within Canada and the United States. Having a song with such atmospheric national pride as “My Cousin has a Grey Cup Ring” on the album didn’t hurt, either. For two years (and counting) the song has been broadcast in its entirety during CBC’s televised coverage of the Grey Cup.
Identification with his lyrics is easy; his optimism gives hope to the lovelorn, the love-lost, and even (as one so rarely finds in singer-songwriter classics) to love found. Within his work, the human will to “make right” prevails through all trials.
“I want to write songs that stick around.,” says Woods. “Solid songs that age well. A lot of songwriting these days is cheap. I’m trying to write the expensive stuff; the stuff that only comes out when there’s company coming”.
His latest release, The Widowmaker reveals Woods to be not quite folk, not quite pop, but contains qualities of both to create a sound all his own. The Widowmaker’s profound artistic statement continues to move the listener’s expectation forward with regard to what one can expect from Donovan Woods. Woods masterful storytelling and sparse musical tapestry relies on the conflict from combining the happy and the sad, the heavy and the light, and creating an ongoing narrative between the artist and the listener. It’s the blending of all of these elements that allows Donovan Woods the versatility to paint a true portrait of life.
The Coldest State