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All photos by Terry Steeves.

Royal Wood brings his orchestral manoeuvers to the NAC in 2016

By Terry Steeves on December 9, 2015

Singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Royal Wood continues his steady climb of ongoing success as one of Canada’s well-respected songwriters. His contemporary classic songs, encompassing flavours of folk and pop, are ripe with completely memorable melodies, and personal life-reflecting lyrics that speak to the hearts of us all. Now with 2 EP’s, 6 full-length studio albums, and a list of songwriter awards and Juno nominations under his belt, Wood is set to release his newest record, Ghost Light (MapleMusic Recordings), on April 22, 2016, with a cross-Canada tour that includes a stop at Ottawa’s NAC on May 6, 2016. Although he has performed in both the NAC’s Studio and Theatre venues, this will be his first headlining show inside the beautiful Southam Hall, which will feature his own band, along with the entire NAC Orchestra. Royal Wood has been a long-time favourite of NAC Presents, which celebrates the diversity of Canada’s musical talent.

royal woods 2“This will be my first time headlining Southam Hall. I opened for David Gray there in 2010, so I’ve stood on that stage. I followed him on his entire tour, and Ottawa was one of the first dates. I remember being on that stage and thinking, ‘Man, I wanna come back here!’ So this time we’ve come up with a show that will feature the full orchestra, as well as my band, another keyboardist, and singers. I’ll be switching from from guitar to piano to ukelele. With every tour, I like to do something a little different, depending on what kind of record I’ve made.”

Born into a musical family, on a farm just outside of Peterborough, Ontario, Wood’s parents were naturally his first major influences, and he learned to play piano as soon as he was old enough to sit at one and reach the keys. Right from the start, music has always been the most poignant common denominator in his life. Continuing through adolescence and into adulthood, it has remained his passion, his therapy, and the essence of who he is.

“I started piano when I was around 4, and always played by ear. We had quite a few instruments in the house, and when I was a kid, I wanted to play them all. I had an amazing music teacher that let me play anything I wanted to bring home. We were always singing in my household. My dad would sing and play the banjo, and my brothers, sister and I would join in. I didn’t sing in front of people until around grade 7. Then it was late teens/early 20’s before I started performing my own stuff outside of cover material that I thought people wanted to hear. Music is all I’ve ever wanted to do. It’s every memory since I was a little kid – there was never any doubt in my mind. My parents have kept this binder of yearly things I did in school – my report card, paintings, etc., and there’d be a page where you’d check off what you wanted to be when you grew up. My brothers would check off things like ’astronaut’, but I’d check off ’musician’- always.”

Usually, a song is born from me from start to finish.

Whether composing on the piano, the guitar, or the ukelele, his songs have the versatility of being played in their simplistic beauty with a single instrument, or interpreted to the more grandiose stylings of a full band, a stringed quartet, or an entire orchestra.

royal woods 3“Influences of course began initially with the greats like Dylan, Cat Stevens, and the Beatles, who were huge for me… basically the 70’s songwriters and songwriting duos. But as time goes on, you’re always listening to, reading, or watching something new, so it becomes a myriad of influences, because it changes constantly. I’ve been writing recently with ukelele, but really, whatever instrument is nearby. Usually, a song is born from me from start to finish. It’s rare that I go back to ideas… that stuff is like having a sketchbook. You make your sketches and keep on turning pages, never going back to them. Once I come up with the lyrics and music, there it is… I step back, work on it, finesse it, tweak it, but it generally happens in one sort of burst. In the last few years, I’ve been collaborating with other Canadian songwriters, like Peter Katz, who I wrote some songs with. I’ve started to really enjoy writing with other people… it’s a different sort of animal.”

Recently this past week, Wood graced us with a couple of ‘sneak peek’ shows – one was a pop-up solo performance on the artist’s stage inside the Rideau Centre’s Nordstrom, and the other was held inside the pristine acoustics of the NAC’s Salon, where he was accompanied by a 4-string quartet of musicians from the NAC Orchestra. Both vignette shows were designed to give a glimpse of the man and his music, which included his newly released single, “Long Way Out”, a piece with a great chugging rhythm, and wonderfully soaring notes on the bridge melody. He switched from guitar to ukelele on the foot-stomping, “I’m Gonna Marry You”, another from the upcoming LP. He pulled out some of his past favourites, like the romantically sentimental, “I’m So Glad”, the heart-rendering lullaby sway of “I Wish You Well”, and his upbeat signature singalong, “Forever And Ever”. These handful of songs left a long-lasting impression on me, with their infectious melodies and lyrics still ringing in my head. And I could tell from the reaction of the audience, that I wasn’t the only one.

For more information on Royal Wood and his upcoming album, Ghost Light, please visit his website. For tickets to his upcoming NAC Presents performance at Southam Hall with s/g Rose Cousins, see the NAC website.