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|Written by Kris Millett|
|Thursday, 31 March 2011 09:55|
It happens only to a few, but when it does, it is magical: the spine-tingling reaction when creative and commercial forces conspire to propel an artist into full blossom. It's a moment Lakefield Ontario singer-songwriter Royal Wood finds himself in this spring. The music from his 2010 album The Waiting has seen him be named iTunes Songwriter of the Year, and last Sunday he was up for the Juno for Songwriter of the Year-which was inevitably won by (surprise!) Arcade Fire, otherwise known these days as the New York Yankees of indie rock.
For Royal, it's been a gradual progression, as the 32-year old spent time working as foreign-exchange trader in order to support his side passion-that being the lush sounding, melody driven piano pop he makes. It wouldn't take long before his Steinway grand creations removed him entirely from the rat race. His 2007 album A Good Enough Day earned international attention, including placement of songs in programs such as Grey's Anatomy. 2011 has seen him headline cities across Canada as well as several rural towns, bringing him to Wakefield, PQ this coming weekend for two dates (April 3, 4) at local treasure, the Black Sheep Inn. The immaculately-coiffed chanteur took pause between Juno-related parties to answer a couple questions for (Cult)ure...
(Cult)ure Magazine: Your melodies are astonishing at times, and appear to be effortless. What is your secret?
Royal Wood: There is no secret. At least not one that I could teach. I believe we are all born to create, and it is up to each of us to find the source. Once you do that, it can pour out.
(C): You have mentioned that you experienced many "severe shifts personally" leading up to the making of The Waiting. Do you feel this altered your lyrical approach in comparison to pervious works?
RW: I feel like with maturity of self, comes a more willingness to open up. Due to that confidence, I certainly didn't hide behind metaphor this time round.
(C): You grew up in Lakefield, Ont. Would you say the area and its pastoral surroundings have affected your sound? If so, how?
RW: Everything affects an artist's sound and lyrics. From the books we read, to the conversations we have, to our surroundings - so yes, most definitely the pastoral landscape affected me.
(C): Oftentimes artists are not influenced by, nor even listen to, the acts media types purport them to sound like. Is this the case with you and such artists cited in the press such as Randy Newman, Jeff Buckley, Tom Waits, and Ron Sexsmith?
RW: No, I listened to them all, in varying degrees. However, they all have a common thread. All four of those artists are songwriters, and write from a very personal place. I think that is what ties us all together.
(C): I hear shades of Lyle Lovett and Paul McCartney in your vocal delivery. I hope you do not take that as an insult...
RW: Not at all! I am honoured you think so.
(C): Some of your influences cited could be characterized as "songwriter's songwriters" ala Bob Dylan. At the other end lie artists better described as "song builders", i.e., Bowie, McCartney, and Jack White-where there is more emphasis on sonic construction to express a point/emotion as opposed to merely chords and lyrics. Where would you place yourself on that range?
RW: I would like to think that my lyrics carry the same weight as my melody. However, it is hard to judge ones own body of work.
(C): I was thinking of "On Top of Your Love" when I asked that - its deceptive simplicity, how it builds sonically, use of handclaps...
RW: "On Top Of Your Love" is a perfect example of a song that just came to me in an instant. It was very intense and very fueled by lust. So, I am not surprised it was written that way. I would not compare to most of the rest of the record, which I crafted lyrically for long periods of time.
(C): You appear to be entirely self-made; from writing to recording to the selling your product. That's a very modern thing. Do you feel like the times today allow an artist the benefit of increased freedom, even if the paycheques aren't as big anymore for successful musicians?
RW: As much as I am sorry that people don't buy records anymore really, I do lead a charmed life. I make art. I do what I love, and I have made a career out of it. That is only possible because of today's technology.
(C): The Black Sheep Inn is a revered venue for musicians and fans alike. What do you think makes it so special?
RW: There are many reasons the Black Sheep Inn is special. The audience for one. They know how to listen and to respect an artist. As well, Paul who runs the Black Sheep is legendary.
Royal Wood performs at the Black Sheep Inn on April 2 and 3rd, 2011. The April 2nd show is sold out and the 3rd is a matinee (4pm). There are some tickets still available for the second night.
Tags: anarchy, black sheep inn, gatineau, interview, local artists, music, ontario, ottawa, royal wood