Continuing to shine a light on rising artists and singer-songwriters releasing compelling music, our Swag Spotlight this week is Donovan Woods. A native Canadian, Woods grew up in a working-class town, and what he calls a “country music town” but said at the time, it was what all the dads were listening to, so he was initially drawn to hip hop and artists like Another Bad Creation, Bell Biv Devoe, and Bobby Brown. As he matured, his musical tastes also evolved and the great singer-songwriters like Paul Simon, Billy Joel, and Traveling Wilburys became a staple as his influences.
I was eight years old when I picked up a guitar, my older sister told me to have a skill like that, she could tell I wasn’t hitting a home run in the looks department,” Woods laughs. “She was preparing me for a life, that I was going to have to work for it, she told me I should develop a skill, and so I picked up a guitar that my mom used to play and kept in the house.”
At first, he released a bunch of records on his own in Canada, eventually making connections and moving down to Nashville to continue to pursue a career as a songwriter and artist. Writing songs that were cut by other artists, Woods is a master at crafting lyrics and stories that others felt the need to tell through music. Songs like “Portland, Maine” recorded by Tim McGraw on his 2014, Sundown Heaven Town album and “Leaving Nashville”, recorded and released by Lady Antebellum’s Charles Kelley’s solo project, The Driver. “Leaving Nashville” is one of the most honest, raw and real songs about the music industry and although we love Kelley’s version, listen to Woods sing it below.
He explains that he loves modern country music, such as HARDY and Morgan Wallen. “I love anything that feels good, that stuff feels good to me,” he says. “Country music is funny, as soon as we get backlash from that other type of sound, someone like Morgan comes along and doubles down on it, it’s such a strange genre.” We discuss at length the fluidity of music, bending genres and putting labels on music. “Country music, Americana, Folk Music, Singer-songwriter, I take it all as a compliment. I just don’t really pay much attention to it. Kids pay a lot less attention to genres these days. They live in a playlist world rather than an album world.”
Recently, he released a duet with one of our 2019 Artists to Watch, Tenille Townes, an acoustic version of his song “I Ain’t Ever Loved No One”. Townes’ unique and evocative voice particularly shines and complements the bittersweet sentiment of a love story that will never be matched.
His latest release, “Way Way Back” was a solo write, a song Woods knew would work with the right production, working with Todd Clark in Nashville, it was released this fall. His gentle voice along with the most powerful, beautiful lyrics make Donovan Woods one of the most talented writers in Nashville. His dry sense of humor and witty remarks also make him one of the funniest to interview and to see live.
We caught his opening set on the Brightly Burst Tour with Ruston Kelly earlier this fall at Bowery Ballroom and he is now playing shows in Canada as he wraps up 2019. He looks ahead to new music in December and getting into the studio to record at the top of the new year.
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