On Tuesday, I had the privilege of speaking with Royal Wood to discuss both his new album, We Were Born to Glory, as well as his current tour in celebration of the album. I’m a pretty big fan of Royal Wood, so speaking with him was a dream come true.
Below is just a mere snapshot of our conversation, wherein Royal Wood discusses his new tour and album. Should you decide that you want to hear more of what he had to say, including him speaking about his processes as producer and songwriter, please feel free to listen to the audio recording on Sound + Noise’s Sound Cloud. I have also written a review of his album, We Were Born to Glory, which you can also read here, should this interview interest you about the music itself.
Olivia Wall for Sound+Noise: People are saying that, despite all of your past touring, that now is the time that you’ve “officially arrived.” So, I’m just wondering: what are your reactions to currently being so well-received?
Royal Wood: Well, I’m flattered and … humbled, I guess! But, I’m just doing what it is that I love and what I was called upon to do. I started playing music when I basically left the womb and this is all I’ve ever truly known that’s brought me this much joy, and I don’t think you choose to be an artist any more than you choose to be a leader or a healer, you know? It’s something that was naturally given to you, and I was one of those kids who, instead of picking up a hockey stick, wanted to be at the piano or grab his dad’s guitar, so it’s just a natural evolution in my life. And you can’t be too precious about it because industries change and economies change. And I’m doing it for the right reasons; I’m doing it because I love to create music. And when the record’s done and it goes into the machine and goes out into the world, you see what happens with it. But you certainly can’t go in, sit down and go “today I’m gonna write five hits” and “I’m gonna achieve this level of sales,” because I think that backfires. I think you have to make something that excites you first and that you’d be proud of and want to talk about with the press every day. Then the rest accolades as [the crowds and venues] come and that’s sort of the cherry on top. And that’s where I’m finding myself right now.
S+N:You just said something about an “evolution” as an artist, which is great because I wanted to ask you about this new leaf that you’ve turned over in terms of your music. You’ve come a long way from the guy who sits at a piano singing ballads, to the way your new album sounds, which is so upbeat and cohesive. What were your motivations for taking these new steps towards this new sound?
RW: That again goes back to the evolution. I think when you start, you’re just creating. Something comes from you and after you step back, you’re left with it. And this time when I stepped back in Montreal, I was there for 5 or 6 weeks and wrote the bulk of this record. I was very much at home in Montreal, I’ve played there many times, I went to school there, I made the last record there. I don’t know, it was just very much a celebration of life. It was wine with friends and long coffee breaks in cafes, and just waking every day and creating. I had never done that before in my life, where I just took 5 weeks, 6 weeks, and just wrote. It’s always been write a bit here, write a bit there, do some shows, get back on the road. When The Waiting (his last album) came out, with the Juno nomination, and everything that followed with it, and the tour with David Grey: it was just a really busy time. I think there were four tours on that one record in Canada alone, so there was no time for writing and really creating in a major way. So I think things kinda bottlenecked, and [for this album] I finally released the pressure.
S+N: So do you think that comes across in your music for this album? Like, how you were able to take your time and think about it?
RW: Well, I wouldn’t say it was so much taking my time and thinking about it. I think it was moreso having the time to allow it. Because some days nothing comes, and that’s what it’s like when you’re trying to create something. You can’t schedule it. Sometimes you’ll be in the last minutes of your day in the studio or apartment writing. I’d think “I’m done for the day,” and I would start playing something, just kinda doodling, and then – Aha! Then suddenly I stay for an extra hour and wind up with a full song. There’s no rhyme or reason, it’s more of a flow of source, and occasionally you tap into it. But I think when you try to [force it], it shuts the door on you.
S+N: I definitely understand that. What I like so much about you is that you write honest music, which is a phrase I noticed you even used on your website. What does it mean to you to write “honest music?”
RW: I, myself, over the last three decades of being on this planet, have my love of the artists who were ones that I feel were genuine and that they were creating something that was directly from them. There’s this amazing quote, I’ll paraphrase it, I think it was Beethoven, but he said: “To listen to a composer is to be inside the composer’s mind, if only for a moment.” And that’s what I think great art should be, same thing with painting and poetry. Any person who’s got this force in the world, you should be able to take a journey with them, when you listen to it, or you look at it, or you read it. And I’ve always meant to tap into that. When I just try to use my head and just write something, those are the songs that will never ever make a record. They’re disingenuine and formulaic and I just don’t feel anything. If I don’t feel anything, then I know the audience isn’t going to feel anything either.
S+N: Speaking of feeling things, do you mind if I ask you which song on this album means the most to you?
RW: Means the most? These are all my children! I wouldn’t say which ones “mean the most,” I would say: “which ones showcase everything that ended up being possible on this record?” Like when you take a song like “The Glory,” [it] certainly encapsulates everything that I was really feeling at the time writing this record, as well as represents everything that we try to push, by myself as an artist, my players, my producer, and my arrangements. It was really just maxing out everything that was possible for me to do. I’ve never sung like that on a recording before, I’ve never recorded loops like that, and the strings are the most involved in terms of bowing orchestration I’ve ever come up with. Everything to do with that song was me at my utmost and I learned that I can accomplish that. So now I’m excited to do something even grander!
Royal Wood’s 1st single “Not Giving Up” from his 2012 release We Were Born to Glory (MapleRecordings)
Find out more about Royal Wood, including upcoming Edmonton show dates, on YegLive.ca.