It’s been a good year for Donovan Woods.
The folk-country singer-songwriter from Sarnia, Ont., dropped his latest album, Both Ways, last spring to much critical acclaim. After hitting the road on a Canada-U.S. tour in late February, Woods also managed to squeeze in time to attend the 2019 JUNO Awards, where he picked up the prize for Contemporary Roots Album of the Year and also scored a nomination for the Songwriter of the Year award.
Whitehorse is the last Canadian stop on the tour before it heads down south. Woods spoke to the News while on the road in British Columbia, a few days before his performance at the Yukon Arts Centre.
Have you played in the Yukon before?
I’ve never played (in Whitehorse), I’ve never been before, so we’re very excited.
How did Whitehorse end up on your tour roster?
I’ve just been waiting around to get a show offered there and I was going to come. There’s that Dawson City Music Festival which I’ve been trying to make work but just never been able to do it. I want to be able to go to every territory and province so I’ve been waiting, just waiting for the opportunity. And it’s nice because I have shows in B.C. so we can go up and it’s not that long of a trip, which is great. So it was just a good opportunity.
Both Ways is a little louder, a little more refined than some of your previous work. Has that changed how fans react when you perform, and how you and your band perform?
I think (the band and I are) pretty used to what it sounds like, but yeah, I think for some people who have only seen me play alone, I did a lot of touring alone before I was able to bring the band around with me, it is sort of, maybe it’s a bit of shock at the beginning, but I think it all makes sense when you just sit with it for awhile.
But yeah, as you get to play bigger concerts, it’s hard to play alone. If you play little tiny songs in bigger rooms, they kind of just get sucked up by the room. So part of the challenge of the record was make songs that we could play live in the size of venues I was playing at that point, so it all kind of has to grow together, you know? Or you get stuck in big rooms with tiny little songs.
Do you have any strategies to help you stay grounded while you’re on tour?
Yeah, it’s quite hard to do it. These guys have been on the road for a long time and we’re all of the age where we have to be kind to ourselves or we really feel it. So we just go to bed a lot. I try to sleep as much as I can because yeah, the big worry is getting sick. Sleep is, God, if you can sleep for eight hours, you’re just really doing it … Especially once you’re into your 30s, it’s pretty deadly.
You’ve been performing and making music for the better part of two decades. Have either of those things become routine for you at this point?
I’ve only been touring for about five years now. The touring thing is kind of becoming normal for me but it isn’t a normal way of life. It isn’t normal to be away from your kids or your family for that long.
So it’s trying to make it feel routine is an exercise in futility, you just have to find a way to make it work for you and your family, because it isn’t normal and it’s never going to feel totally good to leave all of that. But yeah, the creative process, making records, it feels like it just happens now. It feels like what I do with my life and sometimes I force myself to write, but generally the songs come along when they come along and I don’t worry about it too much.
Does the songwriting process change when you’re writing for yourself versus when you’re writing for someone else?
A lot of writing I do for other artists is with the other artist now, so they’re in the room. The process isn’t really any different, because you’re always just trying to write something really great that you feel good about and that you love to sing and it feels good to hear.
So it can differ in its goals and the targets always shifts around depending on what that artist sounds like or what they do and what they want to do with the song, but the process is basically the same. You’re always just trying to please yourself and make something that you really want to hear, so even when it’s different it’s pretty much the same.
Do you have any plans for what comes next after the tour?
I haven’t even thought about what comes next, but we’re all really excited about coming up (to the Yukon) and I’m really excited to see what it’s like up there.
Donovan Woods & the Opposition are performing at the Yukon Arts Centre on March 29 at 7 p.m. Tickets are $50 and available online at yukontickets.com/TheatreManager/1/ tmEvent/tmEvent1912.html
Interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Contact Jackie Hong at firstname.lastname@example.org