HOT GIG ALERT: Donovan Woods brings his sultry voice to town Friday (Interview in Post)
This fall more then ever it feels like artists are touring constantly, with some acts hitting the same cities three to four times a year, which is bonkers. But due to this, Boston has been lucky enough to have tons of stellar shows happening every week. One that definitely shouldn’t slip under the radar is Donovan Woods when he opens up for Ruston Kelly at the already sold out show in Boston.
If you’re already attending, or if you’re not you should probably find a way in, definitely make sure you get there early to catch Woods “do the job of the opener” but also catch the sultry vibes of this sure to be smash. He’s been busy writing some of your favorite country artists’ smashes already and has been releasing music for over ten years.
Find my chat below with Woods and find the show at Brighton Music Hall Friday. Doors are at 8, so likely Woods will be taking the stage at 9! Don’t miss out!
You’re premiering the live video for “Way, Way Back” today with a live AMA as well. Do you do AMA’s often or is it something new for you?
Donovan Woods: I do it on Instagram once in a while. I always really like it. I’m surprised by how many people ask the exact same question. Once in a while there are some really good ones. I don’t know what I would ask somebody either. Generally, I don’t want to meet the people I really like because you just want to keep thinking about them in a fantasy world, like they’re the coolest person I’ve ever met. I feel like when I out meet them in person, you’re always disappointed.
Yeah, don’t meet your idols. Then speaking of, ‘Way, Way Back,’ especially if after listening to “Both Ways” and the acoustic album, it’s obviously a little bit different. At least in the style of it, maybe not when it comes to the content. When or how did the song really start coming together for you?
DW: It really began with a big chorus. Rarely do I write songs that have choruses. I don’t think it’s really needed always in writing folk songs. So when I do write a chorus, I like to bring it to the studio and see what happens. Usually the songs between records, I try to push the boundaries a little bit, see what I can get away with. I’m not a really folky person in my personal music listening habits. So I’m always excited to make things feel bigger. Push the boundaries of what singer-songwriter writing can do. But I don’t think people really hear genres. I think it’s kind of fading away. And I don’t really pay much attention to them anymore either. Just trying to grow.
And you write for other people. You can be a fan of music that’s not the style you play. You can see that in the songs you’ve written for other people and write for yourself.
DW: I do that all the time. I’ve written songs that I didn’t believe could become country songs. Like with Tim McGraw, Charles Kelley. And they’ve brought them to great levels.
Then writing songs for these other artists, is it letting songs go that you know you were going to submit or is it something where you sit down in a room with someone? Something where you decide the song isn’t for you?
DW: It happens in a lot of ways. When I’m sitting down in a room with an artist, then it’s obviously for them. Or it usually just goes to the person that you were originally writing for. But if it’s a song I’m writing without an artist in my mind, generally those are the ones an artist wants and they’re the ones I want to. Good songs are good songs.
But I think I just try to have a perspective where I try to not be precious about any song and just be able to give it away. Give it away, because the moment you get grabby and possesive about things, you run out of inspiration. Just always assume there will be more. But sometimes it is hard when you do love a song. A lot of musician friends of mine say, “I have a lot of songs I don’t use. Maybe some other artist will take it.” But I think that’s just nonsense. Because if it’s good enough for Keith Urban, you’re going to want it.
They’re still your songs too though. I saw someone play the other day, he’s still new, Ernest, but half the songs he played were songs he’s written for other people.
DW: It’s a trip how it works in country music. Young artists write for other more experienced artists and you end up playing those songs for the rest of your career and their versions become just as famous. Sam Hunt wrote a song for Keith Urban really early on called “Cop Car” and it was one he wanted to keep, and he still has his version and his is fantastic. Kacey Musgraves, she wrote “Mama’s Broken Heart”, the Miranda Lambert song, and her version is superior.
Then speaking of yourself going on tour, you’re opening for Ruston Kelly. A lot of sellouts, Boston being one of them. How have these days been going opening for him? Being on the road with him.
DW: It’s great, I mean I know some people who always have had lovely things to say about him, before I met him. He’s a lovely guy and he’s really good. It’s been a lot of fun. He’s kind of having a moment right now because his record is so good. So people have been coming out, the crowds have been excited. It’s been really good, really nice. He’s a really good writer, really good singer. He’s so loud and present every night. It must be a lot of work for him.
And how have you been approaching these sets? From what I see, you’ve been releasing music for ten years now. For these shows, have you been road testing new material, has it been focusing on “Both Ways”?
DW: Since it’s pared down with just me and a keyboard player, when it came to planning, I just focused on the songs that would work best in that setting. But most of it is off “Both Ways”. But yeah, I’m always trying to find songs that work well. But then, you only have 35 minutes to sort of gather up some new followers. Do the job of the opener. And when you do, it’s fun, it’s only 35 minutes so you just fill it up with only songs you like to play. So within that context, certain songs work, certain songs don’t.
Then like I said before, you’ve been releasing music since 2009, so ten years now. You did the acoustic record in 2017, but do you feel the process still changes or do you think it’s fallen into a pretty steady rhythm.
DW: It’s funny to think about it. I feel like I haven’t been releasing records for 10 years. It looks like real records when you see it online. It’s me like making them in my basement. Wrapping them in plastic by ourselves. People are like ‘Your first record came out in 2007’ and I’m like ‘Well we made it out of cardboard.’
I think as I get older, it’s different all the time, and that’s what’s so fun about it. You find new ways to do it and be excited about it because it’s really hard. You go through periods where you don’t have anything good to say or anything good to play. I think the best thing for me is to just read a lot. I really love words and language, and when you read a lot, you fall in love with little sentences. And sometimes, it’s enough to get you back into writing something. Listen to how the words sound and listen to a lot of music. You’ll hear somebody doing something in the chorus and be like ‘Oh that’s a new way to do something’. When you’re a folk artist, you write on a guitar and get so bored of strumming the same chords. Shit that you know how to play. So finding a different way to structure something is fun. But you have to be proactively searching for that all the time. Otherwise you’ll get really bored. I see that happen to people and you have to be trying to work your way out of that or you really get stuck in it.
Then you’re still on this tour with Ruston for a little while to go, you have “Way, Way Back” out. Coming up on 2020, maybe focuses or personal goals for you in these next few months?
DW: We’ll have a couple new songs coming out before the end of the year. Then we’re working on stuff in January/February so I think there will be at least an EP, maybe two EP’s. So lots of new stuff. It’s good, less touring maybe. I just took my 57th flight of the year yesterday. I’m feeling like a very bad environmentalist. I just had this moment, like oh my God, what am I doing?