It's almost been a year since Lakefield's Royal Wood played at the Gordon Best Theatre, and now he has returned to the city to end his "The Cover Sessions" tour with two soldout shows at Showplace. 2010 was a banner year for Royal, as he was nominated Songwriter of the Year at the Juno Awards, and his latest album, The Waiting, was ranked in the Top 5 of 2010 by CBC Radio 2 and also one of the Best Pop Albums of 2010 by iTunes. We sat down with Royal this week. Here's the interview:
PTBOCanada: You learned to play piano (by ear) at the age of four. What made the piano so appealing to you?
Royal Wood: I would have played any instrument near by. Just as some kids grab a hockey stick, I wanted to make music. We thankfully had a Baby Grand piano in our house and it was just natural, it drew me like a magnet.
PTBOCanada: What was it about your high school in Lakefield that inspired you?
Royal Wood: Lakefield District Secondary School was an incredible high school. We had amazing teachers that inspired me and made me want to continue the arts—that underlined my love of literature and poetry. Because of Lakefield, I had access to any instrument I wanted to. I had teachers that believed in me not only as a student but an artist.
PTBOCanada: Any thoughts on PCVS closing?
Royal Wood: It should not close. It doesn't make any sense. Financially it doesn't make any sense, artistically it doesn't make any sense, and culturally it doesn't make any sense. None of their arguments hold any water. It just seems to be a bureaucratic oversight, and unfortunately the community is going to suffer as a result.
PTBOCanada: Do any of your songs reflect growing up in Lakefield?
Royal Wood: Everything! We are a sum, all of our experiences compound and become who we are. I was a country kid who grew up with trees and dirt roads and I got to see the stars every night. That imagery is all over my music. That's the big pull for me, to return to the country. I love the energy of the city, but if I had to choose... such as "This is your last meal for the rest of your life," then I choose the country.
PTBOCanada: Any favourite memories of Peterborough?
Royal Wood: Peterborough for me was an amazing town to grow up in because we seem to support the arts in this city. It's pretty amazing that we have a venue such as Showplace as some smaller towns don't. We have a really great university. There are things that have taken off in Peterborough that don't happen in all the other smaller Ontario towns—which meant that I loved it. Was I happy to leave? Yes! Every kid wants to leave their home, but now that I have been gone for the past 15 years, I love coming back.
PTBOCanada: Between touring, you have found an outlet in learning about wine at George Brown College.
Royal Wood: Wine has been a part in my life since I was a little kid. My dad loved to drink it, but I want to learn the science. I have completed my foundation courses and now starting my second level, so eventually I want to become a Sommelier.
PTBOCanada: How has married life changed you?
Royal Wood: That's a long discussion! Married life is incredible. I love it. It is enriching and eye opening, it's complicated and it's definitely life changing. I can't explain it. When you meet someone that makes that little switch to make you want to commit and make a life with someone... but it certainly happened. We are far better as individuals, together.
PTBOCanada: You listen to everything from Maria Callas to Foster The People. Was it tough to choose songs for your "The Cover Sessions" album?
Royal Wood: I decided to pick five songs that actually resonated inside of me. Songs that I felt that I could do justice to because I was moved by the lyrics. At the same time, I also wanted to pick five with Dean Drouillard (my producer) that I felt inspired me to make something new. I love the recording process, I was just as big of a fan of George Martin as I was the Beatles. I'm at home in the studio.
PTBOCanada: So you're off to Montreal to begin recording the new album. You already have 30 songs. Have the fans narrowed them down for you?
Royal Wood: It started at 50. Got that down to 30, and now we are at 15. 12 will make the record. I've never enjoyed listening to a record that was too long.
[Photos and interview by PtboCanada's Evan Holt]