Oct. 24, 2012 - Issue #888: Winter Guide 2012
Royal Wood's music has always carried itself on an updraft. His melodies have an enduring warmth to them, even in their darker moments, while his instrumentals, often piano led, roll along with aplomb, cradling the emotional core of his writings firmly in the other side of bittersweet. Hell, his cover of Adele's "Someone Like You" is practically a cheerful send-off, its chorus revealing a joyus guitar line and far more I'm-moving-on-and-I-really-sincerely-wish-you-the-best sentiment than the original's more mournful tones. That's not to say Wood sugarcoats or rose-tinges his view of the world, but he certainly isn't faking any big drama in the name of a song, either. He simply excells at celebrating the world he finds himself in.
So if Wood's new album, We Were Born to Glory, seems particularly upbeat, the guy's come about it honestly: the singer-songwriter is cresting on a high that's both professional (increasing acclaim for his albums, plenty of touring) and personal (he's now three years wed to fellow musician Sarah Slean), and those past few years have crystalized into the honey-coloured peaks of Glory.
"You meet all the basic needs of food and shelter, and you're left to ponder our greater existence," Wood notes during a phonecall from the road. "I think that's just where I'm at now."
That throughline emerged after a disciplined month of songwriting. folowing "three or four" tours behind 2010's The Waiting, Wood took himself off the road in Montréal to focus on writing. He emerged with a mountain of songs—50, total—which he whittled down to 13 for Glory, finding its focus, both musical and lyrical, lay in embracing the beauty of the world he saw around him.
"There was definitely a thread of hopefulness that I hadn't really connected to as deeply as I found myself doing now," he says, of pairing 50 songs down to an single album's worth. "It seemed to be far more uptempo, as well. The record made sense as to how I wanted it to go, and the journey I wanted to take the listener on."
Glory also marks a first in terms of Wood opening up his process: whereas on previous albums he's commanded every aspect of production—playing almost every instrument, acting as sole producer, arranging any orchestration that needs arrangement, doing the album mixing—here he brought in Dean Drouilla to co-produce, and others to mix it. Letting go of his usual level of control wasn't easy at first, he notes, but necessary to make good on one of the album's themes of growth.
"I certainly had trepidation at first—it's a new way to work—but I want to always do that, because If you just fit in where it's safe, I don't think you're gonna expand, and you're not gonna learn anything, and you're certainly not going to reach whatever potential you set out to have. The whole idea of The Glory in the first place [is] 'We were born to glory'," he says. "I can't advertise a philosophy and not actually follow through on the recording of it."
Fri, Oct 26 (7 pm)
With Elisapie Isaac
Horowitz Theatre, $20
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