Local songwriter Royal Wood talks about his new album (which drops today)
By Ron Johnson
Royal Wood's new album We Were Born to Glory goes on sale today
Royal Wood must have had some kind of summer. Sequestered away in Montreal to work on a new album, We Were Born to Glory, Wood listened to the albums of his youth — The Beatles and Tom Petty, to name just two — and spent time revisiting his favourite haunts when he attended McGill. The result is a wonderfully upbeat, melodic and downright fun album that is easily the Toronto-based musician’s most radio-friendly, accessible, pop album to date.
Officially released today, this is the kind of record that could make Wood a star. But is the humble musician ready for prime time?
“You know, I can honestly say, I never sat down to write a song for radio, have a hit or whatever. This really is what came,” says Wood, sipping an iced coffee at a Liberty Village coffee shop near the condo he shares with his wife. “I definitely was in the headspace of listening to the pop records and it was summer in Montreal. There was a lot of energy.”
In the end, Wood pounded out 50 songs, of which a cool dozen made it onto the album. And there was a distinct theme: hope, happiness, potential. It was life-affirming stuff, so Wood collected the appropriate songs and turned out a life-affirming album.
“I was feeling a lot more hopeful while making this record, so a lot of those songs made it onto this album,” says Wood. “It is tinged with melancholy and questioning, but that’s life, right?”
The other change in direction that adds to the buoyant mood in We Were Born To Glory is the piano, which takes a back seat to electric guitar for much of the album. This, too, contributes to the uptempo, driving the — dare we say — rollicking nature of this particularly uncharacteristic beast. According to Wood, this is how it used to be, again, revisiting the good old days when a younger mop-headed rocker would be banging out tunes on the guitar in his parents’ garage.
Not that it was a surprise to his parents. Wood says he’s always wanted to be a musician. He started playing piano at age four. His family had instruments lying around, and their home was filled with music, including many after-dinner jam sessions with the entire family. But he did have a day job once, working as a foreign exchange trader on Bay Street, pursuing his music at night after work.
“I basically didn’t sleep for four years,” admits Wood. Finally, he pulled the plug on project “real job” to concentrate on music full-time.
Lucky us. Royal Wood is one of the most talented musicians working Canadian stages today. You have to hear him, see him perform, and then you’re hooked. Otherwise, people have a hard time getting to know him, perhaps because the media has difficulty categorizing Wood. He’s dapper and cool like Michael Bublé. But he’s also a serious songwriter whose bread and butter is him at his piano making our souls weep. A bit like Rufus Wainwright.
Things finally started to break for Wood when he released the sad and wonderful album The Waiting. There was the Juno Award nod, the headlining national tour, the supporting tour with David Gray. And now this.
Wood is on the launching pad, and and with this new album, his career is going to take off. Royal Wood has arrived.