Over the course of his lengthy and respected career, singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and producer Royal Wood has established himself as a true musical talent, continuing to evolve and hone his craft — constantly uncovering and reinventing his sound.
This fall, the JUNO Award nominee is set to visit nine cities across Ontario, all en-route to his headlining show at the iconic Massey Hall, while celebrating the release of his eighth studio-length album, What Tomorrow Brings, slated for release Friday, Nov. 4.
On Friday, Oct. 21, he’ll make his way to London for two back-to-back shows at Aeolian Hall, with this new music in tow — much to the excitement of fans in the Forest City and beyond.
We recently chatted with Royal about the upcoming album, his continuing inspiration, and what it’s like to play some of the most respected venues Canada has to offer.
We’re excited to talk about new albums and tours and shows and all sorts of great stuff, but I was kind of shocked to see you just finished a tour in June. What made you want to get right back out on the road again?
That was basically a sneak-peek tour. We went out and did a bunch of rural shows workshopping the show and trying the new songs during a three-week tour across the prairies. Pre-pandemic I lived on the road, but obviously we couldn’t get out there as often over the past couple years, so it was great to get back to it in such a fun way. What it all taught me was how much I love being at home with my family, while also loving connecting with fans on the road.
So, it’s all about striking the perfect balance.
That is a constant goal right now. I love music, and I love my career and it’s magic — and you know, it touches a place in me. At the same time, the meaning of having a family and having roots and being settled is incredible too. I’m very lucky I get to have both in my life.
What are your influences? Where do you find your inspiration? What do you see and hear and do and take away and create music?
An over-reaching answer would be life. Right? And when you’re a kid, you write directly from your influences, which is the music or listening to because it’s just flowing through you and you’re trying to replicate it then you churn it out. It’s lightning in a bottle and all you can think is, can I do that? But when you become a little more secure in yourself and more mature, you just allow songs to come through you as what they are. Then, when you get old enough, you have enough body of evidence of lives lived. Those special moments. That’s what becomes the palette we get to paint with. It’s not necessarily a diary page, but emotionally you’ve felt things. So, I can write about that. It can be about lost friends and family . . . or mental health. I can talk about love and marriage — my amazing wife and two kids that I love more than life itself. Over the years there are all these things now that I can now add to the tapestry of what to write about, and that’s an amazing feeling.
What Tomorrow Brings is set to come out in just a couple weeks. And the process with this record has been a little different. What’s the anticipation like for this album? And what has the experience been like this time around?
Luckily, I only had to do one song from the ground up remotely, which is good. But what ended up happening was I thought I had finished a record and then the pandemic happened. And all the touring got canceled, including Massey Hall and the National Arts Centre. Everything was gone. I thought, whoa, I have all this time. And I decided I wanted to revisit my record because I never get to do that. What usually happens is, tours are booked and you “need” a record because they “need” a talking piece. When you do press you need to be able to tell them why you’re touring — well, I have this record, or I have this single or have this thing. So, sometimes it feels like you’re only making something to keep the machine moving. But this time around I figured, I can’t tour it, but I’m not going to waste it. So, why don’t I keep working on it because that would be amazing? So that’s what I did. We just started redoing lyrics, re-singing this and that, and then I would have musicians in New York or LA or whatever send me a file or something like a string section that I’d arrange with horns or ideas or have drums. We just started firing files back and forth in my little hub. And then I started remotely working with this producer out of Montreal named Marcus Paquin (The National, Arcade Fire), and we did a song called Because of You, and all of it was remote. That was truly an interesting and different experience.
Tell us about What Tomorrow Brings and what makes it stand apart from your previous work. Is it a sound fans would find familiar? How would you describe it?
Well, it’s definitely a continuation of me, and there’s a genuine through-line. You hear my voice and my way of speaking and singing. And certainly lyrically, it’s coming from me, so that part I think people will be used to. But, from a production standpoint, we definitely tried to push it — forcing myself to try to paint with colours I’ve never had before. So, there’s a lot of rhythmic production on this and a lot of just chopping up organic instruments, you know? Whether I took a string section that I arranged and then filtered it in such a way, or we reversed things, or added layers on whatever we did, just really trying to mess with the sounds. Everything is unique and one-of-a-kind, as opposed to — you know — here’s a bass, here’s drums. What I’ve always done in the past is organic people in a room or me in a room. The question was, what do we capture this time? And that was fun. That was a new way. So, I think when people hear it, it’s just a different layer, sonically, than I’ve ever touched before.
And tell us about the name, What Tomorrow Brings. What does it mean to you?
It speaks to so much. The pandemic, and everything from January 6th to Roe V. Wade, to all the social movements that happened over what has been a crazy couple of years, I think, for everyone. And it’s not stopping. It’s not stopping. So, the idea is just — what does tomorrow truly bring? So, we just have to be present in this moment now and be grateful for it. Joy. And know that tomorrow could just be a punch in the face more so than ever, right?
The tour finds you hitting some of the most revered venues in Ontario, including London’s Aeolian Hall, as well as the National Arts Centre in Ottawa and of course, Massey Hall in Toronto. As an artist, what makes these stages so special?
Well, to start off with, The Aeolian — in addition to sonically on stage, there’s something really special that happens there, even with the shape of the room. There’s ghosts in it or something — it’s just an energy in that room that you can feel the thousands of shows that have taken place there, and the thousands of artists that have performed. That’s better than any pristine, brand-new, state-of-the-art, cutting-edge performance hall. These venues each have a beautiful feeling in them. They’re not just sterile and too shiny. A truly great venue isn’t like a new car off the assembly line. That car needs to have miles and memories. And it’s the same thing with with a venue. That’s also the reason why Massey is so special. It’s all the history. And it’s amazing to be able to be a part of that history.
What makes you excited about hitting the road this time around? And is there any new song specifically we should all keep an ear out for?
I would say I’m most excited about playing these new songs with the band over anything else because it’s been such a long time with everything being put on hold. The only bits of touring I’ve done have been solo or duo or trio, at best, for a little fits and starts and one-off stuff. Just to have everyone back together — I just think it’s the best band I’ve ever had. I don’t think I’ve ever had a better one. I’m just looking forward to trying to make a really good show. As far as standout songs, I mean, I’m proud of all my babies, but there’s a there’s a song called Me & You, which is not a single . . . but to me it’s about everything I’m about these days. It’s about my wife and our kids and our life and our family, and it’s just an unabashedly classic love song. I’d love to know what everyone things of it. And I can’t wait to get out there, just see everyone, and make new connections. That’s what it’s all about.
Visit royalwood.ca for more.