Royal Wood talks “Ghost Light”, fashion, and his Bay St. beginnings

Royal Wood (Photo: Jen Squires)

Royal Wood (Photo: Jen Squires)

It must be an amazing feeling when it works out so fluidly like that. You don’t have to go back and edit, you feel like it’s perfect right off the bat.

Yeah and it’s instantly gratifying. That’s what you want to do as an artist, and as a human. You just want to do it and when it works out, it’s the best and when it doesn’t, so what, go do something else.

You recorded both in Los Angeles and Toronto with yourself and Bill Lefler working as a production team. What was it like co-producing with him and were there any reasons behind choosing him to co-produce?

Bill and I, we’ve been good friends since 2013. Him and I made most of The Burning Bright together and we started a production company in LA. I bring down Canadian artists, we write with them and make the record down there, then do demo stuff for them. We’re super close business partners. I was in LA visiting my brother and I was doing some co-writing for some people, so I was like “hey Billy, my friend Rose Cousins is in town, do you guys maybe want to get together? Maybe we’ll write some songs, mess around, we’re all here and the studio wasn’t booked for the week.

So him, Rose and I got together, wrote five songs, recorded them and we had so much fun doing it. Then Rose had to leave, because she had to go back to Canada to do her own stuff, so I was like “hey Billy, let’s keep making music, I’ve got a bunch written. I don’t know if I’m going to make a record, but do you want to mess around a bit?” He cleared the schedule and that was that. When I realized I was making a record, I was like “well, we made a record, so I’m going to pay you.” (laughs) So I paid him his production credits, the studio time and that was that. But it wasn’t supposed to be… I didn’t think I was making a record. I thought I was just letting loose and just being myself.

I’m sure that shows in the way that the sound came out too, how you guys just went and did it, not expecting anything to come out of it.

I would like to think so and I would like to think that the listener won’t know why it sounds a certain way, but they’ll just feel something. They’ll feel that spontaneity, because those are the records that I love, those are the records I grew up listening to, the ones I come back to. They’re performances, not computer tricks. That’s people playing art and just hitting record. That’s what it’s supposed to be, that’s why live music is the best, it’s the greatest thing in the world.

When you can go into a studio and just hit record and do that, isn’t that why we all got into music in the first place? It wasn’t to have some engineer spend eight hours comping the vocal. That’s just bullshit to me. I hate that world, I absolutely hate that world. I actually don’t like using the word hate, (laughs) I feel like I shouldn’t be putting that out there, but I still have no respect for that world. It doesn’t feed my soul, it’s just a computer algorithm and that’s boring.

As a Canadian based artist, did you find that any of the songs that were recorded in L.A. came out differently due to the change of scenery?

Energy is everything, it is all that is. It’s the entire universe, everything that’s alive and every city has it’s own vibe. It just does and here in LA, it’s gritty and energized. There’s sunshine daily and you’re fed by it, so yeah, absolutely.

I think when you take a break in the studio, step outside and it’s plus 25/28, and the sun is beating down on you, you just ran up a mountain in the morning, drove to Santa Monica and jumped in the water a couple days before, you’re definitely buoyant. It’s not the place I would ever make the sad song, or slow record. I don’t think I’d do that in LA, I think it’s an energized city.

That’s the same reason that when I wrote The Burning Bright, I wrote the vast majority of that record in Ireland. It’s cold, grey, rainy and gorgeous, but it’s vibe is slower. The vibe is kind of drunk. (laughs) There’s rolling fields and you feel, not folk, but you feel your Irish roots, and you feel something that’s saturated in dampness, sadness, and beauty. It’s achingly, hauntingly beautiful. It’s different. I recorded a bunch of demos there as well and they don’t sound like anything I ever would have made in LA.

You’ve been praised for your fashion sense. Do you have any favourite stores or pieces? What is your fashion philosophy?

Honestly, all it comes down to at the end of the day, I was raised by my folks, all of my brothers and sisters were raised to be presentable. Don’t come to the table not wearing a shirt, you don’t wear a hat at the table and you put the napkin on your lap kind of vibe. So, as a result, I always comb my hair and I always make sure that I wear something that my parents would be proud of. That’s what started it all off, it wasn’t because I was trying to be anything, it was just me existing in my natural habitat.

As life continued, because I was dressing well when I would perform on a daily basis, the fashion world became a part of it. People started giving me clothes, designers wanted me to wear things and it’s honestly this amalgamation of what I feel like wearing that day. I don’t sit at home and think “what will I wear at the National Arts Centre.” I just throw a bunch of stuff in my suitcase and think yeah, I’ll wear that.

That’s my philosophy, I just want to look classy and be inspired in the moment. If I buy clothing, I tend to buy it at places where I feel like it’s not going to fall apart in a week. I’d rather spend more money on a nice shirt that’s going to last me four or five years, as opposed to one that’s cheaper, but that’s only going to last for six months, which means you end up buying 12 of them instead of just the one.

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