Royal Wood cooks up a bittersweet musical meal

Royal Wood is at the Shenkman Arts Centre on Saturday.

When Royal Wood takes on a project, he’s all in, all the time.

When he makes an album he writes 99.9 per cent of the lyrics. He arranges the music, produces in the studio and finally takes it on the road.

It’s the same deal when he cooks a meal, which, he says, is another of his passions.

“I love being the kid in the candy store and getting my hands dirty for sure. If you love to cook, would you rather just sit down and let someone else serve you meal or would you rather be in the kitchen and making it from start to finish? It’s pretty special.”

These days, with winter upon us, Wood is making a lot of pasta meals with his partner Alison Waldbauer. And true to his word, he’s making everything from scratch.

He’s also baked two recordings recently — an album called Ever After The Farewell  and an EP called Love Will Linger which is made up of some songs that didn’t fit the album but that hung together well enough to offer to his public.

Both, no doubt, will be part of his performance, complete with band and crew, at the Shenkman Centre on Dec. 1.

At age 40, it’s a more mature Royal Wood who is dealing with the kinds of events that confront us all as we age.

He’s recently buried his father who endured Alzheimers before passing.

Wood’s music, in some ways is a tribute to his dad. The two were very close.

One song on the new EP in particular speaks to his memories. It’s called Photograph and it picked up on the family pictures that are often front and centre at a funeral.

Those images commemorate a special life well lived.

“Now it’s the way we celebrate him. I look at the photos of my dad and I laugh. It is a cathartic experience for sure.”

Wood says he didn’t feel compelled to write a song for his father, but one came anyway.

“I had some feelings going on, things that I needed to write. The day I wrote Photograph, I definitely had some in my mind. I had just left the service and everything was all right there.

“A lot of times when I write, I step back later and realize what it was all about.”

Wood says he is a very instinctual writer.

“You don’t necessarily realize why you say this or that. We are governed by a lot more than our conscious mind lets on. We have to be because we are inundated with a million different sensations. The subconscious has to take over.”

When Wood’s father died, he had just been married.

“I literally met my wife a month before my dad passed away,” he said.

But Wood isn’t a glass half-empty kind of guy.

“I don’t think life is ever one-sided. I don’t there is a moment in your life, depending on your perceptions, how you view it that you can’t find either side of something. That duality is everywhere.

“That is why people talk about finding the good in life and seeing the good in life. … There was misfortune in losing my father but also I learned a great deal and all my family got closer as a result. So many things come out of something like that that you don’t really plan on.”

Once the dust settled from his father’s funeral, Wood was back working on his album. That was a journey of a different kind, into the history of rock and roll.

“I was in a coffee shop in Toronto on my way to another studio and I heard this song called Gold on the radio.”

He found out it was by a British artist named Jamie Scott.

“It was someone I had never heard of so I downloaded his albumin iTunes and the last song on the record was a duet with Ron Sexsmith. Ron is a good friend of mine so I sent him an email asking who Jamie Scott was.”

Sexsmith sent Scott’s contacts and Wood reached out.

The result was a meeting while Wood was touring in the U.K.

“I showed him some stuff and we wrote three songs in it felt like minutes. I really didn’t realize who he was. Wood did find out that Scott had written for people such as One Direction and Justin Bieber. The two guys then went into a rather famous recording studio run by Terry Britten. In the State of the Ark studio, Wood was sitting at the EMI console upon which The Beatles Abbey Road was recorded. Nearby there was an upright piano played by Elton John.

As a fan of rock and roll history, Wood was in nostalgia heaven. “It was a dream come true.”

He likes that old analog sound when he’s recording.

“We tend to use older analog gear when I am in the studio because I prefer the sound of it. I also like the history of it.”

He prefers the sound on vinyl to the more brittle sound on CDs and downloads.

“Those versions of recording are missing a lot in my ‘old man’ opinion.”

This is an era when vinyl is popular and barbershops have become a growth business.

Nostalgia for an analog era is back and Royal Wood is just fine with that.

“When you confront mortality and watch your parents age and pass away, you look and say to yourself this is the thing that I loved the most in the world when I was four years old. I should probably do as much of it as I possibly can.”

Back in the kitchen, Wood sees a direct connection to his family history.

“My wife and I cook together and when we do we listen to music from start to finish. Music is part of cooking. It was the case when I was growing up.

“Dad would put on old vinyl records, have a glass of wine and cook with my mom. Mealtime was such a celebrated part of the day. There’s a reason music was so important and it is definitely because of my parents.

His parents had eclectic tastes. His father liked everything from Ray Charles to Johnny Cash, Glen Miller and Frank Sinatra. His mother loved all the music from the ’60s and ’70s.

These days Wood spends some time at home on the family farm near Peterborough, Ontario where his mother lives.

“There were five kids in the family. We grew up on the farm and I’m grateful for the childhood I had. We had to work. We were up at 5 a.m throwing the hay and we did all the things you do on a farm. Dad grew up on a turkey farm. He wanted his kids to suffer,” he said with a laugh.

Royal Wood
Where: Shenkman Centre
When: Dec. 1 at 8 p.m.
Tickets and information:

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Peter Robb began his connection with the arts community in Ottawa in the mid-1980s when he was the administrator and public relations director of the Great Canadian Theatre Company. After a long career in journalism with the Ottawa Citizen where he served in a number of different posts he returned to the arts when he became the Citizen's arts editor.