Modern-day balladeer Royal Wood may perform like a traditionalist, but outside of music he doesn't seem to have any inclination toward the traditions of the past.
"We won't get into the religious discussion, but Easter to me is just chocolate bunnies," he says during a phone call on Good Friday while taking a break from his current tour across Canada, which has him hitting The Company House on April 28 and 29.
It's surprising that Wood doesn't seem to be particularly religious, because his music sounds distinctly rooted in the past. Resembling a character torn from the pages of a Michael Ondaatje novel, Wood has gained a following after three albums of pop songs sounding like a cross between The Beatles, Ryan Adams and Bruce Hornsby.
His piano-based ballads on his most recent disc, The Waiting, contain atmospheric tones and heartfelt imagery encapsulating the romanticism of rural life across this grand country. So for his current tour, Wood decided to tip his hat to the rural landscape of Canada.
After performing as the opening act for David Gray---as well as headlining his own tour in amphitheatres across Canada---Wood decided to go off the beaten path and travel to unusual locations that don't follow the usual touring route of Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal.
"I grew up in a small town, so to go play these shows in small towns I've never been to before, I knew it would kind of be like a homecoming," says Wood, a native of Lakefield, Ontario.
Hitting remote locations from Chilliwack and Wakefield to Madoc and Meaford, Wood has sold out the majority of venues as he approaches the east coast to play one of the bigger cities on his tour. But playing in towns that don't often see touring recording artists has added to the overall atmosphere of his performances, even though the actual performing can be hard to accomplish at times.
"I knew in a lot of these smaller places we couldn't get a piano in. Luckily, Yamaha will bring a piano for me wherever I need it," says Wood, "but some of these places are so backwoods that it's just not possible to get something to the doors, let alone inside."
But even though he was unable to get his signature grand piano inside some of the smaller venues, the shows took on a classic storyteller feel as Wood adopted the ancient pianos occupying the pubs, adding to the overall atmosphere of his performances. "Thankfully a lot of these places had these old clunky uprights that probably were put down on the foundation and the walls were built around them. I have no idea how they got some of these mammoths in there," Wood says, laughing.
"We get them tuned up and some of them don't hold their tune, but it's all that much more memorable of a moment to be on that old upright.
"It reminds me of going up to my grandparents' farm in Chatham, Ontario, where you'd sit and play this clunky piano and everybody would have this incredible night of drinking and signing songs."
And for Wood, this intimate connection between storyteller and audience is the goal of playing towns that don't always have the chance to see some of the better performers in the country.
"To play these small rooms and have that intimate connection, what can I say?" he asks. "It's been a dream tour."
Thursday, April 28 and Friday, April 29 at The Company House, 2202 Gottingen Street
$15 advance (+$1.89 service fee from eventbrite.com)/$20 door
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