Donovan Woods: “I love to play anywhere the feeling is good, and even sometimes where it isn’t good.” (4/13 at WCL)

Next week Donovan Woods and Henry Jamison kick off The Husbandry Tour, a tour which is apparently more or less just an excuse for the two singer/songwriters to hang...

Next week Donovan Woods and Henry Jamison kick off The Husbandry Tour, a tour which is apparently more or less just an excuse for the two singer/songwriters to hang out and develop a friendship under the guise of “working.”  And Thursday, April 13th, will bring Woods and Jamison (along with opener Isabel Pless, who is not to be missed) to the Music Hall at World Café Live, for a familial night of folksy singing and song-sharing in the city’s biggest listening room.  I recently got a chance to chat with Donovan Woods – who’s been churning out music since 2007, co-written songs with the likes of Ashley Monroe and Lori McKenna, and recently toured alongside Matt Nathanson and Aoife O’Donovan – about The Husbandry Tour and just a few of the many other things he’s been up to recently…

Izzy Cihak: You just recently participated in a Feel Out Loud cover of Serena Ryder’s “What I Wouldn’t Do.”  How did that all come about and how was that experience?

Donovan Woods: The Producer of the project, Bob Ezrin, reached out and asked me to take part.  Very cool to meet an all-time great like Bob and of course, anything for an organization like Kids Help Phone which does so much good.  I know Serena a bit, we live on what’s basically the same street and the song it was based on is my favourite song of hers.  It was a pleasure to take part, and I got to meet Rêve, whose songs I’ve been enjoying all year with my kids.

Izzy: You released your latest EP, Big Hurt Boy, almost exactly a year ago.  Have you had any favorite reactions to the music?

Donovan: People have really enjoyed that EP and it’s been really heartening for me.  Particularly a song like “No Time Soon,” which is very much a folk song, with no chorus at all, and people yell for it at shows.  That feels great.  A great reminder that you can write the way you want to write and, if you get it right, people will engage with it and try to find a way into it.

Izzy: You’re about to kick off The Husbandry Tour with Henry Jamison (and Isabel Pless as support).  Are there any dates you’re especially excited about?

Donovan: Goodness, I love taking long walks in American cities, so I’m excited for all of them.  I will say I’m excited to play the Troubadour again, and I love San Francisco, it’s got one of the best art galleries in North America.

Izzy: The lineup for this tour is totally stacked.  What can be expected of the evening, overall?

Donovan: I’m such a big fan of Henry’s.  I mean, I could go on and on.  His writing is very inspiring to me.  And I’m developing some favourites in Isabel’s catalogue, too.  “Spam Calls” most recently.  I will probably be in the audience.  Perhaps having an ice-cold ginger ale and swaying.  We shall see.  Hopefully, we can play some songs together.  I think we will.

Izzy: And I’m guessing the three of you are going to wind up spending a lot of downtime together on the road, too.  Is there anything you’re looking forward to doing, or hoping to be able to do, with your tourmates?

Donovan: Tour is such a peculiar activity, and everyone copes with it in their own way.  So, you always want to give people space to deal with it all, but obviously, I’m hoping to make a lot of jokes and laugh a lot.  I chose this risky-ass career because I want to make jokes with my pals all day and then sing at night.  And then go swimming if that’s available.

Izzy: You have a pretty big catalogue at this point.  How do you come about deciding on which songs to bring out for any given tour, in addition to whatever’s new?

Donovan: I try to play what people seem to like.  I ask people on the internet, and they tell me.  Sometimes they pick very obscure things from YouTube, and I get it, I appreciate it, but we don’t have much time.  I try to shut up so we can play more songs, but god I love talking on stage.  I feel like I wrote songs so I can talk.

Izzy: You play a pretty wide variety of venue settings, from listening rooms, to nightclubs, to theaters, and festivals, and kind of everything in-between.  Do you have a particular type of setting you most like to play, or one that you think works best with your music?

Donovan: I love to play anywhere the feeling is good, and even sometimes where it isn’t good.  The only thing I’ve learned from touring is that you can be wrong about everything.  Wrong about venues, wrong about audiences – it’s hardly ever what you expect it to be.  So, you have to approach each night like it’s gonna be great, because it can be.

Izzy: You also collaborate with a wide variety of musicians regularly, both on your own music and theirs.  Are there certain things that draw you to given musicians that would make you want to work with them, or things that would seem to make certain musicians particularly good collaborators?

Donovan: I love distinct voices.  I feel like when it comes down to it, we love good singing.  I want to hear a voice and know exactly who it is immediately.  I think that’s the thing I don’t like about my own voice.  It sounds like so many dudes.  Most good musicians are great collaborators.  You just kind of have to be.  Except for Prince, I guess.

Izzy: A few years back you did a reimagining of “I Ain’t Ever Loved No One” with Tenille Townes, of whom I’m a really big fan and just featured a few months ago.  How was working with her?

Donovan: Talk about identifiable, distinct voices!  I love Tenille, I have been with her in person exactly once at an award show, but we’ve written a few songs together on Zoom.  Nothing that’s stuck so far, but we’ll get one eventually I bet.  She sang that duet in Nashville and when I heard it, it was exactly what I hoped for.  It was her.  She does this one adlib melody that just elevated the whole thing.  People really love that version.

Izzy: Aside from all of the artists that you work with, what have you been listening to a lot of lately?

Donovan: I’ve been loving Daniel Caesar’s new music.  I can’t stop listening to The 1975’s new record.  It’s like a drug.  Sam Fender.  Dizzy.  Babygirl.  Anything Charlotte Cornfield puts out I listen to immediately.  Hailey Blais, I’ve been listening to her.  Anything Vince Staples puts out I listen to immediately.  And like everyone else in the world, I want Frank Ocean to put more music out.

Izzy: Finally, what do you have planned for after these dates wrap?  I saw you have a few shows throughout the summer and heard you’ve been writing a record.

Donovan: Making a record right now.  It’s slow but, like Drake, I just take my time with this shit.

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During the day Izzy Cihak teaches transgression, subversion, and revolution at Temple University. At night he haunts Philthy's best venues to cover worthwhile acts for Philthy Mag. Morrissey is everything to him and, in their own heads, all of his friends see themselves as Zooey Deschanel.