Donovan Woods is Without People during pandemic

Donovan Woods

Like all recording artists, Juno award-winning Sarnia son Donovan Woods is trying to come up with the best way to release his music during a pandemic.

It’s not easy when personal appearances and touring are out of the question.

So Woods and his team are generating excitement about his upcoming album release by working with indie music stores like Sarnia’s Cheeky Monkey on Christina Street.

The store’s co-owner Mary Anne Peloza says Sarnians are big fans of their hometown boy, now 40, and his records have always sold well. He’s gained stature as a singer/songwriter in the last few years and held a number of well-attended local concerts.

Woods’ seventh album Without People is due for release Nov. 6 and is being promoted early with a limited number of white opaque vinyl copies available exclusively to indie music sellers.

The top 10 record stores with the most pre-orders by mid-October of both the limited edition (retailing at $26.95 plus tax) and the album will receive a Without People prize “bundle” to be used for a draw.

Peloza said Cheeky Monkey has ordered 40 of the 300 special-edition albums in anticipation of strong demand. She says pre-orders are brisk so far.

Woods wrote and recorded his latest album during the pandemic, figuring out how to work remotely with other musicians. He used a makeshift studio at his Toronto home to lay down the tracks for his vocals and guitar. Backing musicians filled in their parts in isolation from their own homes.

“So much of what I like about making records is the spontaneity of making music in a room together, and we missed that,” said Woods. “But we tried our best to re-create that feeling.”

It’s not a stretch to imagine the isolation of the pandemic is where the new album got its name but Woods says that Without People is a collection of songs that reflects the ebb and flow of relationships, first love, lost love and moving on.

“This album made me think about how easy life would be without other people, and how useless it would be,” he said.

The launch of Without People was delayed until most local record shops fully re-opened after the pandemic shutdown.

Cheeky Monkey closed for almost three weeks in the spring, then operated for six weeks with front door pickup only. It wasn’t until late May that the doors reopened. But all along, Sarnians never stopped ordering music and movies.

Cheeky Monkey is proving to be pandemic-proof, said Peloza. Sales did nothing but increase once Sarnians were forced to stay at home.

“Sales are better than before COVID-19,” she said. “We know we’re fortunate.

“People have told us over and over, they think we’re necessary to help them cope with the stress. Music and movies provide comfort.”

Peloza said she greatly appreciates the efforts of artists like Donovan Woods to work with indie stores so both can benefit from a new release, especially during a pandemic.

“We are supporting each other,” she said. “And I feel that’s especially important with all that’s going on.”

To pre-order Without People, call the Cheeky Monkey at 519-332-0978 or email info@cheekymonkeysarnia.ca or visit the store at 130 Christina St. North.

The Arts Journal highlights the cultural fabric of our community. Send your ideas to cathy.dobson@thesarniajournal.ca.