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Donovan Woods finally ready for first solo gig back home

Published on

Cathy Dobson

Donovan Woods says he’s finally ready to headline a concert in his hometown.

So what’s taken him so long?

With four albums and a new EP to his credit, Woods has a solid following across Canada with sold-out shows upcoming in Kingston and Winnipeg.

He’s critically acclaimed for his folksongs and finely honed acoustic guitar skills, and is making waves in Nashville where songs he co-wrote are being recorded by the likes of Lady Antebellum’s Charles Kelley and Tim McGraw.

Woods has also had radio success and cracked the CBC’s Top 20 charts.

Yet, after graduating from Northern Collegiate and moving away 16 years ago, he’s only played a couple of times in Sarnia, and that was with Emm Gryner and her band.

This time he’s coming home as the main attraction.

“I think this is the first time I’m doing an entire show myself in Sarnia because it’s much easier to play in front of strangers instead of people I know,” Woods said on the phone from Toronto.

At age 35, he says he’s been writing music since he was eight.

There wasn’t a vibrant music culture in Sarnia when he was growing up – “although I commend Sarnia for having a forum for young artists now.” Instead, his dad took him to folk festivals and nurtured Woods’ poetic approach to songwriting.

After graduating from the University of Guelph with an English and drama degree, he tried his hand at acting before focusing fulltime on music.

The transition was hard work, he said.

“It meant a lot of persistence and meeting the right people to take control of your career and tell you what to do.  It took me a really long time – easily a decade.”

His first album, The Hold Up, was released in 2007, followed by The Widowmaker three years later, and Don’t Get Too Grand in 2013, which was nominated for a Juno for Roots/Traditional album of the year.

Earlier this year, the release of his fourth album, Hard Settle, Ain’t Troubled, earned Woods a Polaris Music Prize nomination, and he signed a songwriting deal with publishing company Warner/Chappell.

Hard Settle, Ain’t Troubled has exceeded expectations and raised Woods’ profile.

“It’s getting easier. I’m getting attention and that’s really satisfying,” he said.

Last winter and into the spring, Woods opened for Canadian blues guitarist Matt Anderson on tour. In August, he opened several times for music legend Buffy Saint Marie, and is now launching his own 23-city tour with both his latest album and a four-song EP just out.

Tickets are moving quickly at The Imperial Theatre, the second stop on Woods’ tour.

“I wanted to wait until I was good enough at performing before coming home,” he said.

“And now, I can look down at the set list and feel excited about playing it.

“There’s been a real turning point in the last two years.”


WHAT: Folk singer/songwriter Donovan Woods

WHEN:  Friday, Oct. 14, at 8 p.m.

WHERE: Imperial Theatre

TICKETS: $25 at the box office (519-344-7466) or online at


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