Donovan Woods says it was his dad who got him hooked on Leonard Cohen.
“That was some of the first music he introduced me to,” said the Sarnia native and Northern Collegiate grad. “His Future album was a favourite of mine in high school.”
Fast forward 20 years as Woods — now one of Canada’s top songwriters — hears his name announced alongside his late idol during the recent Juno Award nominations.
“That was very, very surprising,” said Woods, who joins Cohen, Tragically Hip frontman Gord Downie, indie-pop duo Tegan and Sara, and singer-songwriter Ruth Berhe in the 2017 Songwriter of the Year category — an honour he’s dreamed of for as long as he can remember.
“Leonard and Gord have been heroes of mine my whole life, and I’m a big fan of Tegan and Sara,” said Woods, who is now based in Toronto but can often be found in Nashville and Los Angeles where his songwriting credits include hits from Lady Antebellum’s Charles Kelley and country megastar Tim McGraw.
“So many people release good records every year, so to be a part of a little club like this, to be recognized, is pretty cool.”
With four albums and a new EP (They are Going Away) to his credit, Woods has had radio success and cracked the CBC’s Top 20 charts over the years.
This is Woods’ second Juno nomination, following a 2013 nod for Roots/Traditional Album of the Year with his third album, Don’t Get Too Grand.
His fourth and latest album, Hard Settle, Ain’t Troubled, earned him a Polaris Music Prize nomination, and a win at the Canadian Folk Music Awards for English Songwriter of the Year.
He returned to Sarnia last fall for his first-ever solo gig in his hometown, performing at the Imperial Theatre as part of a 23-city tour.
“There’s something about playing in your hometown that’s really nerve-wracking,” said Woods. “But it was really fun.”
He says he’s looking forward to attending the Juno Awards, being held on April 2 in Ottawa, but isn’t expecting to win.
“It’s a really fun night, regardless of the awards,” he said. “I just don’t think I’ll have to worry about writing a speech.”