Royal Wood: From trading floor to the centre stage

Here’s a video we did with Royal Wood before his new album, The Waiting, came out:

And here’s a feature I wrote after it did:

Originally published:
National Post
Friday, June 4 2010 

By Brad Frenette
Music is what brought singer/ songwriter Royal Wood from his hometown of Peterborough, Ont., to the bright lights of Toronto, but along the way he found himself working on a different kind of stage: the trading floor.

“I was a foreign exchange trader,” the 32-year-old Wood says, relaxing in a coffee shop on Toronto’s West End. “But I wasn’t supposed to be. I came to Toronto and quickly realized I couldn’t record, I couldn’t hire musicians or buy guitar strings by working retail. I needed a full-time job that paid well. So I went in for an office job– data entry. The next thing I knew they had me training to be a trader.”

While working in a career far from his passion, Wood put his money to good use, self-funding and releasing his first recording, The Milkwood EP in 1999, drawing comparison to singers such as Jeff Buckley, Ron Sexsmith and Rufus Wainwright. Word-of-mouth grew on his next release, Tall Tales and with his third recording, A Good Enough Day, Wood toured in Europe, establishing a fan base outside of Canada.

“Europe was a confirmation for me,” he says. “In Canada, everyone makes money but the songwriter. … In Europe [promoters] cover the costs, they put you in hotels, they feed you, and sometimes take care of travel costs. There, an artist is a profession, like a doctor or a lawyer.”

In time, his tenacity was rewarded in his home country, and Wood came to the point where he could finally retire from the trading business. “May 2007,” he recalls with a smile. “I remember it well.”

However, the business acumen gained by the job has become a resource. “You have to run a business, if you want to have a career,” he says. With this record, Wood now has “people:” managers and agents, and a deal with MapleMusic, who just arranged for his biggest tour, opening coast to coast for British singer David Gray. The Waiting, which was released digitally last month, has also been picked up by mainstream radio.

And while being backed by “the machine,” as he calls it, is new for Wood, it’s not the only new terrain for the singer. Unlike previous records, where the multi-instrumentalist played most of the parts, The Waiting is his first recording to feature a full band. It’s also his first with producer Pierre Marchand, best known for his work with Sarah McLachlan.

Wood recognizes the changing industry he’s fully in now — one more volatile than exchange trading — but is not too concerned about it. Being realistic about album sales, Wood has turned to TV and film in an effort to get his music heard ( “It’s a whole new avenue for creation”), and is looking to further secure his career in Canada and Europe. “My whole dream is to make art and have a career that would make enough money to have a home, a wife and family. If I can do all those, and do it from my art, then that’s success.”

The Waiting is in stores now. 

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