Music has a way of healing even in the darkest moments.
For Canadian artist Royal Wood, it was a certain song that helped him deal with the gamut of emotions from the recent loss of his father.
After cancelling his European dates set for earlier this month, Wood (née John Royal Wood Nicholson) went back to his family farm near Peterborough, Ont. to be with his mom, three brothers and sister to celebrate his dad’s life.
On his last day at the farm, he went for his regular run in the morning, but this time decided to play some music. He ended up listening to Steve Winwood’s Back in the High Life Again.
“It’s funny what I listen to at certain times,” said Wood, who is about to resume touring and is heading this way for a performance in Vernon Wednesday. “I kept playing it over and over again. It brought me to tears. I felt pain, but it was the message to get right back in the high life… Only music can do this.”
Those who listen to Canada’s public broadcaster, or have heard one of his songs on a TV or movie soundtrack, could say they have been healed by Wood’s music.
On the scene for the past decade, the singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist made his mark with contemplative singles such as A Mirror Without and Juliet from his 2007 album A Good Enough Day.
Then there was the melancholy message of Do You Recall?, off 2010’s The Waiting, which spoke of heartbreak.
His music shifted with 2014’s The Burning Bright, with singles such as White Flag and Forever and Ever, which could be deemed as Wood’s breakup album after his separation from Canadian songstress Sarah Slean.
“When I started, my music was sad. Now, you could say I am in a good place in my life,” said Wood. “I feel more grounded now. I have had some major paradigm shifts in life, watching my siblings have kids, getting married then divorced. I have a better understanding of life and it’s speeding up as I get older.”
After his divorce, Wood decided to take some time off and holed himself away in a remote cabin in Ireland.
“I lived in Ireland for six weeks, with no phone or contact. It was just my instruments and me. It was really off the path. The first week was scary but after the second and third weeks, it was amazing,” he said.
Wood also spent that winter at his family farm, which he bought from his parents a few years ago.
“It’s good to have that sacred land. I brought in rescue horses this year, and had my parents living there. It was good to have them there. It’s where my dad was able to spend his last days at home before he died,” said Wood.
What also resulted was the material for his newest album, Ghost Light.
In his notes about the album, Wood describes it as a return to writing and recording simply for the joy of creation, like when he was a kid.
“(It was) a true letting go and allowing,” he said. “I felt like on this album, I snuffed out the external ghost lights, and allowed my internal light to glow instead. This allowed the spirits of my past, present and future into the room to guide me along my artistic path.”
Wood got back on the bandwagon almost immediately after recording the album, releasing the lead single, Long Way Out, this past Christmas, followed by a national tour in February, performances on the jazz festival circuit this summer, along with some U.S. dates.
And although his father’s death has put a wrench in his heart, Wood says he plans to carry on with this current tour.
“This is how life is supposed to be… We are living in the foreground based on the background,” he said. “As artists and human beings, we have seasons for everything. We can’t go full tilt without death and renewal. When you understand that, you become grateful.”
Royal Wood is the first performance in the Vernon Performing Arts Centre Society’s 2016/2017 season. Joining him will be his full band as well as opening act, London native Jessica Mitchell, who became known this summer after a video of her listening to her song on the radio for the first time went viral.
Mitchell has opened for actor Kiefer Sutherland on his recent music tour and has performed at major festivals. Her hit single, Workin’ On Whiskey, was the most added Canadian country song a few weeks back and she was just nominated by the Canadian Country Music Association for Roots Artist of the Year this past weekend in London, Ont.
Tickets for the Sept. 21 show, which starts at 7:30 p.m., are $25 for adults, $22 for seniors and $20 for students and are on sale at the Ticket Seller box office. Call 549-7469 or purchase online at www.ticketseller.ca.