Combining melodic sensibilities with rustic folk storytelling, Canada’s Donovan Woods has built an impressive career as both a guitar-strumming troubadour and an in-demand songwriter. Possessing a clear, vulnerable voice that belies his burly appearance, Woods’ songs are a blend of contemporary folk and thoughtful pop, rooted in tales of heartache and the stuff of ordinary lives. 2016′s Hard Settle Ain't Troubled was his critical breakthrough effort that included the hit “Portland, Maine,” 2018′s Both Ways was another success that earned him his first Juno Award, and 2020′s Without People, recorded in isolation, was a thoughtful study of human relationships.
Raised in Sarnia, Ontario, just across the U.S. border, Woods began playing guitar in his teens, taking influence from country, folk, and pop music. He made his debut in 2007 with The Hold Up, introducing fans to his thoughtful, low-key song style. He soon gained widespread exposure when his song “My Cousin Has a Grey Cup Ring” was used in commercials for the Grey Cup, the Canadian Football League’s national championship game. Woods continued to build on his success with 2011′s The Widowmaker, followed in 2013 by Don't Get Too Grand. He also began pursuing a career placing songs with other artists, traveling back and forth between Toronto and Nashville. In 2014, his song “Portland, Maine” was recorded by Tim McGraw on his album Sundown Heaven Town. Two years later, he and Nashville songwriting partner Abe Stoklasa placed another song, “Leaving Nashville,” with Lady A singer Charles Kelley.
Meanwhile, Woods continued to nurture his own recording career, signing with Warner Chappell in 2016 and releasing his acclaimed fourth LP, Hard Settle Ain't Troubled, which was longlisted for Canada’s coveted Polaris Prize. A four-song EP, They Are Going Away, was released in early 2017. Returning in 2018, Woods issued Both Ways, his full-length follow-up to the breakout Hard Settle, Ain't Troubled LP. Both Ways was a critical and commercial success, and in 2019 it won the Juno Award (the Canadian Grammy) for Contemporary Roots Album of the Year. Woods’ next release was The Other Way, which featured acoustic versions of the songs from Both Ways. In 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic, Woods and his band stayed busy and safe by remotely recording material for a new album. Without People was released in November 2020; it included guest appearances from Ashley Monroe and Tucker Beathard, and featured the track “Seeing Other People.” In March 2021, Woods issued a special edition of Without People with four additional tracks: fresh interpretations of “Grew Apart” and “Whatever Keeps You Going,” and a pair of unreleased tunes, “When the Party’s Over” and “Break Somebody’s Heart.” ~ Timothy Monger & Mark Deming