Singer-songwriter Donovan Woods embraces the melancholy of everyday moments. Sadness, for him, is a way of growth. Known for his curiosity about the human condition, he writes with subtle pain about small, impressionable moments. While the industry clings to happy, upbeat songs, Donovan holds on by being “the sad guy” who continues to write sad songs. He continues this process on his new EP Big injured boy.
the JUNO Award Winner releases his new 6-track EP, big hurt boy, today (March 18) and it is the first record to be released on his own music label, End time. The title picks up a lyric from Martin Simpson’s “Never Any Good,” allowing Donovan to poke fun at himself for the continued focus on “negative” experiences.
“I write about them again and again, just hoping people will still be interested. So the title pokes fun at myself, that I’m theoretically this big sad guy who keeps getting dumped and to write fucking songs about it,” he told American Songwriter.
Releasing the EP on his own Toronto/Nashville-based label, he says, was daunting given the trends of “what’s in demand.” Donovan adds that Nashville, despite being an amazing city full of opportunity, focuses on upbeat, happy songs – a place he just doesn’t fit in.
“Nashville is what it is. It’s like it’s an amazing city to produce a really interesting genre of music and the genre genre is growing,” Donovan says.
“But Nashville is like, I mean, the country music industry is what it is, you know, I mean, they know where their bread is buttered. It’s on happy songs, you know? And that doesn’t mean it can’t be great, happy songs,” he continues. “And I, I don’t really want to be part of them. I would, I just can’t imagine what it would be like.
Although he mostly writes sad songs, Donovan said he’s pretty happy these days. Art, for him, is a means of transforming pain into beauty. There’s beauty even in our lowest moments, and Donovan reserves his writing to make that transformation.
“I am a relatively happy person now. I guess for me, art is a way to make something that isn’t very beautiful look good. The joy is quite beautiful,” he says.
With the freedom to create the record to be released on his own label, Woods returned to a more “undone” quality on the EP. He wanted to “get back to the feeling that my early recordings had”, like the 2009 album The heist.
big hurt boy was recorded live – returning to the magic of having all the musicians in one room again. The stripped-down EP features songs where only Woods plays banjo and vocals, returning to his roots and the simplicity of just being with musicians in a room.
Big Boy Hurt is out now and available on your favorite music service. Click here to stream/buy the new EP.
Donovan kicks off his spring Canadian tour with Matt Nathanson, Madi Diaz and Cassidy Mann from April 20. Click here for tickets.
Listen to Donovan Woods’ debut single from the EP Big Boy Hurt, “I Won’t Mention It Again,” below.
Photo by Bree Fisher