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Donovan Woods on new music, the hometown video, and surfing Lake Huron

So how good are things for Sarnia’s own Juno award winning singer-songwriter Donovan Woods? Well, with the release of his new single ‘How Good’ they’re pretty…well, good.
Canadian singer-songwriter Donovan Woods' latest video was shot in his hometown of Sarnia, showcasing Maud's Variety and the shores of Lake Huron.

So how good are things for Sarnia’s own Juno award winning singer-songwriter Donovan Woods? Well, with the release of his new single ‘How Good’ they’re pretty…well, good. 

Woods’ latest is a personal take about a time in his and his wife’s lives that was intended as a lullaby for them during a patchy time.

Accompanying the single is a video, shot in and around Sarnia and the Great Lakes, featuring a surfing protagonist enjoying the lake and going above and beyond to keep it beautiful — something close to Woods’ own heart. 

The Journal caught up with the musician to talk about hometown shows, growing up in Sarnia and — would he ever surf Lake Huron in the middle of winter?

SJ: Congrats on the new single 'How Good.’ While the song isn't about the Great Lakes — why was it important for you to feature them in the video?

DW: I love the Great Lakes — of course, having grown up on Lake Huron. We (myself and the directors, Grand Bend's Brittany Farhat and Matthew Fong) had the idea of a young person planning a benefit show, and when they met Bow, who surfs in Lake Huron in the winter, we knew it had to be about her.

SJ: In addition to featuring the Great Lakes, you feature some prominent Sarnia locales in the video, including Maud's Variety. Why was it important for you to also shoot some of the video in your hometown?

DW: I think all the best music contains geography, somehow. I envision most of my songs taking place in Sarnia, to be honest. I think of it as a quintessential small city. Maud's is a cool place, of course. And on the Sarnia Reddit, which I read religiously, people often mention that it's the most inclusive and welcoming bar in the city. I like that a lot. 

SJ: Where would we find a teenage Donovan in Sarnia, versus where we might find a present-day Donovan on a day off in Sarnia?

DW: The teenage Donovan was: in a car, at Wendy's on London Road, or in the tree maze that used to be beside the Great Lakes model near Paddy Flaherty's. We need to clean up the Great Lakes model, by the way, and get water back in there. I'm willing to pitch in $1,500. They took the viewing gazebo down, but that's no big deal. You should be walking around in the model, as though it's a wading pool. The adult Donovan is either at Sunripe or Wagg's Family Restaurant. Just back and forth between Sunripe and Wagg's.

SJ: How would you say growing up on one of the most beautiful lakes influenced your songwriting style or your style in general?

DW: I don't know if it influenced my songwriting, but I do like swimming more than the average person, and that does influence my touring schedule. It mostly revolves around swimming.  

SJ: The song, 'How Good' is about a period in you and your wife's life — what are her thoughts on the song?

DW: I think she likes it. She has said she likes it. She is also, however, one of my fiercest critics. Once, after listening to a new song (it was the song "Good Lover" from the record Both Ways), she said, "Why do you think people will like this?"  

SJ: What are people's first reactions when you tell them you're from Sarnia?

DW: Most people who are not Canadian say, "Narnia??" and then you have to do a little fake laugh. Canadians usually have some slightly snide remark about Sarnia but they have no idea what they're talking about. They've never been to Wagg's.

SJ: So with new music, usually comes a new album. Can fans expect a full-length album any time soon, and what can you tease about it?

DW: Yes, there is an album. I'll announce it soon. It's definitely the most personal record I've ever made. I don't like thinking of how personal it is actually because I already submitted it and I'm not sure I want people to hear it.  

SJ: I see you are going on a tour in the U.S. starting in April, but will there be a Canadian one soon?

DW: Yes there will be. It'll be announced soon, too. Still working out the details.

SJ: That being said, are there any plans to do a show in Sarnia?

Of course, yes.  

SJ: You've done Sarnia shows in the past; what is your favourite part about playing to a hometown crowd?

DW: I find it to be terrifying. I have concocted a sort of persona to help me feel comfortable on-stage and I mostly drop it when I'm in Sarnia, because I know most of the audiences' names. My favourite thing about it is making hyper-specific Sarnia references, like, for instance, buying a cheese breadstick from Milk Marc Variety on Murphy Rd.

SJ: The protagonist in your video for 'How Good' is surfing on Lake Huron. Would you, or have you ever done that during the winter yourself?

DW: No, I haven't, and I would not. I prefer doing a light sidestroke while wearing a visor.