• The Burning Bright (2014)
    THE STORY

    Sometimes in order to really find yourself, you have to lose yourself. Just ask Royal Wood, whose latest record, the breathtakingly poignant The Burning Bright, captures his truest, most confident musical voice even as it chronicles an extraordinary year of tumult, travel and personal discovery.

    The Burning Bright registers a number of firsts for Wood, whose chart-topping 2012 release, the JUNO-nominated We Were Born to Glory, firmly established him as one of Canada’s most accomplished alt-pop singer/songwriters, producers, arrangers and multi-instrumentalists.

    For one thing, The Burning Bright is the product of multiple worlds – a culmination of five weeks spent writing in Wood’s ancestral home of Ireland, recording at home and, for the first time, in Los Angeles with Bill Lefler, himself a producing/arranging/multi-instrumentalist dynamo (see Dashboard Confessional, Gym Class Heroes, Fall Out Boy’s Patrick Stump).


    The record also found Wood collaborating in new ways: with Lefler and fellow Canuck singer/songwriter Simon Wilcox – with whom he wrote the sticky and wickedly buoyant first single “Forever and Ever” – with long-time guitarist/co-producer Dean Drouillard, and with the spectral voices in the hills of County Meath, where Wood withdrew in spring 2013 in the aftermath of his collapsed marriage.

    The Burning Bright may scan as a breakup record; witness lyrics like “Well I once believed in a fairy-tale, now I’m holding a coffin nail,” exhaled regretfully in the song “Promises” and pretty much the whole of the achingly tender “I Wish You Well.” But it’s actually a compass pointing forward, spinning on the honest, from-the-gut creativity that propelled Wood into music in the first place.

    Yet ask Wood if the stakes felt higher for The Burning Bright given its emotional heft and arrival on the heels of a bona fide hit and he says, “No.”
    “To be honest, the stakes felt higher on the last album. This time, I finally made the decision to simply make art again for the sake of making art. It is its own reward and what happens next is just a part of the journey in making it.”

    And what an enlightening – if winding – journey it has been so far.

    As Wood explains, The Burning Bright unfolded more or less in four distinct phases. Phase One: a pre-Ireland visit to L.A. where he met Lefler through Wilcox as part of a quest to write something for film or TV. The magic was immediate; so much so that, having conjured “Forever and Ever” without breaking a sweat, Wood did two more songs with Lefler and Wilcox just in case the single was dumb luck.

    “At that point, Bill and I said, ‘We have to make a record together.’ Then I went off to Ireland to write” – this would be Phase Two – “and when I came back, I felt I had two… not opposing but different directions I could go in making this record. I felt like I wanted to have both of those voices heard.”

    It’s no surprise that Wood was thinking on a grand scale, given that he crafted something like 40 songs during his ascetic Irish hideaway where being “plugged in” meant being wise to the local gossip down at the pub.

    “I took long walks, visited old graveyards. It became a search through my past as well as my future. A lot of songs, like ‘City Lights’ and ‘The Light of Dawn’ came from just thinking about family. Ireland let me go home without having to go home, if you know what I mean.”

    As the month of May dissolved into June, what would eventually become The Burning Bright entered Phase Three.

    “I got together with Dean and I sat him down and asked him to produce these ideas I had. I sketched out the parameters. I said I wanted Rose Cousins to sing on it, plus Carleigh Aikins and Felicity Williams. I didn’t want to do any backing vocals myself, just the lead and the main instruments – the guitar, the piano, a little bit of banjo and ukulele.

    “I also wanted horns and strings and I wanted it to all be about the song. Not tons of layers, just the song. I said, ‘That’s the record I want you to make. Now I am going to go to Los

    Angeles to make a totally different record with Bill,’” he chuckles, referencing what became Phase Four.

    Wood continues: “For the L.A. record, I was playing the majority of instruments. Bill was playing drums but the rest is just me jumping around from bass to piano to guitar. Although I realized I was making a different record in L.A. than I was making with Dean, there was this through-line in the lyrics and the delivery, despite the different producers and different studios.

    “We put it all together to make The Burning Bright and it’s… the perfect record. It all works together – the lyrics, the instrumentation, the sound. Everything. I don’t know if that’s the ideal way to make a record,” Wood laughs, “but it feels like it is now.”

    Even a cursory listen confirms the record’s astonishing candor of lyrics, and virtuosity of the music, as heard in the already released, and outrageously hooky single, “Forever and Ever.” Wood allows “the single doesn’t quite fit the mood of the album, but it’s an honest song celebrating true and real love, which I am a firm believer in.”

    All of which means our man is destined to revisit these highly personal songs – pardon the pun – forever and ever. Any trepidation?

    “I have never dealt with life without music in it, so if I wasn’t writing a song that forced me to feel something genuine, I’d be listening to something that did,” Wood says, citing Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young and Van Morrison as tireless inspirations.

    “I always want to perform honest music that I connect with and am touched by. And if that means I have to go out there emotionally, then I will go there emotionally. That’s why I am not on some psychiatrist’s couch,” he smiles, “because I get to do this.”

    CREDITS

    All songs written by Royal Wood (SOCAN)

    Except “Forever and Ever”, “White Flag” and “On Your Body” written by Royal Wood, Bill Lefler and Simon Wilcox

    Pumpkin Man Music (ASCAP), Simon Wilcox (SOCAN) Administered by Peer International (Canada) Ltd. On behalf of Fun Cooker, Royal Wood (SOCAN)

    Horns on “I Always Will”, “The Light Of Dawn” and “Promises” arranged by Royal Wood and Bill Lefler


    Horns on “It’s Only Love”, “I Wish You Well” and “I’m Afraid” arranged by Bryden Baird

    I Always Will – Royal Wood vocals, piano, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, banjo, bass, keys Bill Lefler drums, percussion, keys Ben Peeler pedal steel and atmosphere Danny T. Levin Trombone, flugelhorn, euphonium

    Run Away – Royal Wood vocals, piano, acoustic guitars, electric guitar, bass, keys, claps Bill Lefler drums, percussion, keys, claps, marimba,

    City Lights – Royal Wood vocals, acoustic guitar, banjo, mandolin, pump organ Adam Warner drums Steve Zsirai bass Dean Drouillard pump organ, electric guitar, shaker Carleigh Aikins vocals Felicity Williams vocals

    The Light of Dawn – Royal Wood vocals, piano, acoustic guitars, bass, keys Bill Lefler drums, percussion, claps, keys, piano, vocal Bryden Baird trumpet

    White Flag – Royal Wood vocals, piano, acoustic guitars, electric guitar, keys Bill Lefler drums, percussion, marimba, electric guitar, keys, bass, piano

    It’s Only Love – Royal Wood vocals, acoustic guitar Dean Drouillard acoustic guitar, 12- string electric guitar, bass Mark Mariash drums, percussion Carleigh Aikins vocals Felicity Williams vocals Robbie Grunwald Hammond Rose Cousins vocal Bryden Baird flugelhorn, trumpet William Carn trombone

    I Wish You Well – Royal Wood vocals, acoustic guitar, piano Dean Drouillard bass, percussion Michael O’Grady tin whistle Josh Van Tassel percussion Rose Cousins vocal Bryden Baird flugelhorn William Carn trombone

    On Your Body – Royal Wood vocals, piano, acoustic guitars, bass, keys, claps Bill Lefler drums, percussion, glockenspiel, accordion, acoustic guitar, keys, claps

    Forever and Ever – Royal Wood vocals, piano, acoustic guitars, bass, claps Bill Lefler drums, percussion, acoustic guitar, organ, piano, vocals, claps Simon Wilcox vocals, claps

    I’m Afraid – Royal Wood vocals, piano Adam Warner drums Steve Zsirai bass Dean Drouillard acoustic guitar Carleigh Aikins vocals Felicity Williams vocals Josh Van Tassel tambourine Robbie Grunwald organ Rose Cousins vocals Bryden Baird trumpet Gene Hardy tenor and baritone saxophones William Carn trombone

    Promises – Royal Wood vocals, piano, acoustic guitars, bass, keys Bill Lefler – drums, percussion, keys, piano Patrick Matera electric guitar Bryden Baird trumpet

    Pretty One – Royal Wood vocals, ukulele, piano, acoustic guitars, bass, organ, keys, glockenspiel Bill Lefler drums, percussion, keys, piano

    Produced by Bill Lefler

    Except “City Lights”, “It’s Only Love”, “I Wish You Well” and “I’m Afraid” produced by Dean Drouillard

    Recorded at Death Star Studios by Michael “Mo” Lapierre

    Except “City Lights”, “I Wish You Well”, “It’s Only Love” and “I’m Afraid” recorded at Catherine North by Michael Chambers, The Rogue by James Paul, The Verge Music Lab by Steve Major and Joshua Van Tassel and at Hepbourne Lab by Dean Drouillard

    Mixed by Tim Abraham at The Hive

    Mastered by Joao Carvalho at Carvalho Mastering

    Lyrics

    With an empty glass and a belly fed
    In a rented room on a borrowed bed
    In a building high and a gutter low
    With the wood and smoke and a fires glow
    I love you still
    I always will
    The telling of a chronicle
    A wounded heart with a poison pill
    I love you still
    I always will

    When my mind is stoned with it’s canon fire
    And the world ain’t safe here in my desire
    Well I cannot breathe all this evening air
    With its honest touch and a lion’s stare

    I am here now
    No direction home
    I’m just a silly man of human flesh and bone
    Caught upon the story of our love
    It tastes of honey with it’s bitterness enough
    Caught upon the story our love
    It tastes of honey
    The bitter honey


    In my minds eye there’s a city
    Where the lights are burning low
    And I’m longing for somebody
    And its one I’ve never known
    Runaway…

    Yes our doubts an urgent matter
    And our fear’s a playing card
    We will never learn our lesson
    So we’re breaking into shards
    Runaway…

    I hope you understand this
    Well I won’t be waiting here
    I hope you understand this
    These will be forgotten tears
    I offer you my blessing
    Runaway

    With your heart in mine
    I will leave behind
    All the bitter lies
    As I newly find
    For the road does wind
    From this step in time


    I was born in the country
    The babe of a quiet wife
    Farmer fields all about me
    A blanket of stars at night
    But over the hill beside me
    Was the glow of another life
    Where buildings towered in ivory
    No one ever seemed to sleep a lot
    I’ll make way to find them
    The city lights

    I do love the feelin’
    Of dirt beneath my finger nails
    But I’ve never been so satisfied
    As journeying to town on rails
    For over the hill beside me
    Was the glow of another life
    Where buildings rised above me
    Like a moth to the burning bright

    Oh I want to see them
    Want to see them again


    There stands the truth in front of me
    As told by you so candidly
    For me to siphon off the hate
    A bitter taste
    A wounded mate
    I’m not the man I want to be
    I fled with my found certainty
    No matter how much love I gave
    No amount from me could ever save

    You fear the world
    You hate yourself
    You fill the books upon your shelf
    With endless words and reasons why
    The love between us was a lie
    You blame me for the tragic end
    You claim I was a broken man
    You act so blameless yet again
    And wield your righteous perfect pen

    Oh but one day when the spotlight’s gone
    I hope you have the light of dawn
    To shine its truthful gaze upon
    The starry-eyed and youthful pawn
    You carelessly for granted took
    For one who would forever look
    At you with all his endless faith
    Oh but nothing lasts and nothings safe
    Yes nothing lasts and nothings safe

    Yes nothing lasts and nothings safe
    I see us now for what we made
    A life that from the outside looked
    So perfect from a story book
    But freedom is the breath of life
    And now I’m on a path to find
    A half of me that brings alive
    The seed before I have to die
    Please mother won’t you stay alive
    And father won’t you see my bride
    And bounce my baby with your pride
    To see your spark take root to find
    Another life that came to be
    From honest love and honest need
    I feel it now so tenderly
    The kiss of what will come to be


    Eyes as grey as concrete
    Lips as dry as sand
    Anger is an ocean
    We cannot see dry land
    Another one dies it’s an eye for an eye
    Keep on battling each other until were blind
    If you could see my side
    If I could see your side
    I guess it wouldn’t kill us at all just to give it a try

    Open your heart surrender and enemies will be friends
    You can find me right here
    Raising up the white flag waiting for the war to end
    Give me your hands remember that enemies were once friends
    You can find me right here
    Raising up the white flag waiting for the war to end

    Silence is a glacier
    Wait for it to melt
    When the arrow hit you
    Tell me how it felt
    We were just small we were building a wall
    Between us was a rift we were bound to fall
    You see you hurt my pride but why did we fight?
    It’s been so long you know I can’t even remember why

    Gone is the winter
    Lay our weapons down
    For I surrender
    Gone is the winter
    Lay our weapons down
    Alright?


    Got my ticket
    Scribbled note
    Seated on this plane
    Fist on dollars
    Wine in throat
    Nothing feels the same
    But don’t grieve for me
    Don’t grieve for me
    Don’t grieve for me now

    Got my bruises
    Blue meets black
    Fresh but unseen wounds
    Got my heartache
    I can’t turn back
    Running forward soothes
    But don’t weep for me
    Don’t weep for me
    Don’t weep for me now
    It’s only love …

    Got my suitcase
    An empty plate
    Seated on this plane


    We met it seems a life ago
    When youth was strong and love was bold
    But now a fear has taken hold
    Enough
    Your eyes they held the promise of
    It flew away that frightened dove
    So now the push has come to shove
    Enough

    Won’t be the one to hold your hand
    I hope. I beg. You’ll understand
    I’ve drawn a line across the sand
    My love I wish you well

    I’ll miss your simple cotton dress
    The feeling in my fingertips
    The taste of you upon my lips
    Enough
    But our home was in a house of cards
    The broken glass and mirror shards
    Have left their mark in deepened scars
    Enough

    Oh though the night is colder
    All of the lies are over
    No longer on my shoulder now


    That lone blue light that says you’re still awake
    In the loneliest hours of the night at the end of the longest day
    If you’re trapped in your mind and you hesitate
    If you’re longing to talk to someone
    Call me we can conversate
    If you wanna run away
    Promise you will say that you wanna run away
    Oh these old wounds will leave new scars
    On your body I’ll draw a map of where you’ve been and where you are
    Oh these old wounds will leave new scars
    On your body

    I know where you go to that secret place
    When you lock all the doors and the past plays back
    And you’re lost for days
    You gotta room inside where you keep your pain
    And you hide in there on your own
    Don’t you know baby I’m the same
    If you wanna run away
    Promise you will say if you wanna run away

    On your body I’ll write sweet things about you
    Oh your body I can not live without you
    And your body I’ll write sweet things about you
    On your body


    These two rivers meet
    They run together
    I will be with you for worse or better
    We’ll keep traveling as long as the sun lasts
    Cause my future met and married your past
    When the stars fade to black
    I will say
    Hey hey hey
    I wanna run with you
    Hey hey hey
    So let them call us fools
    Hey hey hey
    I’ll sing this song to prove
    Forever and ever and ever…

    Been quiet for so long I didn’t notice
    Was lonely for someone I didn’t know yet
    But now we chase the moon to the horizon
    And you are still the one I’ve got my eyes on

    How was I to know?
    How was I?
    How was I?
    Where this life would go?
    Now forever


    Standing on the roof
    Looking for proof
    What is it you need love?
    What is it you need love?
    I don’t need absolutes
    But guarantee the truth
    It’s an act of faith love
    It’s an act of faith love
    That’s an easy sell
    You sugar coat it well
    An angel is a demon if she stands around in hell
    And we’ve been here before
    The threshold of the door
    Leading with our hearts left us lying on the floor
    Baby I’m afraid
    Nothin’s ever gonna change
    I’m afraid
    Nothin’s ever gonna change
    Nothin’s ever gonna change

    Waiting in the dark
    Hoping for a spark
    Listen to my voice love
    Listen to my voice love
    I cannot look away
    A player in the game
    I am on your side love
    I am on your side love
    Well that’s an easy sell
    When you sugar coat it well
    Honesty is broken if there was some more to tell
    We’ve been here before
    The threshold of the door
    Leading with our hearts has left us lying on the floor

    Don’t want to throw it away
    But there’s nothing more to say
    Don’t want to throw it away
    But there’s nothing more
    There’s nothing more

    I’m standing on the roof
    Looking for proof
    It’s an act of faith love

    Well that’s an easy sell
    When you sugar coat it well
    Honesty is broken if there was some more to tell
    We’ve been here before
    The threshold of the door
    Leading with our hearts has left us lying on the floor


    Well I once believed in a fairy tale
    But now I’m holding a coffin nail
    Between my lips closed tightly where we stand
    And fearing now how to wield a sword
    The final blow with a righteous word
    Cutting away all remains of our ways
    The end
    O love
    Words like dust how we shrug them off
    Promises

    How to resurrect all the glory days
    To build a house where our story stays
    Is anyone ever the savior they’d like to be?
    Oh one by one though we can’t afford
    With each new struggle a closing door
    Is anyone ever the lover they’d like to be?

    Our broken beauty
    Can anyone save it?
    Our broken beauty
    Can anyone save it?
    Again


    Well on our way a planned escape
    The dew was on the rose so everyone would know
    The meaning of the holy dove
    The shine was on our shoes
    The light a crescent moon

    You walked along the road there with me
    And took a moment there to kiss me
    But there’s nothing more for us
    My pretty one

    A ruined tale
    A broken sail
    Where nothing seems to mend
    The journeys off the bend
    A missing piece lies underneath
    The ground beneath our feet is stained in our defeat

    We cannot be afraid
    O death for no one waits
    We’re here to testify
    That love was in our eyes