In The Country with Dave Woods: One On One With Elyse Saunders

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In The Country with Dave Woods: One On One With Elyse Saunders

Raven Kyle Photography

Tell us about your new recording “Rise” that you wrote with Daryl Scott & Kyle Renton.

My talented co-writers Daryl Scott, Kyle Renton and I got together for a write and they approached me with the song idea of “Rise”, which was inspired by the incredible story of our Canadian Olympian and four-time Pan Am Medalist, Jessica Phoenix – a talented equestrian athlete, leading eventer. They had some strong lines, including one of my favourites – “Like a powerful phoenix, it’s your time to rise” – and I knew in that moment that it was a song we had to write together. At that point, I had heard Jessica’s name before, but didn’t know very much about her and found out she had a massive fall at one of her competitions in Jersey leading up to The Pan AM games, with some intense injuries; bad enough that doctors didn’t know if she’d be able to make a full recovery in time for Pan AM Games, or possibly ever. I also came to learn she has such a strong spirit and so much determination because Jessica got back in the saddle with a full, healthy recovery and won silver and bronze for Team Canada! Jessica’s story shares a message of drive, empowerment and passion and we wanted to put that into song. When writing this song with the guys, it connected to a place in my heart with personal reminders that I can relate to as a working independent artist, following my dreams. It shares reminders that really all of us need to hear when going through life’s hurdles or journey. You could be fighting to pursue a dream – maybe in music, sports or a new business; maybe you’re a youth being bullied; or maybe you’re someone who is battling a fight with cancer; or maybe you need that boost in self confidence – we hope this uplifts many. I’m grateful to be part of this all-Canadian project that was recorded at Metalworks with Roar Records to celebrate our Canadian athlete, especially for Canada’s 150th birthday this year. I will also mention that’s it’s been very touching to hear that the song is now being used as an anthem for self help/empowerment groups and connecting to many youth!!

You’ve had a chance to meet Jessica Phoenix. How would you describe her?

She’s such a fun, down to earth person and I’ve really enjoyed getting to know her through this project. Very quickly, I could see that she is a woman that is strong, confident, positive, beautiful, talented, determined, focused and driven. She has definitely inspired me.

How important is it for you to make music that has such meaningful messages?

As I grow and evolve as an artist, I realize that I want to share songs that bring joy to people either through fun, or party songs that help them let loose and forget about all their worries in that moment, but to also balance that by digging a little deeper with messages that hopefully empower, too.

When did you first realize that music was something you would dedicate your life to?

I was always attracted to the arts and music from a very young age and knew that I felt comfortable and excited by it, but committed to making a career out of it at the end of high school. I looked at the idea of teaching because I loved kids, but realized I wouldn’t be happy without seeing what I was really made of and what I could do. Music changed my life and taught me so much about myself that I wouldn’t have experienced without working at it. Not only that, but I’ve been able to learn so much about the business, my art and the industry since then and I’m so happy that I followed my heart to where I am now. I love connecting with people through the stage and I’m excited for the next steps to connect with many more!

What have you learned about songwriting over the years that you can pass on to our readers?

Writing a song has many structures and it’s been fun learning about the shapes and different rhyme schemes that work in a song. Structures are important, but I’ve been able to co-write with many different writers and found that everyone has their own style of saying the same thing. One writer may say it one way but I’ve learned to write based on how I would say it, and that’s where the style of the artist and their story starts to shine through. In my experience in country music, I think it’s important to write songs that are conversational, with authenticity and a catchy melody. I’ve also learned that it’s important to write and sing with the idea that my listener wants to sing the song with me.

Music has a lot of rewards, but can you describe a challenge you’ve faced in your music career and how you handled it?

There are many challenges to building a career in music, but one that has stuck out for me is self confidence. I’ve had to learn to believe in what I do, who I am, what I have to offer and how to own it. I used to let others’ opinions determine how I felt about myself and music, and I’ve grown to surround myself with positive people and own what I am. I still struggle sometimes but deep down I know what I have to offer in music and have confidence in that.

What do you feel are the strengths of country music as a genre – what does it do best?

Country music is all about authenticity. It’s about being real and it connects us all with its relatable stories. Country music is full of great writers, great artists… and we know how to throw an awesome party!

Who are a few artists on the scene now – on the radio or not – that you enjoy listening to?

I listen to so many types of music; good music is good music no matter who sings it. Lately, I really enjoy listening to Little Big Town, Midland, Maren Morris, Meghan Patrick, Carly Pearce, Dustin Lynch, Thomas Rhett, Ed Sheeran, The Weeknd, Miranda Lambert… but that can change day to day. I just love music that gets me moving or inspires me.

If you were given the chance to record a duet with an artist from a genre other than country, who would you choose and why?

Not going to lie – a duet with Ed Sheeran would be a lot of fun. He’s very talented and I think our voices would sound great together. Do you want to set that up for us Dave? Lol.

Dave Woods is a monthly columnist for the CMAOntario and has been hosting the popular online radio show In The Country with Dave Woods for 8 years. To hear episodes, please visit and iTunes.


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