Congrats on your new album Taking My Time! How does it feel to have this collection of songs out for people to enjoy?
Thank you! It’s been a long time in the making, so it’s a great feeling to finally have it out in the world.
There’s an awesome collaboration on the album with The Western Swing Authority on the song, “May The Good Lord Take A Liking To You”. How did they become a part of this song?
I’ve been kicking around the Canadian country music industry for quite a while, and I’ve known the WSA gang for years – in fact, I first met Peewee when I started my career in radio when I was 17. Chappy has played on a bunch of songs I’ve worked on over the years, and Shane taught me a few mandolin lessons back in the day. “May The Good Lord Take A Liking To You” was the first song I’d written by myself in years, and I wrote it hoping it would sound and feel like a classic cover. It needed to be original, obviously, but I wanted it to feel somehow familiar. I had been thinking about the idea for a few months when I sat down to write it, and I already had a pretty good idea of what it needed to be. The song ended up coming out very quickly and that nostalgic feel was definitely there, so it seemed like a no-brainer to try to get them on it. When I ran into Shane and Stacey in the hotel bar at Country Music Week in Halifax, I asked them if they’d consider doing a feature on my record, and it was a “yes” before they even heard the song, which was really exciting for me. We got together to record the track at Barrytone Studio with Jason Barry the following January. There were lots of laughs, and we really had a blast putting it all together.
There are two duets on the album: “Long Way Home” with Janelle Arthur & “No Good Way” with Emily Reid. What are a couple of your favourite duets of all time?
Great question. Country music has always been rich with collaborations… it’ll be hard to narrow it down, but here are a few of my favourites, in no particular order:
As She’s Walking Away – Zac Brown Band and Alan Jackson
In Another’s Eyes – Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood
It’s Your Love – Tim McGraw and Faith Hill (LOVE singing this one with Vanessa Marie Carter!)
Burning The Roadhouse Down – Steve Wariner and Garth Brooks
Mendocino County Line – Willie Nelson and Lee Ann Womack
Murder On Music Row – George Strait and Alan Jackson
If You See Him/If You See Her – Reba and Brooks & Dunn
A Bad Goodbye – Clint Black and Wynonna
SO much fun! We started the shoot day before sunrise and worked straight through until 11pm. We shot on September 1, so it was pretty cold – it was about 4 degrees outside, and the water couldn’t have been much more than 10 degrees. Brittney and the band guys did an amazing job considering how cold we all were. I was running on adrenaline, so the cold didn’t bother me much, but it took three full days, a few hot baths, and lots of red wine to thaw afterwards! I have to give huge shoutouts to the crew from High Rise Studio, Tino and Dave for the classic vehicles, and Paul at GKD Water for literally making it rain. Couldn’t have done it without such an incredible bunch of people. We’re gearing up to shoot the next one now… can’t wait!
Tell us about the musical family you grew up in.
I grew up surrounded by music. My dad played the sousaphone in the Milverton Legion Band, and by the time I was three years old, I was tagging along to their shows with a little plastic saxophone and they made me feel like one of the guys. It was the coolest. Mom and Dad both play piano and accordion, Grandma plays piano, and Grandpa plays a little fiddle if you coax him into it. When I was about seven I played in my Great Uncle’s fiddle band, I played and sang in church, and there would always be music happening in some form at home. Whether it was radio, records, or a community jam, music was always around.
What do you think Country music does better/differently than other genres?
Country music has evolved sonically over the decades, but it’s always been made up of universal stories and truths told simply and eloquently through well crafted lyrics. We’re lucky to have some of the world’s finest lyricists in our genre.
I’m a huge fan of Kristian Bush. His work with Sugarland is really something special, and his solo project is one of my favourite records (check it out if you haven’t heard it…so good!). If you spend 10 minutes digging into his social media pages, you’ll find that he’s hopeful, idealistic, grateful, and he views the world around him with a sense of wonder. I’m wired very similarly, so I think it was only natural that he would become a sort of unwitting mentor.
When Sugarland was on hiatus, and before he put his solo record out, he had a SoundCloud page where he’d upload some of the stuff he’d been working on. One of my favourites from that era is called You Can’t Stop the Sun From Going Down – check it out here: https://youtu.be/wIV4zVG1mR0
Ever get nervous meeting your musical heroes? Who have you met so far on that list?
Definitely. I am, and have always been, a fan first – and it has little to do with star power for me, but everything to do with how an artist’s work has impacted me. I’ve learned a ton by listening to Diamond Rio, Vince Gill, Brad Paisley, and Kristian Bush records. I’ve met them all over the years and managed to tell them what their work has meant to me without totally embarrassing myself, lol. I’ve also had the chance to work on a record with Ron Block (Union Station), Jeff Taylor (The Time Jumpers), Barry Bales (Union Station), Brent Burke (Rhonda Vincent), Stuart Duncan (check out the Grammy winning record The Goat Rodeo Sessions with Chris Thile, Yo-Yo Ma, and Edgar Meyer…crazy stuff), and Billy Thomas (The Time Jumpers). These dudes are all monsters, and it was pretty surreal to work with them.
It was fate. I had just finished driving from coast to coast visiting radio stations to promote my first single “Falling Like The Rain”. The tour wrapped up in Edmonton on a Wednesday afternoon and I had a show back home in Ontario that Friday. I had 47 hours to drive the 37 hours home, so I grabbed a couple of energy drinks and settled in. I stopped for a quick 45 minute nap in Winnipeg and continued on, and about 2000 kilometres into the trip, a couple of hours northwest of Thunder Bay, I swore I saw a little pig looking at me from the side of the road out of the corner of my eye. For a minute, I wasn’t sure if what I was seeing was real, or if delirium had set in and I was hallucinating, but I was doing okay for time, so I turned around to see if I actually saw what I thought I saw. Sure enough, there was a tiny piglet sitting on the side of the road, pretty banged up. He’d been fixed, and his tail was docked – I figure the little guy must have fallen off a livestock truck on the way to market.
I couldn’t leave him there. But what was I going to do with a pig?
I named him Peter Porker. I gave him some water, cleaned up his wounds the best I could with what I had, wrapped him in a big black hoodie, and set him on the passenger seat. He put his head down, went to sleep, and would stay that way most of the drive home. Every few hours he would wake up, I’d let him outside, he’d wander around a bit, pee, and we’d carry on. He never had an “accident” in my car over the remaining 20 hours of the trip, and when we finally got back home I set him up in the old chicken coop. He lives there now.
Since then, he’s come with me to gigs, a bunch of interviews, and an awards show – he’s been on the radio, on SiriusXM, he’s walked a red carpet, and I’m pretty sure he’ll soon have more Instagram followers than me! But his wounds are all healed, he’s happy, healthy, and he’s already doubled in size. He’ll grow to be over 300 pounds, so I don’t know how long I’ll be able to keep him… but for now, I’m happy to have a little friend in him and to share the joy he’s brought to my life with you guys through the album artwork, and his Instagram page (@peterporkerpiggy).
Dave Woods is a monthly columnist for the CMAOntario and has been hosting the popular online radio show “In The Country with Dave Woods” since 2009. To hear episodes, please visit www.soundcloud.com/dave-woods-3.