Thursday, May 8, 2014

5 Questions with Royal Wood

Royal at Play Food & Wine. Photo by Dwayne Brown for loveOttawa 

The first time I heard Royal Wood's music was during Stuart McLean's Vinyl Cafe on CBC sometime in 2012. I think I was folding laundry at the time, but what I heard made me stop, put down the socks, and listen more closely. I heard a unique voice paired with a melodic piano sound and well-crafted lyrics. I was hooked. Since then I have continued to enjoy Royal's music, but I never thought that  I would eventually learn that music and lyrics are not the only things he knows how to pair.

Much like my own foray into pairing wine and music that is featured in my coffee table book, this Canadian troubadour also enjoys pairing wine notes and music notes - the main difference being that you can enjoy his pairings in person this Saturday at the NACDo you have your tickets yet?

I was curious to find out more about this wine-loving Canadian musician, so I decided to resurrect my 5 Questions feature. I couldn't quite stop at 5, but please read on as Royal shares his love of food and wine, his earliest food memory and his musical influences.

After the Harvest (ATH): Your show in May at the NAC is unique in that you have chosen to include Ontario wines you selected yourself to offer guests -- how did this idea come about and why was it important for you to do it?

Royal Wood (RW): The idea was quite natural. Most know by now how much of a wine lover I am and that I take my interests very passionately. So the idea just made sense. For me, both the creation of music, food and wine making are works of art in their own right.

ATH: When did you first start to develop an interest in/passion for wine? How far along are you in your journey to becoming a Sommelier?

RW: My interest in wine started at a very young age. My father had a small cellar and my mother kept a wine journal where they would paste the labels from bottles they had on special occasions. My mom would always write who was in attendance, what was served, and other highlights of the evening. It created a real family connection to wine for me. Later on, due to my career choice, I was able to have some of the greatest wines on the planet in France, California, Niagara and more. As a result, I wanted to truly understand fully what I was drinking and the process behind it. Eventually I enrolled into George Brown College to attend their WSET course when I had time. I am now in my third level of the Sommelier program there. Of course music is my driving vocation, so my wine studies are a long term hobby.

Photo by Vanessa Heins

ATH: I read on your blog that you are taking over your parents' farmland and you'll be growing food on the land. Tell me a little bit more about that and why growing your own food and living off the grid is important to you.

RW: Though I am living in T.O., I decided that I needed to help take over my parents' farmland and partly moved to the countryside near Peterborough. I missed being connected to the land, and most of all I did it because I felt a very strong desire to "be the change". To do that I partnered with an organic collective called Castanea. They will begin planting organic crops and running their collective on the land this spring. I am also in the early stages of building my recording studio now dubbed “The Farm” on the property. It should be up and running by the end of the year. Eventually I would like to move the property to off grid, but that is a long term dream.

ATH: What is your earliest food memory?

RW: My earliest food memory would have to be my Mom's buckwheat pancakes. We've had them every Sunday morning of my life and that's truly not an exaggeration. Every Sunday morning, like clockwork, pancakes are served at my parents home. It's comforting to know they'll be there when I am.

ATH: Why did you go to Ireland to write this new record, "The Burning Bright"? What was your experience like in Ireland and how did it affect your writing?

RW: I left for Ireland to find peace. To be still and quiet again and in order to truly feel what I was feeling, and create without filters. My experience was life changing. Every day I awoke to silence. I had no T.V., phone or internet, and simply forced myself to be. I also visited ancestral locations like Rathkenny to reconnect with my family roots.


ATH: Who are/were your musical influences?

RW: I was a sponge as a child. I truly listened to anything and everything I could get my hands on. From rock, to pop, to folk, jazz, blues, classical. You name it. I listened. Genius exists in every style. I would say that the Beatles and Dylan were my Messiahs though.

ATH: What is your favourite thing to cook at home for dinner?

RW: If I were to have a "last meal" on earth it would most likely be a plain marinara tomato sauce, a tossed green salad, fresh baked bread and a glass of a good red Bordeaux from St. Emilion.

ATH: What are some of your favourite wine and food pairings? Have you been surprised by any?

RW: Well the classic is a red pasta sauce with a good Chianti or Amarone. But I also am a sucker for a red Burgundy with lamb chops and loads of steamed greens and mashed potatoes. I'd say the biggest surprise pairing for me wine-wise has been dessert wines from France like Sauternes with a strong cheese at the end of a meal. I don't do it often, but every once in a while I'll indulge. Basically I run 5-10 km most days so that I can have wine with dinner.

ATH: If you could have dinner with anyone living or dead, who would it be and what would you eat and drink?

RW: Well I'd have to say John Lennon for sure. And frankly, I'd let him pick the meal.

Many thanks to Royal, and to Charlotte at Red Umbrella PR. You can catch Royal's show this Saturday at the NAC, where he will share his wine picks and his music, including songs from his new release, "The Burning Bright".