How did a surfer from San Diego write a record that sounds like it came from the middle of America, crossing county lines between country music, rock, and Americana? Hard to say, but it could have something to do with his dad’s record collection and his...
How did a surfer from San Diego write a record that sounds like it came from the middle of America, crossing county lines between country music, rock, and Americana? Hard to say, but it could have something to do with his dad’s record collection and his own love of storytelling. In his words, “Stories don’t care where you’re from.
Alex Woodard grew up surfing in Southern California with an after-school childhood acting gig. He appeared in shows like The Love Boat and Battlestar Galactica, as well as commercials for Coca Cola, McDonalds, Skippy Peanut Butter and countless others. But he lost his big shot at a feature film role to an unknown kid just starting out in the business, and the disappointment subsequently ended Alex’s acting career and pushed him to find other creative outlets. He discovered music by writing silly songs and performing in elementary school talent shows with his then-neighbor and current bass player, Patrick. “We used empty Sparkletts water bottles for drums, and I made a guitar out of a two by four with rubber band strings… I think my mom was hoping it was a phase,” Woodard remembers. He was introduced to his influences by his older sister, who inaugurated his education with an old cassette tape of Tom Petty and the Heartbreaker’s ‘Damn the Torpedos’, and Alex filled in the gaps from there with his dad’s collection of Bruce Springsteen, Willie Nelson, Neil Diamond, and Bob Seger.
He taught himself to play piano and guitar through high school (and performed in the obligatory ill-fated garage bands), went to UCLA, got a degree in Business Economics, and worked a short stint in Boston for a mutual fundscompany after he graduated. He quickly found that the daily coat and tie was not for him, and soon landed in Seattle, working in aPioneer Square loft for a small internet software company. “I started as a temp and had no idea what the company did, let alone what the internet was,” Woodard says, “but it turned out I was working for the folks who created the compression technology for streaming media over the internet, RealNetworks. And alot of musicians worked there because the focus was on music and technology.” Alex befriended one of those fellow musician workers,put a band together through a newspaper ad (including current drummer Brian Young, from the Posies and Grammy-nominated Fountains of Wayne) and started playing shows around the vibrant Seattle scene.
After recording a couple of independent albums, Alex enlisted the Northwest’s legendary singer-songwriter Pete Droge to produce Mile High in 2004. The album was produced at Droge’s house, in between his tour stops with Matthew Sweet and Shawn Mullins as the Thorns. Picked up by the now-defunct 33rd Street Records and released to critical acclaim, Mile High highlighted Alex’s middle-of America vocal delivery and honest, story-driven songwriting, andput Woodard on several ‘best of’ lists. A move back to Southern California ensued (“I just missed surfing”), where he met utility player Ike Marr and got back on the road. He produced last year’s Up With The Sun himself, featuring Marr’s mandolin and string arrangements. The record earned him a Singer/Songwriter of the Year nod at the LA Music Awardsand inspired him to continue evolving his sound towards country and Americana music. He credits the struggle of recording and releasing records on his own for helping him grow as a songwriter. “I had to develop myself as a writer, because no one else was going to do it for me… long gone were the days when you got a deal and could hit your stride by the third record,” Alex explains, “so I tried to learn from my heroes and focused on getting better.”
Woodard will release his new self-titled album in August of 2008 on Woodshack/Adrenaline/Warner Music Group. In writing the record, Alex says he focused on a central message that everyone celebrates and struggles with, regardless of age: getting older. “No matter what road you travel, you’re getting older,” Woodard says, “and there’s no way around it. You may be 10 years old, wishing you were 16, or you could be 45 wishing the same thing. I really tried to look at the love, loss, hope, and struggles we all face as the seasons start running together, and it seemed to me to be about how hard it is to live in the moment when the moments are passing by so fast. Maybe getting older should be celebrated with wisdom and grace, not with an empty attempt to turn back the clock.” When asked about the single “Beautiful Now,” Alex responds, “Having kids is about getting older too, and that song revolves around the struggle I think a lot of women go through after they’ve had children… who am I now, what am I about, what happened? ‘Beautiful Now’ says embrace that moment you’re in, because you’re more beautiful now that you’re a mother. And since I don’t have kids, I just imagined what I’d say someday to the woman in my life.
The record was mixed by Grammy-winning mixer David Thoener (Faith Hill, Sugarland, Brooks & Dunn, Santana, Aerosmith, Jason Mraz) and produced by Rex Schnelle (known for his session and production work with Brooks & Dunn, Martina McBride, Tim McGraw, and Bon Jovi), John Would (Graham Parsons), and Martin Feveyear (Brandi Carlile), as well as Alex himself. Sara Watkins from Grammy-winning Nickel Creek lends her vocals and fiddle playing to the album, andAlex’s longtime drummer Brian Young (Fountains of Wayne, the Posies, America) is still behind the kit, along with utility player Ike Marr and Alex’s neighbor and childhood accomplice, Patrick McClory. A video for ‘Beautiful Now’ co-starring former Miss Universe (and Marc Anthony ex) Dayanara Torres was recently shot by award-winning director Roman White, well-known for his work with Carrie Underwood, Kelly Clarkson, Reba, Blake Shelton, and many others
These days, Alex can be found in a little beach town north of San Diego, where he lives with his two dogs. He writes and records in a studio he built in his house (most of the new album was recorded there), and spends as much time in the water as possible
Oh, and that unknown kid who got the big movie role instead of Alex, back when he was a kid? He turned out to be none other than Rick Schroder, who went on to stardom from “The Champ” to “Silver Spoons” and “NYPD Blue.
“Sometimes I think our paths are going to cross again one of these days,” Woodard laughs, “Life is funny like that.
by San Diego Union Tribune cut from the same cloth as Tom Petty, Bruce Springsteen, Rodney Crowell, John Mellencamp, Jim Croce and other American troubadours – past and present – whose music eloquently captures earthy truths...
by L.A. Music Awards “2007 Singer-Songwriter of the Year”
by San Diego Union Tribune cut from the same cloth as Tom Petty, Bruce Springsteen, Rodney Crowell, John Mellencamp, Jim Croce and other American troubadours – past and present – whose music eloquently captures earthy truths about living, loving and growing older without losing the dreams of youth."
by L.A. Music Awards “2007 Singer-Songwriter of the Year”
by Austin Chronicle SXSW PICK Woodard is our pick for SXSW and is in the mold of Dave Matthews and David Gray, already generating radio play nationwide."
by Ink 19 It's always gratifying when an indie artist gets a shot at the big time, and for Alex Woodard, it looks like his chance has finally come. Alex Woodard is the San Diego-based singer-songwriter's first debut record for a major label, but he already has four excellent, independently-released albums under his belt, and each one has slowly but surely been evolving his sound toward the Americana country-rock evident on his first release for Adrenaline, a division of Warner. Rocking opener "Older" occupies similar territory as Bon Jovi's "Lost Highway" -- but that's a compliment to Woodard's ear for a winning melody line rather than an accusation of plagiarism -- while his duet with Nickel Creek's Sara Watkins in "Reno" makes for another song that indicates the strength of his writing skills. The heartfelt "The Table" is another superb track, the poignant "No More Time To Waste" ends the album in fine mellow style and "Halfway" is another typically melodic rocker. The album also contains several nods to Woodard's back catalogue, with first single "Beautiful Now" being a reworking of an older track ("I Saw You Here,)" while "Billie Holiday" and album standout "Photograph" also date back to his early releases. Alex Woodard is a polished, well written and produced record which deserves to catapult Woodard's career to the next stage. Here's hoping Woodard's decision to quit finance for a music career a decade ago finally pays off.