Interview: Savanna Woods

Can you tell us about the origins of your musical journey? What initially inspired you to pursue a career in music, and how did you get started?

I was born into a musical family – My dad is a singer, and I grew up singing with him and my sisters, so singing has always been an integral part of my life. Since it was such a constant in my life, I never really considered that I could make it a career until around the age of 20 years old. I started to change my beliefs around crossing the boundary between hobby and career; Growing up we are often told that art and music is more of an extra-curricular hobby, rather than a legitimate career path.
Once I decided I wanted to do this as a job, I went all in. There’s not really a way to peruse a career in music without truly committing. You can’t quit five minutes before the miracle happens. A lot of people get into the industry and expect immediate results, which is not how it works 90% of the time. 9 years later, I am a full-time successful musician, and I am so proud of how far I’ve came in my career path.

Who are some of your biggest musical influences, and how have they shaped your unique sound? Can you share a specific instance where one of these influences had a significant impact on your music?

This is always an odd thing to admit, but I don’t really listen to music. I mostly listen to audio books and podcasts. My biggest influence in my life is…. Life itself. I travel a lot, so those experience spur a lot of inspiration, as well as the ups and downs of life and emotional processing.
The music that my mom listened to while growing up most likely had a second-hand influence on my sound. Artists such as: Brandi Carlile, Dido, Melissa Ethridge, Alanis Morrisette, and Norah Jones. Brandi Carlile probably has the biggest influence on my sound – Her powerful female vocals really speak to me. She has a bit of a rasp, as well as a define vocal crack, both things I have adopted in my vocal style as well, in my own way of course.
Seeing how people react to these certain vocal stylistic choices helped me to develop mine in a way that I knew would appeal to the audiences. The soft emotional sound of Norah Jones, meets the saucy sound of Alanis, who also has a pronounced vocal break. But at the end of the day, it is probably the raw strength and rasp in my tone that catches the most attention, which was something that was definitely influenced by Brandi.

Touring can be an incredible experience. Could you share a memorable tour anecdote that stands out to you, whether it was a challenging moment or an unforgettable performance?

Touring is always a wonderful and interesting experience! My first tour is probably the most memorable since I booked it myself for my sisters and I all around Europe when I was just 23. My favorite show of that tour was probably the house show that I booked in the west of Spain. A man turned the upstairs of his house into a venue space, with a stage, sound and space for people to sit. They invited their friends, family, and community, and everyone brought a dish and drink to share.
We performed for a wonderfully attentive audience who, although didn’t speak much English at all, sang so many songs with us. Music is truly a universal language, and it helped to bridge a wide cultural gap. It was such a memorable experience. Some of my favorite and most intimate shows have been house shows, or in Europe they are sometimes called “Sofa Concerts.”

Many musicians have a pre-show ritual to get into the right mindset before hitting the stage. Do you have any special rituals or routines that you follow before a performance, and if so, what’s the story behind them?

I don’t have too much of a pre-show ritual other than warming up for the entirety of my drive to a venue. I drive quite a bit with my job because my shows are all over the state and country, so I often have at least an hour drive to the venue. During that time I review songs that I might need to brush up on memorizing, and then I use vocal warmups that I still have from my time on The Voice.
Before I was on The Voice, I didn’t really warm up at all before shows, the relying on my natural abilities. Although that definitely does the job, I want to be performing every time to best of my abilities. My vocal coach on The Voice sent us warmups, and since then I have been using those same audio tracks to warm up to before every show!
Depending on the show I also often say the Miracle Workers Prayer, to remind myself that I am here only to be truly helpful. I am here to channel the music and energy through me. It helps to let go and allow the music and spirit of life to take over.

Collaborations can be a powerful creative force. Could you tell us about a memorable collaboration you’ve had with another artist and how it influenced your music or expanded your artistic horizons?

I met a talented rapper from the East Coast over Instagram named Jackson Whalan, and we kept in touch, always talking about doing a collaboration of sorts, but I wasn’t sure how that would really look since our styles were so different.
A couple years ago when I was in Iceland, I was standing outside and heard a raven flying overhead. There is a certain sound that a raven’s wings make while flying, and right as I heard that, a song started playing in my mind… “Follow the sound of the raven’s wings, follow the songs that the sparrow sings, never want to be an obligation, only a part of your creation.”
I went inside, pulled out my guitar, and wrote a couple rap/singing verses, using the part that came to me as the hook. I felt like it needed a real rapper to collaborate with, so I sent it to my friend Jackson… He quickly responded with two amazing rap verses! I am excited for this song to be finished – It will be released this year! It is called “Your Creation.”
This collaboration challenged me to write in a different genre and expand into a different style. It was fun to sing and write in this way and has helped me to grow as an artist. I am currently writing another song with a similar style. I am not a rapper, but I can write and sing in a way that illudes to rapping. It’s so fun to mess around with different rhythms and styles of poetry and has opened a new door for me creatively.

Over the course of your career, you’ve likely encountered various challenges. Can you share a particularly difficult moment you faced in your musical journey and how you overcame it?

Honestly, the most challenging part of my career was the beginning of it. Although I have been singing and performing my entire life, I didn’t attempt to make a career of it until I was 20. When you first start out in this industry you don’t make money right away. I played many free shows, and others for virtually no money, while often playing to audiences of 0-5 people. It’s not about the money for me, but I did always desire to have it financially support my life and to play to larger audiences. It is actually quite difficult to play to an empty room.
I knew that if I just kept showing up, success would be inevitable. Somewhere in me I had a knowing; A knowing of what I was capable of and where my ambition would take me. There is a quote that I love, and that I briefly mentioned in the beginning of this interview, “Don’t quit five minutes before the miracle.”
You never know what is around the corner, and if you quit now, you may be forfeiting your success and the reaching of your goals. Ambition must be met with determination and adaptability to make it in this industry and navigate the many challenges that you are faced with.

Your latest album has received critical acclaim. Could you take us through the creative process behind it, from conception to completion, and the overarching themes or messages you aimed to convey?

My album was not one that was created from start to finish or in any linear fashion. These are songs that have been written in the last 8 years of my life to help process hard emotional things that I was going through. It is the collection of these songs that created the album “Back to Me,” which blossomed out of the desire for healing and connection.
The songs on this album were written out of an intense bubbling that starts within and threatens to boil over. I work through these emotions by expressing them into song – otherwise I fear I might burst! Once they are out of me, I am able to move forward. From the feedback I have received, singing these songs to others has helped them to not feel so alone in their own big emotions.
The songs helped me to work through deep emotions of love, loss, grief, and hope. Realizing what I deserve, or what is no longer right for me. Putting myself first was not an easy thing to do most of the time but is empowering and necessary on the path to healing.

Touring can be both exhilarating and exhausting. How do you balance life on the road with your personal life and creative process? Any tips for aspiring musicians who are just starting their touring journey?

Honestly, balancing all of those things in this industry is hard. When I am on tour I try to be as present as possible and soak up the new experiences. A lot of the things that I do in my home/personal life are put to the side so I can fully be there. I do virtually no work while on the road. Instead, I do a lot of journaling, eating, laughing, and exploring. I love traveling to places I haven’t been, but this requires me to truly be in the moment. My focus becomes on connecting with new people and places.
Although it may be different from my life at home, it allows me to experience the creative process in a new way. Traveling and touring sets the stage for so much personal reflection and allows me to get a new perspective on myself and my life. So much of the music I write is done while traveling or inspired by travel.
For example, in October I did a tour around the United States and drove 10k miles with my dog. During this time, I wrote so much (lots of time to think while driving 7-12 hours a day) and wrote two entire songs inspired by the travels. Just yesterday I got home from New Orleans, and am now almost done with a song inspired by a truly impactful person and romantic experience I had while there.
All of that to say – Allow yourself to soak up the moments and the experiences you have, then give yourself time to reflect on them and their impact on your journey. This is the creative process itself.

Every artist has goals and dreams for their musical career. What are some of your long-term goals or aspirations, both in terms of your artistry and your impact on the music industry?

This is a great question. My goals in music are always evolving as I personally evolve, but I always aim to connect with my audience on a soul level, while continuing to grow that audience on a global level. I don’t have desires of fame, but of connection, and of making the best music that I can make. I want to continue to feel proud of the art that I make and put out into the world, and I desire an audience that continues to appreciate and connect with that art.
Music is extremely therapeutic for me, so I hope to impact the music industry by influencing more artists to be authentically themselves and using music to process and express what we all have going on inside. To be transparent in what you are and what you feel helps to heal together as a collective.
I have always had goals of touring the world and performing on European festival stages. Traveling and music are my life, so I have always had the long term goal of marrying those two passions. How cool would it be to get flown to another state or country to perform for a festival?!
Having fun is also extremely important to me, so if I’m not having fun, then something has to change. So I guess my long term goals would be to have fun, stay authentically myself, and continue to do what I love while expanding to bigger and wider reaching audiences. I feel that if I do this, my impact on the industry will happen naturally.

The music industry has undergone significant changes in recent years. How do you see the future of music evolving, and what role do you envision yourself playing in this ever-changing landscape?

I feel that the music industry is always undergoing significant changes, as we as humans continue to evolve. It is hard to grasp how it will change in the future, as technology’s capabilities are increasing by the day. So much of music is moving online, but a huge part of my passion is in live performances, so I will continue to provide a fun environment for people to come out of their houses and enjoy live music. I want to encourage everyone to get off their screens and come rock out with me in real life! The energetic exchange of a live performance can’t be replicated, and I hope to keep that part of music alive.

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