Kevin Wood, former ‘Rent’ star and Long Beach theater veteran, releases album
As a self-described hopeless romantic, Kevin Wood pours the raw emotions that come with the heartache of breakups, the aching memories of his first loves or the cautious excitement of an ongoing flame into his little black journal.
He carries it with him almost everywhere he goes, and on a recent Tuesday afternoon while sitting at a coffee shop near his home, he flipped through its worn pages filled with his scattered but neat writing.
“This is where I write most of my songs. Some of my songs for this album were born here,” said Wood, 36, a Long Beach musician who just released his third independent album on iTunes and Amazon, “Out Among the Wolves.”
The clean-cut redhead, who sports shortly cropped facial hair, fittingly released the independent album on Valentine’s Day because, despite its ominous title, the record is a collection of hopeful and uplifting love songs that blend Wood’s theatrical pop sound with his booming voice and optimistic lyrics.
“This whole album is about being a hopeless romantic. I’ve been through some tough relationships and I think that taught me how important it is for me to stick with music and keep believing in love,” he said.
The Cody, Wyo., native and graduate of Berklee College of Music in Boston moved to Long Beach about 10 years ago after he traveled North America with the touring Broadway musical “Rent.” He’s performed locally with Musical Theatre West, MenAlive - The Orange County Gay Men’s Chorus and the a cappella group WestBeat. He’s also a regular performer at the Library Coffeehouse in Long Beach and Velvet Lounge in Santa Ana.
“If you like melodic, catchy, vocal-heavy songs then you’ll like this album,” said Alicia Champion, Wood’s longtime friend and album producer.
“Kevin really is dedicated to just living a really present life and it’s reflective in his music,” she said. “You can’t have the good without the bad and to experience love you have to deal with the whole spectrum of it and that’s what this album is all about.”
The pianist, who has been openly gay since he was a senior in high school, is also very clear in his music about whom he loves romantically.
“I’m lucky I had a really easy coming out,” he said. “I’m not afraid to talk about the guy I may have a crush on or use the ‘he’ pronoun in my songs.”
While it’s piano-based and uplifting in its overall feel, “Out Among the Wolves” also mixes in some up-tempo tunes such as “Not a Song” and “One Time Around” with inspirational tunes such as “Today.” There are even some danceable offerings, including “Garden of Eden,” which is about his boyfriend at the time whom he missed while on the road with “Rent.”
“In the song it doesn’t say anything about a boy or a girl but there’s no way I’m going to make a video with a woman, it’s just not my truth,” he said.
Since the album was independently recorded and released it’s not on sale at record stores nor can the songs be heard on the radio, at least not yet. Wood is OK with that and although he describes himself nowadays as perpetually single, he says he still has enough emotional material to continue filling his journal and continue making his music.
“I write my deepest feelings in my songs, that’s where it comes out through music and my writing,” he said. “It would be amazing to get a song on the radio, that’s my dream. If that happens, it happens. If it doesn’t, I’m going to keep on making music and writing.”
Crowds were light but enthusiastic at the daytime portion of the eighth edition of Indie Fest. Held at Liberty Station NTC, August 16-18, the three day event showcased film all three days, with the Saturday addition of music on five stages. Performers included Cake, Gilbert Castellanos, Taleb Kweli and Josh Damigo.
The Craig Yerkes Stage, named for the late guitarist who passed away in 2008, was slightly detached from the rest of the festival, across a two lane road and fenced off with a chainlink fence and green tarp. While it didn’t look too welcoming, once inside it was an oasis. Basically a large area between buildings with lush green grass, the setting was framed by sidewalks, trees and benches but unusually, no vendors. That last fact gave this spot a more relaxed feel than the rest of Indie Fest, with concert goers laying in the grass and taking full advantage of the tree shade on a warm afternoon.
Daytime artists included stage openers Lyrical Groove, who in addition to some funk edged originals also turned in a nice version of Roberta Flack's immortal tune, “Killing Me Softly With His Song.” Others performing that day included Long Beach based keyboardist Kevin Wood, local singer-songwriter Michael Bowman and country poster Morgan Leigh with her band. Leigh pulled the first real crowd of the day. Having taken part in American Idol Season 12, she had a vocal following. The first part of the program wrapped up with an eclectic new duo, Beach, which included songwriter Bitch, best known for her albums on Ani DiFranco’s Righteous Babe Records, as well as visual artist/ video maker Billie Joe Cavallro.
However, the afternoon’s clear highlight was singer-songwriter Steve Grand. Playing his first show ("ever!") outside of his native Chicago, his music sounded like a cross between Jason Mraz’s more anthemic numbers and Elton John’s early pop rock, in fact covering the latter’s “Your Song” to good effect. He drew a sizeable crowd thanks to an internet hit (and set closer), “All American Boy.” Since being posted to Youtube on July 2, the video has scored nearly two million views, with a good portion of this day’s crowd singing-a-long. Notably, for this song he teamed up with Kevin Wood, who he met just before his set. Grand borrowed Wood’s keyboard for his show and asked him to sing harmony, which went down a storm. While all of the performers brought merch, Grand was the only one to have a line dozens long waiting to meet him after his performance.
Originally from Cody, Wyoming, Kevin Wood moved to Long Beach after traveling around the US as well as Canada with the national tour of the Broadway smash hit RENT. Since living here in SoCal, Kevin has been seen on stage in productions of Musical Theatre West’s “Wedding Singer”, “Bat Boy” (Stages Theatre) as well as a member of Orange County’s Gay Mens Chorus “Men Alive” and at Downtown Disney in the acappella group “WestBeat”.
Kevin is glad to be back in Long Beach after traveling the open seas with Holland America’s ms Westerdam. Kevin was honored to be the lead male singer in the cast on the ship, and saw such wonders of the world as the Pyramids, the Acropolis, the Colosseum, as well as many other worldly destinations.
Kevin plays at the Library Coffeehouse every 3rd Friday of the month. The show is no charge and open to all ages.
“THE LAST SESSION touches all the emotional chords
The Spirit of Broadway Theater in Norwich is currently offering a theatrical experience that uplifts and proves that not only are new American musicals being written, but in the case of The Last Session, are outstanding.
Playing until June 1, we were fortunate enough to be part of a sold-out audience on May 16. It was also gay and lesbian night, a regular event to increase theater attendance.
Steve Schalchlin has written music and lyrics that successfully integrate with Jim Brochus well-structured libretto, especially for the character of Gideon, a successful pop-country artist, and former gospel singer. He is a gay man living with full-blown AIDS and contemplates ending his life.
The shows title refers to the final studio taping of songs that Gideon secretly plans to leave as a goodbye gift for his lover, Jack.
The opening is a great crescendo that Gideon (Kevin Wood) plays on the piano. It grabs the audience and sets the perfect pace for this bittersweet musical.
Kevin Wood is truly a piano man with a voice to match any star rival. The show seems to have been written for him alone. He is perfectly cast and uses his considerable acting, musical skills, and dynamic stage presence to great effect, and adds to these achievements by also giving a technically perfect performance. He stopped the show with each solo musical number.
Patricia Gibson and Shawn Rucker play backup-singers Tryshia and Vicki. Tryshia is a feisty, no-nonsense woman who understands Gideons struggles...herself being the mother of a gay son. Ms. Gibsons voice is strong and true, and her poignant singing equals that of many popular divas.
Vicki, a boozy, tough heart-of-gold character, spews sarcastic zingers at Tryshia and Gideon with expert timing, and is responsible for many of the musicals belly-laughs. She is a fine actor-singer.
Enter Buddy, a singer who has worshipped Gideon for years and wangles his way into a job at the studio. Matthew Dyer succeeds in creating the essence of this bible-thumping, right-wing bigot, consumed by his misguided faith. Dyers voice and performance is heavenly perfection.
When Buddy learns that his idol is both gay and has AIDS, he rails at Gideons sins, and storms out of the studio. He returns when he realizes that the dying Gideon will record one of the formers songs during this last session.
In a non-singing role, Jon Peterson as Jim...the unseen engineer in the booth with a booming voice-of-the-Lord echo - keeps reminding the singers they are supposed to be recording Gideons final legacy.
The songs Somebodys Friend, Going It Alone, When You Care, and Connected should achieve top pop status.
Director/Musical Director Brett Bernardini has masterfully guided this exceptional cast with passion and sensitively. The finale offers four mellifluous voices in a song about hope and the resilience of the human spirit.
The Last Session touches all the emotions - it certainly touched ours. ”
“...Acclaimed "Contemporary Piano Man" Kevin Wood headlines the SDIMF Acoustic Stage at Caffe Calabria. Star of the touring production of RENT and innovative musical artist, Wood draws inspiration from legends such as Billy Joel and Elton John. "My music spans many genres, but overall I try to be as truthful to the moment when I'm writing as I can," Wood said. "I'm not afraid to talk about the guy I have a crush on and use the he pronoun in my songs. I think it's time the music industry opened their arms to more out musicians."
Touring with RENT has had an enormous impact on Wood's music and outlook on life. "I think the biggest influence RENT had on me was the truth that it came from," Wood said. "Jonathan Larson wrote that show with such passion and it broke so many boundaries, and, in turn, won the Pulitzer Prize. He spoke of AIDS and loving homosexual relationships. Like Jonathan Larson, I think we can all learn that, as artists, it's most important to believe in our vision and to speak from a genuine truth."
Wood is excited about performing at SDIMF. "The San Diego Indie Music Fest is such a great event," Wood said. "Like Jonathan Larson, Alicia Champion and Danielle Lo Presti have this incredible vision. They believed that it was possible to get a bunch of independent talent together to celebrate and unite as a community and, in turn, involve such a city as San Diego. This is, yet again, a testament of believing in something and trusting that the truth behind it will speak for itself. Bravo to them!"...”
“Like many people, Kevin Wood found his calling when he was a senior in high school. "I started writing songs when I was 18," he remembers. His fist song was "My Soul,""and it was kind of an accident. I was at an orchestra camp, and they said that anyone who writes their own song could perform it at the final concert. I was playing French Horn, and I wasn't going to write anything for that. I wrote 'My Soul' on the piano, performed it, and everyone really loved it. I thought it was really cheesy and stupid, but people really enjoyed it. The feedback I got made me realize that I wanted to keep doing it. Ever since, I've been writing songs."
That song at camp led Wood to become a working musician in 2002, releasing his first CD, Haven't Had Enough, and join a touring productioin of the musical RENT. "I literally got the CD in my hand the day I packed up to go on tour, so that was pretty intense. I moved out to L.A. after that and pursued making a living as a performing singer/songwriter," says Wood. " I moved out here with $100 - I just had to get out here. I knew that something good would happen, and I've been performing around the area for the last three years."
Wood says it's hard to categorize his music because he draws his influences from many genres. "I feel like I fit pop, adult contemporary, a little bit of country, a little bit of folk, there's some rock in there and some jazz sometimes. It's difficult, because when people want to hear what genre you're in, they want a very cut and dry answer. For me, I feel that I just write what comes out," he says. Inspiration for his songs mostly comes from his everyday life. "I may have a crush on someone, and I write something that night about the kiss I just had, or it can be about a friend who just helped me out an dI want to be thankful."
Wood has never found being gay an obstacle to his career, and feels that the rise of same sex love songs is a healthy sign. " I think radio's ready for boy loves boy, girl loves boy or girl loves girl songs - anything - I just thing it's time for that," he says. " With groups like Scissor Sisters, we're starting to see some bravery with some record labels. On my new CD, Finding Me, I have a song called 'Stand Firm,' which is about realizing who you are and that it's not the easiest of lives to be comfortable with yourself and be out. I'm proud of that song - it's real important to me."
Kevin Wood will be playing at the San Diego Indie Fest on March 3; The Library Coffeehouse on March 10, April 4 and May 18; and with Men Alive, the Orange County Gay Men's Chorus on March 24. For more information, go to www.SeeKevSing.com”
“...Listening to Kevin Wood's Finding Me is a little like enjoying a dis-allowed splurge. I almost feel guilty how much I enjoy it. I guess I've become quite comfortable in my left-of-pop musical tastes. The fact that Wood can sweep me off my pridefully-unconventional feet into the swirls and swells of his melodies is not less than remarkable.
As I write this, "The Moon Says Something" is playing, whose chorus melody I find so beautiful, it hurts.
Close to this is another that, just reading the lyric, one would bet to be a ballad. But upon listening, what a surprise to find "Two Years of Lonely" is an uptempo - driving and sad and joyous and ...ya, See what I mean?! I just can't help but GO There with him...on several of the songs anyway...
...Kevin Wood is one hell of a songwriter. And I haven't even gotten to the Voice yet, yes, with a capital V, please. Rich, full, able...if Michaelangelo painted voices, he'd love this one....
...It's rare to find Contry/Pop music that is as skillfully crafted as the collection of songs on Kevin Wood's "Finding Me." Clearly a very well educated and trained musician, Kevin exploits and explores the depths of songwriting technique with remarkable finesse. An extaordinary vocal talent who possesses the power and control of some of contemporary R&B's best, Kevin never once makes the all too common mistake of oversinging or over "running." While displaying vocal acrobatics, Kevin always manages to keep our focus on each song's most precious core - the melody. The chorus hook on "The Moon Says Something," is one of the most beautiful melodic lines I've heard this year, that creates a perfect rub with the changes underneath it (tension 9 over the 1 chord). We hear tension 9 within the changes of pop music all the time - but to put it in the melody as the primary focal part of the hook, is truly brave within this genre. And Kevin is brave, both musically and lyrically. He speaks openly in "Stand Firm," about the struggles against the Bible belt, growing up as a gay man, and he bears a heart-wrenching regret, sadness, and truth in "2 Years of Lonely" that almost made me cry...”
“Kevin Wood Has Found His Way 'Out of the Closet' and Into SoCal Hearts
"The minute that I got my first album in my hand I left town," Kevin Wood explained. The 28-year-old Long Beach resident originally from Cody, Wyoming was not running from anything. Instead, he was a man on a mission to make his way and share his talent with the nation. First, Wood landed on the national tour of the Broadway musical RENT. Wood was a "swing" in the cast, which means he was an understudy for six different roles including Roger and Mark. After a long and winding road, four long years later he is back singing his own tune with his sophomore album Finding Me.
The independent singer/songwriter and piano man who released Haven't Had Enough in 2002 experienced the ups and downs of being on tour, which sparked an amazing amount of growth. The knowledge he gained while on his journey allowed him to understand countless things about relationships he built and lost along the way. "I have found that most important things in life are our friendships and relationships - saying goodbye and hello to them," Wood said. The wisdom and appreciation he gained in the school of life for those valuable relationships is clear. The title track of the album "Finding Me" is a heartfelt tribute to his best friend, who helped him discover himself.
"This album picks up from where my last album left off," Wood explained. Having written all of the songs on the album, they each have a special meaning to him. "They're all my babies," he quipped. Wood noted that the most autobiographical is titled "Stand Firm," a song about his own "coming out" in small town Wyoming as a high school senior. "It was very hard to put that particular song on the album because essentially it is a song about my 'coming out," he said. Wood knows first-hand the struggles that many young queers face - especially those in Middle America. "Growing up being called names that I didn't even know the meaning of was not easy," he explained.
Wood did not let any hurdles come in his way. "Living in Wyoming I felt like I knew it was never going to happen. I've learned that all you can do is make it happen for yourself," he said. To do just that Wood moved to Southern California with only $100 in his pocket. It is evident that htis Midwest boy was determined to, "Make It In L.A." - the second song on his new CD is appropriately titled just that. Now living within 25 miles of Hollywood he admits it can feel the same way. "Living here has made me realize that making it is much more personal than just money, it's being happy with yourself. Playing my music and performing makes me happiest."
Wood can be seen performing at various locations throughout Long Beach and Southern California. Both Finding Me and Haven't Had Enough along with upcoming performance schedule can be found on his Web site. He will be at the Library Coffeehouse (3418 E. Broadway, Long Beach) on Friday, Oct. 8 and celebrating the release of Finding Me, on Saturday, Oct. 14 at DiPiazza's Lounge and Niteclub (5205 E. Pacific Coast Highway, Long Beach).”
“Wood Tickles Ivories in O.C., Long Beach
It was a semi-chilly Tuesday afternoon. The Hot Java coffee shop in Long Beach was filled with patrons, typing furiously on their wireless computers and chatting idly with one another. Off to the side, Kevin Wood sat comfortably with a very composed but relaxed look on his face at a table for two near the door.
Wood is a singer, songwriter and performer - an all-around musician. Born and raised in Wyoming, this small-town native moved to Boston to attend Berklee College of Music. During college, Wood performed showcases and various club gigs in Boston and gained favorable recognition.
In 2000, Wood received an honorable mention in the John Lennon Songwriting Competion. Wood shares some of the main ingredients in his music: strength, passion, determination and emotion.
"I write a lot about what I'm feeling," he said. "I aspire to move people." So far, he has succeeded.
His first album, Haven't Had Enough, contained 12 of his original pieces. He has earned rave reviews for his unique blend of sounds and poetic lyrics.
"Every song is a bookmark of my life," he said. " I would fall in love with a popular song, but parts of a line would never seem to fit. That's why I write songs about my life. I write because I love doing it." In fact, a history course Wood was taking inspired his song "Renaissance."
Classified as a "contemporary piano man," Wood has incorporated sounds of his country roots, folk and pop. Undefined by any certain genre, Wood draws his inspiration from a large range of musicians: Elton John, Billy Joel, Indigo Girls, Paula Cole and Rascal Flatts, just to name a few.
After the release of Haven't Had Enough, Wood auditioned for the national cast of Rent. After nearly a year of callbacks and auditions, Wood earned an understudy part.
Upon leaving the national tour, Wood moved to Long Beach, Calif., and returned to his own music. He has contributed his talents to Indie by Design showcases and Pride festivals in Los Angeles and San Diego.
"I'm most at home [behind a piano] as I'll ever be," he said with a smile. "If I could do this for the rest of life, I'd be the happiest person ever."
Nearly four years later, Wood's sophomore album Finding Me will be released in fall of 2006.
Currently, Wood is in his second year with Men Alive, the gay ment's chorus of Orange County. At the upcoming April performances, Men Alive will feature music inspired by gay artists, including Wood's piece "Stand Firm" from his sophomore album.
For live performances, Wood plays in piano bars and coffeehouses throughout Orange County. Long Beach residents can catch Wood at the Silver Fox every other Friday, the Paradise Cafe every Sunday night from 5 to 8, the Library Coffeehouse every second Friday of the month, and at a special performance at DiPiazza's on April 27. Orange County residents can keep an eye out at Hamburger Mary's, where Wood has entertained patrons several times.
At the end of the interview, Wood paused and looked up. "I'm here to sing and write music," he said. "This is my destiny."
For more information on this talented singer and songwriter, visit his official website at www.SeeKevSing.com or listen to streaming files at www.CDBaby.com/kevinw.”
“Haven't Had Enough, Neither Has the Rising Kevin Wood
As he sits in front of the piano and the melodic sounds flow from his fingertips, you would not expect such rich and soulful vocals to come from behind his gleaming smile. Kevin Wood is a queer musician that has crossed many bridges in life and in his songs reflected on his first album Haven't Had Enough. He began to lay tracks for his sophomore album in April and Wood is eagerly anticipating success. "This album is going to be a lot more professional that my first one," Wood explained. He says that since his first release, he has grown so much as a singer and songwriter, as well as in life.
Originally from Wyoming, Wood realized that he had talent and made his way to Berklee School of Music in Boston, Mass., where he honed his skills and established himself as a confident, natural performer. "I feel most at home while performing my own songs on stage and I hear the audience response to my work," he said. In 2000, Wood was recognized nationally when he received honorable mention in the John Lennon Songwriting Contest for his song, "Drive." After graduation he began touring with the Broadway hit RENT, where he realized that people were listening to his work. "It is the neatest thing to have fans come up and sing your songs to you, then hand you the CD and ask for your autograph," he said.
Since moving to Long Beach in 2004 with only $100 in his pocket, Wood has made a name for himself locally, and the future is looking even brighter for this rising star. "I am happy where I am now in life, but my ultimate goal is to make a full-time living as a singer/songwriter." He said his dreams would come true when he hears his song on the radio.
As a member of Men Alive - The Orange County Gay Men's Chorus, he recently showcased his song "Stand Firm," with the men from the chorus backing him. "I was so honored to be up there with all the men as I shared the story of many of our lives with my song," he said, reflecting upon the performance, which like all his shows was very uplifting and charged with emotion.
Wood can currently be heard in Long Beach performing at the Paradise Piano Bar ever Sunday as well as various dates throughout the month at the Library and Phoenix Coffeehouses.”