Candlelight Utopia
(Spin Acre)


Simply put, Indiana based Patrick Woods makes the guitar sound like a entire band. Other guitarists, such as Steve Howe, are equally adept at entertaining with just one acoustic guitar and Woods is definitely in that realm. Patrick’s 2009 CD Vortex Of Discovery made waves in the guitar world and likewise, the 2014 CD release of Candlelight Utopia is another impressive effort. Fans of Windham Hill guitar greats including Will Ackerman and Michael Hedges will continue to find much to enjoy about Woods and his guitar approach. Speaking to about Candlelight Utopia, Patrick says, "I would definitely say that this album is by far my best. Basically, your latest effort is always going to feel like your best at that moment in time. I personally feel like that is the way it should be, because there is no point in going backwards, and repeating yourself. Candlelight Utopia is probably the most diverse of any album I've recorded yet." Although there are no vocals on this CD, the CD booklet features Patrick’s track by track synopsis of the history behind the ten tracks here. Much like the wide open spaces of the midwest where he comes from, Patrick Woods’ Candlelight Utopia is a scenic, sonic journey filled with ten expressive acoustic guitar adventures. presents
an interview with

mwe3: Where are you from originally and where do you live now and what do you like best about it? What other cities do you like to visit?

PATRICK WOODS: I grew up in Indiana and I still live there currently. I lived in other cities in the midwest like Columbus, Ohio for awhile. I only live two hours from Chicago and would like to settle there eventually, because it's a great city for music, and I play a lot of gigs in that area. I like to play shows and travel in many other cities and some of my favorites are: San Francisco, Denver, Philadelphia, Boston, Toronto, New York, and LA to name a few.

mwe3: Would you say that your new CD, Candlelight Utopia is your best and how would you compare it to your other albums? In what ways would you say your music and guitar playing has progressed over the years?

PATRICK WOODS: I would definitely say that this album is by far my best. Basically, your latest effort is always going to feel like your best at that moment in time. I personally feel like that is the way it should be, because there is no point in going backwards, and repeating yourself. Candlelight Utopia is probably the most diverse of any album I've recorded yet, because in the past all I've done is solo guitar with no overdubs, but this time around I included a couple of songs with bass, and other rhythm guitar parts on electric. It made those specific tracks stick out, and gave the album more variety as a whole. There is even a track that has more of a honky-tonk feel and I've never written anything even close to that before. It excited me, because it was something brand new to my set list, and at the same time my own style was still able to speak through it. So that was another step in a different direction.

mwe3: Where and when was Candlelight Utopia written and recorded? Who else worked with you on the production and engineering of the new album and can you tell us how you came up with the title of the CD and also who designed the cover art and what does it symbolize? There’s some great liner notes that you wrote for the CD.

PATRICK WOODS: The whole album was recorded and mastered in Cleveland, at a place called Dark Tree Studio, which is where I record all of my albums. The studio is owned by Jay Bentoff who has his gear set up in his living room, basically. He used five different mics on my guitar, and I never even plugged in! The whole process was entirely unplugged. There were two condenser mics that were high above me, and three wide diaphragm mics up close to capture those subtle tones. Jay really knows what he's doing, and he's one of the best to go to in northeast Ohio if you want to record acoustic music.

My long time friend and mentor Brian Henke, was co-producing the whole album. Brian is quite well known in the fingerstyle guitar world, and greatly respected. He's an amazing artist in his own right, and he helped me decide the order of the songs, because he has one of the best ears for this style of music and he picks up on things that I don't usually catch. He pointed out to me the very basic subtleties that most people take for granted, such as beginnings and endings of songs and how they flow into each other.

His philosophy is that it's the tiny details that can make an album great, and after having him produce my last couple of albums, I would have to agree. He never told me how to write my songs, he just offered tips here and there, and I just pushed myself to make it better.

The overall theme of the album is really about dreams I've had since I was a kid, all the way up till now. I basically came up with the concept for the cover, and my father who is a graphic designer, helped me with the color scheme. The Victorian house on the front symbolizes the place where we rest our heads at night - you can also see the light in the attic window. I wanted to create kind of a mysterious vibe with the artwork. It's not supposed to look scary, but almost psychedelic in a way. It took me months of endlessly scrawling down names before I came up with "candlelight Utopia." It was just a name that clicked - it simply worked.

mwe3: Tell us about the guitars and various studio mics, strings and amps you used on Candlelight Utopia. The sound is remarkably clear and clean. Are you still using the Wechter Pathmaker guitar that was used on your Vortex Of Discovery album? How do you maintain your guitars as it sounds like you get good mileage out of them. Any other new and interesting developments in the guitar world for you?

PATRICK WOODS: The guitar that I've used for the past couple of albums, has been a custom made Donohue. JJ Donohue is a luthier that has become a good friend of mine for the past few years. I tried out some of his guitars and was impressed with his attention to detail so I decided to have a guitar built to my specs, because I needed a bigger tone. The Wechter just wasn't giving me the tone I wanted anymore, so I was searching for something new. Nothing against Wechter, because it is a fine instrument, but I was ready to take things to the next level.

JJ Donohue's guitar has proven itself over time to be the best acoustic I've ever played. It's made out of east Indian rosewood for the back and sides and lutz bearclaw spruce for the top. You really can't beat the sound. I also used it on my last album, Gone Before Morning.

mwe3: What was your approach in the studio for Candlelight Utopia and were there various takes and out takes of different tracks in an effort to get the best version on the CD? How do you know when a track is really ready to be recorded and mastered?

PATRICK WOODS: Well, like I mentioned above, I went unplugged to record the entire album. The guitar has a big enough sound to project through a mic without plugging in through an amp. That was the way I wanted to do it for many years, but my last guitar had to be plugged in to get a decent sound. With the new Donohue guitar, it gave me the option to do things that before, weren't possible.

Recording this album was actually a breeze compared to the last two. I did half of the songs in one take, but usually I'll do a couple of takes just to be on the safe side. If I get two really solid takes, then I usually splice the best of the two together. However, some of the songs were perfect on the first take that there was no need for another one. The last few albums over a ten year period took a lot longer. My first album, Power Fields took me a whole year to record. I was trying to do things that were beyond my ability then, doing 6 minute long songs, with time changes and unnecessary, drawn out, complicated, tapping parts. Nowadays, my style has evolved into doing two or three minute pieces at the most. I had to learn that less is more, at least in my situation.

In the end, the writing is really what matters. Most of the songs were the result of agonizing work over months of wrestling with the parts, changing them around, or just trashing a whole song and starting over. There was one song that I thought was the best idea I ever had, and then I went to record it. When I listened back, it was horrible. I had no idea it would turn out so bad!

So I went back and wrote about three different tunes in place of it. None of them were satisfactory, and I almost gave up and started planning for 9 tracks on the album instead of ten. Then out of nowhere, it suddenly fell into place, when I least expected it. It was an idea that was right under my nose the whole time, and it was something so simple that it was ridiculous, but it was satisfying. Music really humbles you that way.

The song came to be "Cone Of Power" which is track number 9. There was nothing forced on this record. It all came to me naturally. If I felt that a certain song was forced, or didn't flow the right way, then I would discard it.

mwe3: Tell us about your live shows. What are your performances like? Do you have a live setup preference as far as sound systems, computerized sound enhancers and any other live gear? What’s the best way to enhance solo guitar performance in a live setting? Do you tend to draw upon your new album when playing live or do you offer a cross section of various music you’ve recorded to your audience?

PATRICK WOODS: My live set up includes an LR Baggs Ibeam pickup, and from that I go into an LR Baggs acoustic DI. I use TC Electronics for reverb and delay and a Sonic Maximizer pedal to add some warmth. From there, I go straight into a Mackie 1202 VLZ mixing board with Mackie powered speakers. There are other venues where I don't bring my sound system, and just use my pedals, but it has to be a situation where I really trust the sound guy.

In my set list, I usually do a variety of things. I play everything from my latest album, and I also do some covers, instrumental versions of certain songs. Anything from Beethoven to Led Zeppelin. Sometimes I will sing a vocal song or two, usually something I've written or a cover. For the most part, I use my effects sparingly as I want the audience to experience the natural sounding guitar tone in it's most pure form. But there are a couple of tunes where I'll use some heavy reverb, in a song like "Seasons On Mars."

mwe3: You grew up on a lot of progressive rock and you also mention Michael Hedges and Preston Reed as big guitar influences as well as Joe Satriani. What’s new and interesting in the guitar world as far as other artists that are catching your eyes and ears as we approach 2015? What other developments interest you these days as far as the internet and you tube and all the downloading sites? Do you feel these 21st century devices are helping or hurting independent artists? How hard is it for independent musicians to survive these days and what can be done to further level the playing field?

PATRICK WOODS: It's difficult for me to keep up with the current ever-expanding barrage of new artists out there. There has been some cool stuff on you tube once in awhile, but it seems like more often than not, there are way too many imitators and duplicators. Too many young people are playing everything flawlessly, without any emotion or style behind it. Since the age of the internet, the learning curve for guitar has skyrocketed. More and more people are learning to play guitar faster and better at an early age, and of course I think it's a great thing, but it really takes time for a person to find their own voice. That is something that you can never learn quickly. It takes years - in some cases decades.

I guess if anything impresses me anymore, it's when someone's guitar style has aged like fine wine. Their own voice comes through no matter what they play, whether it's original songs, or arrangements. To me, that's the ultimate accomplishment.

As far as music on the internet is concerned, I'm a big fan. I love the internet. It has put everyone on the same level, to an extent. But there is a down side. It never has been easier to get heard, but it also has made it nearly impossible for musicians to make a living. Not that you can't make money, it's just much harder than it was. Piracy is a big factor, but the competition is insane.

You are on the world wide web, competing with literally millions of other artists. You don't need a record company any more, but you still need agents, PR people, and tour managers. Many musicians are stuck doing it all themselves, which causes us more stress and headaches in the long run. Trying to do it all yourself can really wear you down, so you have to be organized about it, and take breaks from the business once in awhile.

mwe3: What’s the plan to spread the word about Candlelight Utopia and what other plans do you have for you music now and in the coming year of 2015? What kind of album would you like to make next?

PATRICK WOODS: The plan for this year is to make some more videos, because I haven't done that in awhile. I'm going to be doing my regular shows around the Midwest, and I'll probably do a tour of the East Coast as well. My next acoustic album will probably be an EP of some cover arrangements that I have wanted to record for some time. I'm also doing a side project that involves my electric guitar. My work is never finished!


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