Smitty: It give me great pleasure to welcome one of the hippest cats in the business. I am just stoked to have him here for the first time at Jazz Monthly. He’s a friend and a great musician, and he just has a rare flair for great music. You’ve got to hear his latest new CD. It’s called The Hear and Now. Please welcome the incredible and so talented Mr. William Woods. William, how ya doin’?
William Woods (WW): Oh, very well and it’s really an honor to be interviewed by you.
Smitty: Oh my gosh. Well, it’s…
WW: We’ve been tagging back and forth with e-mails for many years and it’s really a pleasure to finally get to talk to you.
Smitty: Thank you, and same here. I really got excited when we finally nailed down a time and everything, and I remember saying that this is just so long overdue with all the great music that you have done over the past few years. I’m still listening to Cobalt Blue and Every Part of Me, and now I’m so excited about this new record, The Hear and Now. But, just take us back a little bit, because you are an oncologist and you deal with cancer patients everyday. What came first? Was it the music or the profession in the medical field?
WW: Music came way, way, way before any inkling I was gonna be going into medicine. I grew up in a musical household, not so much in terms of listening to records or whatever, but listening to my dad play the violin. He was a professional musician, got out of it, went into business for himself, but always had that yearning and that desire to play, so it was a very musical household. They encouraged me from a very early age to take up music and kinda pushed the violin on me briefly. That really didn’t work out.
WW: But I found a home with the piano and just kinda delved into composition and improvisation, which was where my home was.
Smitty: Yeah. But how did the keyboard replace the violin? Because when our parents give us an instrument, sometimes it’s hard to convince them that we want to play something else.
WW: Well, there was a piano in the home. When I hit a note, I knew what note was gonna come out of the piano whereas on the violin, it was always pretty nebulous.
Smitty: (Laughs.) Wow. When you first started to really tighten your chops with the keyboard, did you form a band right away or were you doing a solo thing as far as playing music?
WW: Actually, my background was very much in the classical realm and it was only when I was in my teens that I started getting into rock and jazz came a little later than that even. So I was a little behind on schedule, if you will, but in high school I was in the jazz band at school, I had some friends, we had a small band of our own, but nothing much to speak of there.
Smitty: I remember you saying something about dreaming of being a classical pianist and now you’re just cranking out these great jazz tunes. How did you switch gears?
WW: I guess as a kid, you know, I’d lived through all the 20th century classical composers, you know, (Prokofiev, Rachmaninov) and just in absolute awe of the technical ability that they had and the incredible music that they were pouring out. But then I came to the realization that that era, what was said was said as particularly as it could be said and things had moved on from there and I made a decision that I want to be part of something new, a new means of expression. I mean, music is constantly evolving. Emotions are being expressed in different voices in different ways constantly and the real challenge and the real beauty is putting one’s own spin on it in a way that hasn’t been said before.
Smitty: Yeah, and it’s always beautiful to see those creative expressions happening.
WW: Oh, absolutely. It never ceases to amaze me, even today, just how much new and innovative modes of expression are coming out in music.
Smitty: Yes indeed. And I think that’s such a catalyst for greater music down the road.
WW: Yeah. I’m just praying that there’s always a forum for that music to be heard.
Smitty: Yes, and I think there will be. Just like the music evolves and changes all the time, I think the outlets are starting to do that now, and change can sometimes be a difficult thing, but when we look at the bright side of that, the change is still creating opportunities and maybe perhaps as this change is taking place….there’s some limitations there….but I think in the long run that will expand and start to widen to where we will see other outlets and we’ll see other opportunities and advantages because when the Internet was first invented, it was limited. In fact, it was only limited to certain people, certain companies, and in fact that was the intent, but now look at the Internet.
WW: I was just gonna bring that up. I think that the Internet has been an amazing source of exposure for musicians who otherwise would not have a venue.
WW: And personally, I mean, I have heard a whole lot of music that I otherwise never would have. It’s been very enriching.
Smitty: Yes. So I think as we continue to inspire each other in this business, I think we will see more happening as time goes along, but it takes a little bit of patience to do that because we’re such instantaneous and instant gratification-type people, that we want it now or we want it like it used to be because that seemed to be okay, but sometimes accepting change is a difficult thing, but if we work with the change to create some different opportunities and avenues and vehicles, then perhaps we really become part of the new way of doing business in this whole arena of music.
WW: Yeah, I think if a person accepts change, then the avenues just expand tremendously.
Smitty: Yeah, absolutely. So I really feel like we’ve got some exciting times ahead in terms of music and the outlets and the way we will listen and how we listen.
WW: Yeah, it’s gonna be very exciting watching it happen and, more importantly being part of it.
Smitty: Yeah, absolutely, my friend, yes. So talk to me about the medical field. I mean, most of the time when musicians start out they stick with just one profession. It’s the music and there might be a hobby or something along the way, but you have reached out to a very demanding field and yet you’re still able to kick out a record every year or a couple of records a year, you know? That’s gotta be incredible.
WW: It can be tough and especially because I have a family now. It’s a balancing act, but each one feeds on the other.