Wood’s most recent album Love, Death & Customer Service is her eighth album and second self-produced record released under her own label, Bad Art Records. Wood has almost thirty movie and television songwriting credits. The songstress with the romantically etched alto vocals has appeared as both a soloist and background vocalist for a number of top performers such as the Doobie Brothers, Kim Carnes, Patsy Moore and Albert Hammond. She has authored songs that have been recorded and performed by numerous high profile artists including, Cher, Leo Sayer, Nicolette Larson, Billy Preston, Warren Hill, Johnny Mathis and Dusty Springfield. These accomplishments only begin to scratch the surface of Lauren Wood’s career.
Wood’s music as evidenced with Love, Death & Customer Service is elegant and picturesque. She is not a follower but an innovator. She has remained alive and excited about both her music and her life.
"My parents were always really supportive of my music. My mother always taught me that the glass is half full not half empty. I come into life with that," says Wood and then continues, "My family is also very funny. There was nothing that I could do that was too silly and didn’t make my mother laugh. They (her parents) were both really supportive of all of my whacky ideas."
Wood recalls something her parents said to her when she was a small child: "You are so brilliant cookie face. You can do anything. Just do it."
I was raised with a really good and fun loving attitude. All you had to do was put your mind to it and do it. I was taught that there were not limitations and I was taught to have a good sense of humor."
The desire to have fun and thoroughly enjoy life is imprinted on Wood’s personality. "I think once I decide to do a record, I just have to have fun with it. I can’t just put a record out (based upon) what is going on in the industry," she says.
Wood is not content to fit into a mold. "I have never had music that was happening at the time. (I ask) what type of music would be fun for me to make now?"
Although Wood is promoting her most recent studio adventure to smooth jazz and adult contemporary radio stations, her music is a great example of genre blending and creating tones that have no particular genre to call their own. "My music is always a little hybrid. That is the kind of music that I like and cut my teeth on," she says.
"The kind of music that I love can’t be classified Joni Mitchell, Paul Simon, Randy Newman. Sting keeps moving into different things. Music that isn’t exactly anything and the minute the person sings you go, 'Oh that sound, that vocal, that lyric, that melody," says Wood. She also confesses to being a big Beatles fan. When she was a girl, she had a crush on Paul McCartney.
"I just go with my creative instincts and it leads me to different places on different albums. I am never going in one direction. It is as though each album is its own symphony. It is whatever I am feeling at the time, whatever is fun. I have never been able to direct myself to do anything that is commercial. Whenever I tried (to do that) I just completely lost my bearings," Wood admits.
There is no indication that Wood lost her way with Love, Death & Customer Service. In fact, the music suggests the contrary. The recording may be her best solo outing yet. She possesses a gift for creating wispy romantic songs that bare her soul.
"I think (it comes from) my love of melody," says Wood speaking about her flair for the romantic. "I think I am a very softhearted person and a very compassionate person. It comes from my heart. My deepest expression is very soft edged. I find that a lot of today’s music is not very soft edged. It is all about me, I am better than you. There is a lot of good music out there if you dig for it. There is a lot of bad music out there too. There is a glut of very bad, hard-edged, cold music that I don’t relate to."
Where does Woods’ inspiration for her music come from? "Usually I will be in my studio at the keyboard and noodling around on it. I will be playing an old song and I will play the wrong chord and go, 'Oohhh that’s kind of weird, that’s pretty.' Now where would I go with that weird chord?" she says.
At other times, "I will be noodling around and will feel this energy bubbling up inside of me. I will just start noodling around on the keyboard and will come up with a series of pretty chords. I will ask, "What is the prettiest melody that I can put to that?" says Wood. She will often drive around in her car with the series of chords playing in the background and start to form lyrics in her head.
"Something may be bubbling underneath and it will just happen to come out in a lyric. I will go, 'That’s what I have been thinking about. There it is!' For me, it is usually music bubbling underneath first," she says. The songwriter says that often her lyrics will originate with something she is going through in her own life at the time.
When it came time to record Love, Death & Customer Service Lauren Wood, the producer, surrounded herself with old friends she trusted. Wood says, "The reason that I use these players and the reason I don’t sequence a lot is because I want what they bring to it. I know this group of musicians is going to bring me beautiful gifts that I could never think of. I will always have the last say and I may say how about more like this. These are really, really, special musicians who bring me wonderful ideas. It is a collaborative effort."
Wood does, however, exert her influence as a producer and knows what she wants to hear. "Sometimes I have something that I desperately need to have in a song and I will say this song needs to have this," she says.
Wood takes time to speak warmly about the musicians who appeared on Love, Death & Customer Service. "A lot of them are my best buddies or cohorts that I have worked with for years. This includes (my cousin) Novi on viola and her boyfriend Larry Tuttle on stand-up bass. Novi comes with things that are exquisitely beautiful. She and I can look at each other and we know where we are going. We have been playing together for so long that there is no one that is more in tune with me than Novi and I with her. It is almost as if we are twins with mental telepathy. I had Larry play mostly acoustic bass."
Wood continues, "I always use my favorite guitarist in the world and good friend Larry Treadwell. He is unbelievable. What comes out of Larry Treadwell’s guitar is so unexpected. You never know what kind of gifts he is going to bring to the session. It is always so much fun recording with Larry Treadwell."
The beats for Love, Death & Customer Service were a community effort. Wood plays some percussion, Peter Bunetta sparkled behind the kick drum and on the toms and Arnold Lucas also plays percussion. Bunetta produced Wood’s Cat Trick CD. He also was one of the producers for the song "Fallen."
"Billy Payne on keyboards was a really important element on this record. He played all the keyboards that I can’t play. I have a good feel but I play simple and straight ahead. If there are funkier things that I need or a New Orleans kind of feel, he is brilliant. He was a huge contributor to this album," says Woods.
Wood recruited three friends for vocals. Vicki Randle sang counterpoint on "Come Live With Me," while Stephen Bishop who she refers to as one of her dearest friends, appears on the song "You Are Mine." Chris Montan, now an executive with Disney, provided vocals for "Contradictions," a single Wood released to radio in January.
"It is really important to me that the record is elegant. That is exactly what I was trying to go for. I wanted it to have a lilt to it. I wanted it to sound really wide and for you to hear all the delicate intricacies and all of the things that I worked so hard and for so long putting into this record," says Wood. She accomplished just that as Love, Death & Customer Service is one of the prettier albums to come our way in a long time.