“People waste their energy by speaking,” says Roy Woods, sipping from a glass of Heineken in the lobby of a hotel in downtown Toronto. “They don’t know how to listen. But when it comes to music, they shut the fuck up.”
It’s been just less than two months since the release of his debut album, ‘Say Less’, and the 21-year-old singer born Denzel Spencer from Brampton, Ontario, feels relieved to have finally shared the record with his fans. It’s been a long time coming; Roy admits that some of the songs were made well over two years ago, and he had a lot to get off his chest. “The body of work needed to be correct,” he explains. “It wasn’t an EP, it was an album and it was my first, so I took my time. With the EPs, I gave myself but not too much. For the album, that’s when you get all of me.”
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Roy was offered a deal by OVO Sound when he was just 19, following an online connection with label co-founder, Oliver El Khatib. “At the end of 2014, Oliver hit me up,” he recalls. “He found my music online and after that we kept linking up at the OVO store, he would pick me up at my crib, we’d go drive and shit. Then he mentioned signing to OVO one day and I was about it.” A year later he’d already built a significant buzz with the melodic ‘Exis’ EP that had many likening him to a raspy young Michael Jackson.
Since then his career has been a rollercoaster, forcing Roy to develop quickly as both an artist and a human being. He exudes a calm and confident attitude, akin to those who have been in the game for decades, and is already over the attraction of Toronto’s nightlife and industry parties. Instead, you’re more likely to catch Roy at home playing video games and watching documentaries about animals in Singapore. His best friend (and total opposite) is his youngest sister, who he encouraged to design the cover art for ‘Say Less’ so that she could have a platform for her hobby and get paid.
Unlike his peers, who are quick to air their feelings on social media or rap about their lavish lifestyles, Roy is hesitant to open up unless he is amongst very close friends or in the studio. “I can allow myself to be open, but more times I won’t,” he admits. “I’d rather the mic knows everything instead. It actually makes me a bit more lonely. [Music] is the only way I can express myself and nobody can tell me what I’m feeling is wrong. It’s the only way I can get out what I am thinking and heal myself.”
There’s power in vulnerability and Roy demonstrates this across a rich selection of 16 moody R&B tracks as part of ‘Say Less’. The album gives fans a closer look at the Guyanese singer’s relationships and gripes with love, growth, partners and sex, all from a breezy, unique perspective laced with Creolese. Graduating from SoundCloud, Roy has finally completed a body of work that seems to have been to be a real labour of love, displaying his emotional maturity with expertly crafted lyrics and sounds. While he’s clearly proud of his achievements, you won’t catch Roy basking in his glory for too long - he’s well aware that there are still ears to reach.
“Nobody is sleeping on Roy this year, that is not happening,” he states with determination. “Everybody is going to be woke for sure.”
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Words: Natasha Nanner
Photography: Dom Smith
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