Arizona Artbeat: Grant Woods “The Project”

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See how former Arizona Attorney General Grant Woods gathered local musicians to put together an album of songs he’s penned in an album titled “The Project.”

TED SIMONS: Tonight editions of Arizona Artbeat looks at an artistic endeavor from former attorney general Grant Woods, who served as the state's top law enforcement officer for eight years. Today, Woods is serving the state in a very different way. Producer Christina Estes and photographer Scot Olsen show us how.

GRANT WOODS: So the things I would like to cover.

CHRISTINIA ESTES: Attorney general Grant Woods is holding court inside Three Leaf Recording Studio.
GRANT WOODS: The way I have this sketched out, they're going to be doing a lot.

CHRISTINIA ESTES: This group has already done a lot, donating their time and talents to the project. What started as a way to highlight Arizona musicians quickly became something more.

GRANT WOODS: Everyone viewed it as a chance to kind of show Arizona in a different light than sometimes, it's portrayed. It's not all divisive ideological splits. It's a very welcoming place. It's a very diverse place. It's not a balkanized place in my view.

CHRISTINIA ESTES: To see that, Woods says, you just need to listen.

GRANT WOODS: The first song on the record is called Ride Out the Storm. And when I wrote Ride Out the Storm, I envisioned that it could be done in my mind either of two ways. You could either do it in your traditional singer song writer slash country version Americana version, maybe a Willie Nelson type, something like that. Or it could be done as kind of the power rock ballad. So maybe a Meatloaf or Kid Rock.

CHRISTINIA ESTES: Or Michael Nitros.

GRANT WOODS: At 2:00 in the morning he did his first vocal on it and it was absolutely on the money.

CHRISTINIA ESTES: Each song from the project started like this. Woods penned all 10 songs.

GRANT WOODS: I viewed this as a collaborative effort. I wanted them to run with it and put their own stamp on it.

CHRISTINIA ESTES: And they did. Listen to Mindy Harris's take on blues hotel.
MUSIC: I've got the lights down low nowhere else to go

CHRISTINIA ESTES: And here how Lauren Zubia interpreted Mexican Dreams.

MUSIC: I came here to get away what would happen if I just stayed in my Mexican dreams everything isn't how it seems

WALT RICHARDSON: His lyric writing was jumping out all over the place for me.

CHRISTINIA ESTES: Walt Richardson jumped at the chance to be part of the project. We caught up with him at the CD release party.

WALT RICHARDSON: It paints a different picture of Arizona and it also tells a deeper story of Arizona I think that is time to get out.

GRANT WOODS: They traveled the country or the world and they say they're from Arizona. And oftentimes, they get kind of a look or a reaction, like why would you live in Arizona? Because maybe those people have only heard some of the craziness that's come out of Arizona.

WALT RICHARSON: Arizona has a great story behind the scenes and music is a great place to start, because the musicians that have started out on mill avenue have toured the world and people wonder where did this come from? And you say Tempe, Arizona, they go well, where's that? But if you fall back, you'll see that there's a lot of musicians right here that don't play the same way they play in L.A., don't go to Nashville, they haven't gone to Seattle because there's an organic feel right here that's natural to Arizona. And now, the spotlight is shifting to that.

CHRISTINIA ESTES: They also hope to shine a light on the next generation.

WALT RICHARDSON: The main thing, especially related to this project, is that we keep funding any part of the education system that's going to reach into the creative nature of children, because we lose that and as adults we have to regain it, and it's always a struggle to regain it in the midst of raising kids, having a profession, things of this nature. But if it's brought up as a natural part of our growth in the education system, supported there, then these kids don't have a problem going out and supporting their art, even if they want to be a neurosurgeon, they'll still learn to play the saxophone and be in a jazz band.

CHRISTINIA ESTES: Or in the case of one former attorney general, set aside politics and pick up a guitar.

GRANT WOODS: I've been to 10 million political events unfortunately. And, you know, even the successful people in the room, they're always looking over their shoulder, they're always looking beyond the person they're talking to and they're always -- there's jockeying for positions. There's only a certain number of positions okay, so they're well, I don't want that guy to do well because, you know, he may run for this office and that blocks me and all this nonsense, constantly. We had when the record was done the singers had not heard the -- most of the singers had not heard the other people's songs so we had a party at my house where everybody came over. The musicians, the singers, and then we listened to the record. And I'm telling you it was really an amazing experience. For everybody. Everyone in there was pulling for everybody else. And they were genuinely excited, playing along is a good example. Some of the people in the room had not ever heard Wayne Long. They heard him sing the song called Me and the Preacher. Phenomenal, beautiful voice, great song writer. They were blown away. And all positive. All they wanted was to have everybody succeed. All they wanted was to have everybody succeed, at the end of it to have something we could really be proud of, and to be moved by.

TED SIMONS: A concert to benefit the Arizona School For the Arts will take place Friday night in downtown Phoenix. You can learn more at the theprojectaz.com. That is it for now, I'm Ted Simons. Thank you so much for joining us. You have a great evening.

VIDEO: "Arizona Horizon" is made possible by contributions from the Friends of Eight, members of your Arizona PBS station. Thank you.

VIDEO: "Arizona Artbeat" is made possible in part by the Flynn foundation, supporting the advancement of arts and culture in Arizona.

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