Two summers ago, a nervous Art Woodward sat across from Nashville songwriting bigwigs Kerry Kurt Phillips and Jason Matthews at the Sandy Lee Watkins Songwriters Festival in Henderson, Ky., Woodward picked up his guitar and performed an original tune about a favorite vacation spot of his youth, Florida’s Lake Minneola. Phillips and Matthews told him the tune had potential, but Phillips, who has penned hits for country stars Joe Diffie, George Jones, and Tim McGraw, said it needed something … or someone. Matthews added, “You need a girl.”
“I had this nice little ditty about Lake Minneola,” recalls Woodward, an Evansville resident who owns Art & Copy Creative Services, “but just like any story, it needed conflict. Their advice helped me take it to the next level.”
The revised song, a tale of first love, became the title track for Woodward’s debut album, “Lake Minneola on My Mind,” released in February under the name Art the dude (Woodward’s nickname since college). Recorded at Ashbrooke Studios in Evansville with Scott Brown as sound engineer, the album features 20 local musicians, including vocalists Gina Moore and Andrea Wirth, multi-instrumentalist Monte Skelton, and Grammy Award-winning bassist Jeff “Stick” Davis. The album, on which Woodward performs vocals, guitar, and harmonica, defies genre limitations, channeling rock, blues, country, and more.
His chief musical inspiration comes from his subconscious. He wrote the album’s opening track, “Happy to Be Here,” after dreaming that he was in a café where a patron played the song on a jukebox.
One of the songs Woodward holds dearest was released as a stand-alone track to raise funds for John Miller, a guitarist, former partner, and photographer with Photics, LLC, and stroke survivor. While Miller’s stroke affected the right side of his body, he still plays guitar with his left hand and recorded several tracks for Woodward’s album. “He Plays With Fire” is available for download at cdbaby.com/cd/heplayswithfire.
Woodward earned an endorsement from acoustic guitar manufacturer Boulder Creek Guitars (he is pictured on the firm’s website, bouldercreekguitars.com), an honor bestowed to the likes of guitarists for Garth Brooks, Faith Hill, and Taylor Swift.
Woodward will hold a CD re-release party April 15 at Lamasco Bar and Grill. “Lake Minneola on My Mind” is available for purchase through artthedude.com, Barnes and Noble, Amazon, and iTunes.