Review & Press Interview: ‘MJW1‘ by Michael J. Woodard

Introspective, but MichaelJ. Woodard tears your heart wide open with his carefully articulated lyrics. Messy but groovy, luscious but laid-back, the pop R&B artist contemplates the different shades of love and pain coiled in breathy, warm-brewed soundscapes. From past pains, toxic love, and unrequited situations, Woodard approaches each with care and sensibility, pulling your heartstrings in ways that you’ve not expected.

Signed to Katy Perry’s Capitol Records imprint Unsub Records, Woodard first came to the public eyes as a finalist on American Idol. His debut EP is a collection of songs that introduces him as a solo artist, not only as he is now, but also representing the path that he has walked through. Growing up in Philadelphia, the Philly-native artist is largely influenced by the church culture and community of the city. His music seeks to establish a deeper emotional connection with his listeners while pulling them into an heart space where one can heal and reflect.

”Ruined” speaks about the grief over a love that isn’t entirely over when the relationship is. Nearly all relationships see both persons bringing their baggages into the picture. “Broken-heart loves the broken hearted.” There’s still so much pulling toward the other person. Linger feelings and pain come strong in waves. “Oh, I ain’t gonna lie and pretend like I’m still healing/When seeing you happy just pulls me deeper.” Woodard easily pulls listeners into the storytelling, not too much words, not too many tears, but just enough to contemplate their own.

As a great storyteller, Woodard is the kind of artist who knows when to leave space and when to push in. He’s an artist with precision and careful vision. His music gives listeners space to ponder upon their own love and lost, at the same time, creating a smoothly pleasurable environment to uplift their spirits.

Written by Katrina Yang

Press Q&A with Michael J. Woodard

Q: How did your time on American Idols and mentorship help shape who you are as a musical artist?

Woodard: I always say that the American Idols experience is something you can’t buy. It gives you a stimulation of what the industry is like before you enter it, so it’s something I’m super grateful for. It really gives you a well-rounded experience where you can pull from the things, whether it’s tour or the aspect of performing in front of millions before there’s pressure to achieve commercial success. I think a lot of it is giving me so many things I continue to integrate into the career path I’m on today.

Q: How does growing up in Philly help influence your music and art to stake identity?

Woodard: Growing up in the church culture is huge. It’s one of the most prominent cultures in Philly. Just growing up in Philly and being raised in the church was the first thing that developed the ear when I came to enjoy with music. It taught me how to harmonize, how to put emotion into what I’m doing, and also the community in Philly as well. Everybody knows somebody that knows them. It’s huge but also super small. It supported me when I first started. Philly is everything.

Q: In what ways do you think your EP represents you as an artist?

Woodard: What you’re hearing is what I have been doing for the past 3 years. I think it’s very important putting out a project that not only tells you where I am now and where I was. I want my listeners to get an opportunity to grow with me. I want people to see where I started from.

Q: What’s the meaning behind “Ruined” and the music video?

Woodard: “Ruin” is a special record that really allows me to be vulnerable. “Ruin” is so stripped back. It’s very special to me in that way. I want it to be creative, giving you guys something pleasing visually, but I don’t want to do too much where it takes away from the song. We took the line where I do say “baggage.” We decided to get suitcases to be love interest in a way, where you do see me in my head, taking a detour to my head, and having a representation of what my past relationships were like. I try my best to not do too much but just enough.

Q: How has it felt putting your hard work into the world? Was there a song that you were most nervous about?

Woodard: It feels like a relief. It feels like all the hard work has paid off. It just feels good to share with the people who have been supporting me. The song that I was most nervous about is “24 Hours.” When you hear it, it doesn’t sound as current as a lot of songs that are out right now, which is on purpose. When I walked into the studio, I wanted to make something that was reminiscent of the early 2010s. I knew it would be a risk, but it was for me and hope that everybody likes it.

Q: Do you ever have trouble finding the words, whether it’s in life or in songwriting?

Woodard: I think that’s the beauty about music. It’s not so much as having trouble finding the words, but having trouble finding the words about a specific person. That is what really struck me in writing. It puts it in an intimate space because you’re sharing this with somebody that you really do love or like and you can’t communicate that to them. It really struck a chord in a lot of people’s heart, and that’s what struck a chord in my heart. There are times when you run into a person where you have your tongue tied, and being able to write that into a record and have instances where the lyrics don’t have sense. All that is on purpose to communicate the story.





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