Grant Woods and Walt Richardson
Grant Woods and Walt Richardson

You don’t need a beard or bed head to make a musical statement these days. In fact, you can be the former attorney general of Arizona and drop an album to save Arizona if you want to.

And that’s exactly what former AG (1991-1999) Grant Woods has done.

Woods grew up in the ‘70s — the heyday of songwriters Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Jackson Brown, Kris Kristofferson. (Grant is also inspired by Bob Marley and Bruce Springsteen.) Music has always been important to the former Arizona attorney general, who notably had Simon & Garfunkel lyrics displayed beneath a photo of him and a man named Preacher in his office while AG.

An avid writer, Woods decided to pick up the guitar about 10 years ago to start fine-tuning his songwriting. Now, it has materialized into a 10-track album featuring Arizona musicians.
It wasn’t a great master plan, he says.

“Everyone was excited to be involved in something that reflected positively on Arizona and showed us for what we really are, which is a diverse, open state,” Woods says. “The arts are very important here. Music is very important here. In that world, they’re about inclusion rather than exclusion, supportive rather than divisive. That’s what Arizona is about…If you listen to (the album) and see who is involved, it makes the point.”

Grant Woods and Nils Lofgren
Grant Woods and Nils Lofgren

The album, titled “The Project,” because a better name never came up, featured Nils Lofgren, Gin Blossoms’ Scott Johnson, Hans Olson and Walt Richardson as well as a few less established standout musicians such as Blaine Long. Like the guest musicians, the genres are unique to the performers who were able to take some artistic licenses in style.

“Everybody (in Arizona) is from someplace else. I’m not, but everyone else is,” Woods says. “That maybe doesn’t give you a distinctive sound, but it gives you a variety and depth other places may not have. We’re lucky here.”

The album was recorded at Sean Cooney’s 3 Leaf Recording Studio in Phoenix and is being released on Bright Angel Records. Though all 10 songs were written by Woods, he doesn’t appear anywhere on “The Project.”

“I avoided singing or playing,” he says. “The playing would have been a bad joke with these people in there. For me to pick up a guitar with Scotty Johnson or Nils Lofgren would have been the equivalent of me picking up a bat and pinch hit at a Diamondbacks game.”

However, the chance to hear Woods perform one of his originals isn’t completely out in left field. He’s hosting a charity concert at Orpheum Theatre on September 18, where the musicians on the album will perform — and are urging Woods to do so as well. The concert will benefit the Arizona School for the Arts, attended by Woods’ daughter. Tickets are $22.

Quick hits by Grant Woods:

One song every person needs to hear: “Me and Bobby McGee” – Kris Kristofferson

“The Project” is best paired with: SOL Mexican beer

The album is available through online streaming services and to download via iTunes.