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Singer/songwriter hopes to inspire youth

| Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012, 9:13 p.m.

When Ligonier native Derek Woods was living in the back of a van on the streets of Los Angeles in 2008, he said every day he questioned whether he should continue pursuing a professional career in music.

“I had to just keep believing something was going to turn around,” the 24-year-old singer/songwriter said. “We just kept trusting ourselves that what we were doing the right thing.”

Within a month, Woods' band, The London, was in a professional recording studio working on its first album, “Young and in Love,” which was released in 2009.

With the taste of some success in Los Angeles, Woods is back in Ligonier, with a new band and a new mission — to offer inspiration to local youth, something he said was hard to come by during his childhood.

“In a small town, it's very hard to follow your dreams and get people to believe in you,” he said. “Even those closest to me told me, ‘Get a job, go to college, you can always go back to music,' but I knew I needed to do this. I just want people to open up and follow their dreams and not follow what society expects as ‘normal.'”

With his eyes rimmed in black eyeliner, shaggy, shoulder-length hair and black leather boots, Woods has never been into following society's expectations.

“I remember being the only kid in my school trying to get kids in the school band to start a band with me,” he said. “No one else my age wanted to be in a rock band.”

Instead of trying to fit into Ligonier's culture, he said he's hoping to fit Ligonier into the culture he's created.

“What I'm doing now, I've built from the ground up,” he said referring to the Derek Woodz Band, a six-person blues rock 'n roll band that performs locally and in Pittsburgh.

Woods writes all the songs for the band, inspired by Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones and Grateful Dead, he said.

They are currently recording an album to be released in February.

Woods, who spells his name “Woodz” for the stage, will perform with the Derek Woodz Band at 10 p.m. Dec. 21 at the Wicked Googly and in an acoustic duo at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 29 at the Ligonier Tavern.

He said he would describe the music as blues and rock 'n roll, but it's all very “danceable.”

“We like to get the crowd moving like one big community,” he said.

Server Cindy Vargulish said the Derek Woodz Band has brought a younger crowd into the Wicked Googly.

“The crowd seems to love him,” she said. “His fans have become our regulars.”

The Derek Woodz Band recently opened for Lisa Marie Presley at Mr. Small's in Millvale.

While he's trying to inspire others, Woods hasn't let go of his own dreams, which include touring across the United States and throughout Europe.

For more information or for a listing of upcoming shows of the Derek Woodz Band, go to

Jewels Phraner is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-850-1218 or