Aspiring singer Micah Woods thought he’d become white noise to the patrons at the 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge in DuMBO where he’d been playing covers bi-weekly since 2017.
“It was just one of those gigs where most people weren’t really listening,” Woods, 25, says.
Except four-time Grammy winner Shania Twain.
The "Man! I Feel Like a Woman!" singer was hiding in the crowd one evening this past summer as Woods performed his rendition of “Blue” by LeAnn Rimes, he later found out. Twain, a judge of USA Network’s new reality competition series “Real Country,” tells the story of how she hand-selected Woods to appear as a contestant on an episode that aired Monday night.
“I heard the story from her now,” Woods, a Bedford-Stuyvesant resident, says. “She said she’d gotten out of the elevator to go to sound check and ‘heard the voice of an angel.’ She said she was like, ‘I have to go see what this girl looks like.’ She turned the corner and saw me, a bearded black man.”
Twain was staying as a guest at the hotel ahead of her July Barclays Center concert. “I remember so vividly now she sent her husband [Frederic Thiebaud] up to me and he asked me to play a few more country songs,” he explains.
The next day, Woods received an email from the casting producers behind “Real Country,” requesting he appear alongside 20 other singers on the then-upcoming series that offers the chance to win up to $100,000 and a spot at Nashville’s historic Grand Ole Opry.
“It’s like one of those New York stories you don’t really hear about happening anymore,” says Woods. “I was in disbelief. I’d been working so hard with performing in the city and putting myself out there as much as I can, so to get recognition from someone I looked up to as a kid makes it so worth it.”
Woods grew up in Los Angeles, California, and moved to Brooklyn three years ago to pursue a career in music. While many other contestants on the show have Nashville backgrounds, Woods says he wouldn’t trade his experience trying to break into the niche genre of country music in a city known as the birthplace of hip-hop.
“It has its challenges, obviously, because not every venue here wants to host a country music singer considering what’s running the charts right now,” he explains. But the singer found a way to make it work, mixing sounds of pop and soul into his country covers.
He landed gigs at popular local venues including The Bitter End, Rockwood Music Hall and The Bowery Electric, earning him the title of “Brooklyn’s new star,” according to the New York Post.
But his biggest break came on July 14 when Twain left her hotel room for her Barclays Center sound check. In the midst of a tour promoting her latest album, “NOW,” the ’90s country star was also seeking out talent for “Real Country."
“I’m interested in bringing back diversity to the genre,” Twain, 53, says in the episode. And Woods, in essence, does just that.
“Being a black, gay man, making country music is about as diverse as it gets,” he says, laughing, “and it’s something I don’t want to shy away from. As scary as it is to think there are many people who won’t listen to my music because of that, there are also a lot of kids who I hope are watching and saying, ‘He looks like me. He talks like me.’”
Breaking away from his cover-track days, Woods has recently released his own single that blends together what he says makes him unique. “Chasing Boys,” which hit Spotify on Nov. 16, tells an LGBTQ love story that’s gone largely untold in the country genre, with the exception of tracks like Kacey Musgraves’ "Follow Your Arrow," Luke Bryan's "Most People Are Good" and Garth Brooks’ "We Shall Be Free."
“‘Chasing Boys’ is a queer country song, which isn’t done very often, and my manager and I were like, 'I just don’t know if people are going to listen to it, if it’ll be accepted in the scene.'”
So far, the track has landed him on a Rolling Stone roundup of the “10 Best Country, Americana Songs of the Week” and he’s been applauded by Twitter fans who say they’re happy to see themselves represented in a country track.
“To be accepted feels amazing. … I really want to have the chance to share my music with as many people as possible,” he says. Currently recording an EP, he hopes to head out on tour after his “Real Country” appearance and eventually open for a star such as Musgraves or Twain.
Woods first appeared on “Real Country” Monday and progressed to the second round of the competition. He was eliminated the following night.