After the 2008 death of his beloved dog and the downfall of his record deal, Leucadia singer-songwriter Alex Woodard looked for a sign. He instead received a letter.
“When the record deal fell apart, everything else fell apart,” Woodard said. “You make a lot of sacrifices for this job. After 15 years, when you look at your hands and they still look kind of empty, it’s a pretty sobering feeling.”
Around that time, Connecticut resident Emily Jackson came across Woodard’s MySpace page, which featured an expired promotion: Woodard would write a song for anyone who pre-ordered his self-titled release and sent him a personal story.
Jackson, who had been grieving the death of her boyfriend, sent Woodard a note and a copy of a posthumous love letter she had written to her boyfriend.
“I ended up being really moved by it,” Woodard explained. “This letter mirrored what I was going through.”
Woodard shared Jackson’s letter with fellow singer-songwriter Sean Watkins of Nickel Creek, and inspired by the words, they collaborated on a song called “For the Sender.”
“It’s about how a letter is like a prayer in that it’s more for the sender,” Woodard said. “I sent it to her and she liked it, and that started the whole thing. I really liked that feeling of doing something for somebody else.”
As more letters came in, Woodard continued to collaborate with other artists.
One song turned into a dozen, and in addition to an album, he created an accompanying book, “For the Sender: Four Letters. Twelve Songs. One Story.” The 2012 set became a three-part book, album and concert series, with the second album and book, “For the Sender: Love Is (Not a Feeling),” published at the start of 2014.
“This project has given me a whole new direction. It’s given me new life,” Woodard said.
“This whole thing was about letting go of me. It was other people’s stories, and I had other people sing them and other people help me write. It was really liberating, because I spent so many years just doing it all for me.”
Once again working with others, Woodard is hosting a benefit concert Dec. 14 for Switchfoot’s Bro-Am Foundation at the Belly Up Tavern in Solana Beach, where he and his collaborators will share the stories of the letters.
Sara and Sean Watkins of Nickel Creek, Jordan Pundik of New Found Glory, Molly Jenson, Nena Anderson, Andy Powers and Woodard will take the stage to sing songs from the “For the Sender” series. Event proceeds will benefit the Bro-Am Foundation, which supports underprivileged youth in the community.
“We’ll take these letters and tell the stories about them,” Woodard said. “You’ll hear the people who wrote them read the letters and we’ll perform the songs about them. It’s a multimedia experience, and it’s pretty special.”
The concert begins at 8 p.m. Tickets cost $18 in advance and $20 the day of the event.
“These stories are really powerful,” Woodard said. “It’s something that’s going to leave you feeling very hopeful and happy to be alive.”
For information or to buy tickets, visit www.bellyup.com.