Sitting at the Grammy Awards show in February, the suspense was building for Flossmoor’s Juan Woodbury.
“I’ve had the benefit in the past of winning awards, and you kind of know when you’re going to win,” Woodbury said. “But at the Grammys, you really don’t know.”
He had heard the name repeated the same way, several times: J. Ivy, “The Poet Who Sat By The Door.” But when the presenter started to call the winner for the first Best Spoken Word Poetry Album award ever to be handed out at the Grammys, Woodbury heard something else.
She said, “The …”
In that moment, Woodbury was sure the album on which he served in three production roles had just been relegated to the list of nominees that did not claim the award — a prestigious list, though one in which the names do not appear in bold to indicate the top prize. But it turned out to be a “wait for it” kind of moment.
“… Poet Who Sat By The Door,” she finished.
“I was so used to hearing ‘J’ first,” Woodbury said. “We screamed. It’s phenomenal.”
J. Ivy, a Southland native himself, proceeded to take the stage to thank a number of people, including the teacher who first encouraged him to perform. Woodbury called it an “amazing” night that brought more attention to the project and opened new doors for those involved.
“We got a chance to make history,” Woodbury said. “J’s the first poet to win this category. … It’s getting around. People are seeing this. I just keep on pinching myself.”
Woodbury served as a producer, album producer and executive producer on the album. He worked with J. Ivy on various projects over the years before they did “The Poet Who Sat By The Door.” And Woodbury said he realized they had something special on their hands even in the midst of recording it.
“When we were putting it together, it was magic,” Woodbury said. “I’ve always realized J’s a special artist. When you meet him, he’s very special, very bright.”
The album they built was done through a great deal of global collaboration. In fact, Woodbury can trace the path of just one track, “Vibrations II,” from Chicago to London to Belfast to China to Nashville and back to Chicago again. All of that for an album he called “completely independent.”
“It was just the level of detail that went into this and the production — it was great,” Woodbury said. “Everyone just rallied together to do something really special. I look forward to doing it again.”
And he will. Woodbury is already getting ready to team up with J. Ivy for another project. Woodbury also recently acquired the rights to the music of a famous jazz person he could not yet name for an upcoming project.
“I’ve got some incredible projects coming down the pike,” Woodbury said.
How Woodbury describes his profession depends on who is asking. He started in creative, then became a producer, then did both at the same time. In total, he works in more than a half-dozen disciplines but concentrates on music. Depending on the project, he is a director, photographer, television producer, music producer, experiential creative director and producer, and a designer.
Over the years, he has earned the nickname Mr. Wolf, though his official title for Dentsu Creative is executive vice president, global head of branded content and entertainment. And he tries to find a happy medium between his beginnings in creative and advertising.
“The goal was to combine the forces of entertainment and advertisement together,” Woodbury said. “It’s been in its own silos. But I feel like where the world is going now is it’s coming together.”
For more information about Woodbury and his work, visit juanwoodbury.com or follow him on Instagram @djsd.
Story updated April 2 to correct Mr. Woodbury’s title information.