Chris Wood talks about starting the Wood Brothers with his brother, their father's folkie influence, and writing great songs that don't make perfect sense. Chris also sets up and plays three tracks from The Muse.
- Be So Fine / Left Lane Cruiser / Rock Them Back To Hell! / 4:28
- Where You Gonna Leave Me / Rob Nance / Lost Souls And Locked Doors / 2:14
- Goat Meat / North Mississippi Allstars / World Boogie Is Coming / 3:46
- The Gift / Tony Joe White / Hoodoo / 4:24
- How Much Can A Man Take / Big John Hamilton / The South Side Of Soul Street: The Minaret Soul Singles 1967-1976 Disc 1 / 2:47
- Smiles at the Door / Mando Saenz / Studebaker / 3:34
- Parts Unknown / Big Sandy & His Fly-Rite Boys / What A Dream It's Been / 3:33
- Suddenly You / Motel Mirrors / Motel Mirrors / 2:35
- Don't Lie / Tim Easton / Not Cool / 2:18
Wood Brothers Info
Calvin talks to Chris Wood of the Wood Brothers about working in two very different bands, Medeski Martin & Wood and The Wood Brothers. Chris says that question comes up a lot. Chris says, “I think what people don't understand is that the influences for Medeski Martin & Wood and the influences for The Wood Brothers are maybe at least 80% the same music. A lot of the reason they sound so different has to do with the setting in which we got together. Medeski Martin & Wood is a band that formed in New York City, in the downtown music scene. Even though we have a lot of the same folk, jazz, blues, R&B roots kind of influences as the Wood Brothers does, we also had about 10% of some real fringe stuff. and we were in this environment, this very creative music environment that encourage trying to find new ways of playing your instrument, new sounds.” Chris goes on to say, “The influence for the Wood Brothers, it's a lot of the same stuff we were listening to in the van with MMW.”
Chris Wood talks about growing up with his brother Oliver and setting the stage for the Wood Brothers. “In the house, when we were kids, we were listening to my father sing. He was kind of a folkie in that late-50's Cambridge folk scene. He did stuff at Harvard at a radio show he had and he played a lot with Joan Baez. We experienced a lot of that as kids so we are exploring some of our roots through this music."
Calvin asks about the impetus that cause Chris and Oliver to decide to start a band together. Chris says, “It's easy to assume in hind-sight that any of us knew what the hell we were doing, growing up. And trying to figure out what to do with our careers and lives. When I moved to New York City I just knew I was interested in jazz and I wanted to be a jazz musician. I didn't really know what that meant, I just knew that New York City would be a good place to do it. The next thing I knew I met John Medeski and Billy Martin and got involved in this instrumental band and we were touring around the country in a van, like a Rock & Roll band playing this weird instrumental music that had a beat that people could dance to so it caught on. I was just focusing on that, making the best of what was happening, not really knowing where it was taking me and what the future was going to hold. It took 15-20 years of doing that before I looked up and it kind of happened on a double-bill with Oliver's band. He sat in with Medeski Martin & Wood and that's when I realized, 'Hey, my brother has the same job, he's really good at it, he's a great player, and a great singer and a great songwriter. It makes sense that we should do something together.''
Calvin notes that not only is there a musical influence overlap, there's a production overlap. John Medeski produced the first two Wood Brothers albums. “John is also like a brother for me and someone who has worked a lot with vocalists. I he grew up being involved in a all kinds of musical productions with musical theater, singing. He accompanied a lot of vocalists, so he has knowledge of that world and he has a great intuitive sense of what music good. He has that magic producer intangible thing that makes people feel good in the studio. So in some ways he was a real natural choice for the Wood Brothers early on to bridge the gap between Medeski Martin & Wood and the Wood Brothers.
Calvin asks about the production of The Muse. Chris says that they were able to get Buddy Miller to produce this one. Chris recently moved to Nashville, and my brother moved to Nashville a little over a year ago. The band's drummer Jano Rix has been living in Nashville for the past seven years although is is originally a New Yorker. We're a Nashville band now so it was appropriate that Buddy Miller who's staple Nashville musician, producer, songwriter. It was perfect that we would be the producer of this album.
Chris sets up “Neon Tombstone”. He says, “Neon Tombstone” is a good example of the collaborative nature of our writer. That's a tune where I'd written a chorus but had no verses. And Oliver had written some verses that had no chorus. And when I showed him the Chorus, he said, 'hey I think I have some verses that will work with that.” We slapped them together worked out the music for it. I think a lot of great songs, they don't make perfect sense. Some of the best songs, the most memorable songs, there's mystery in the song, you don't quite know what it means but it gives you a feeling. We felt like we achieved a little bit of that with this song.”
[Calvin plays “Neon Tombstone” from The Muse by The Wood Brothers.]
Calvin asks Chris if the song writing aspects of the Wood Brothers has been part of the appeal to him or did it feel like a chore to write songs after the MMW experience. Chris says “I love writing. I wrote songs before I was part of Medeski Martin & Wood. It's just another element.” He goes on to say, “just in the way instrumental music can have mystery to it. It can leave some phrases unfinished. Some ideas unfinished and let the listener fill in the blanks with their imagination. It's the same way with lyric writing. Some songs are better than others. No one knows exactly why that is. But I think one of the reasons is that a good song leaves some space for whoever's listening to it to fill in some of those blanks and that gives them a personal connection with the song.
Chris Wood set up “Who The Devil”. “Who The Devil is a tune that developed in bits and pieces over time and is definitely one of the songs on the record that was definitely not finished when we got into the studio. What we like about that is that it maintained a spontaneous feel …. As we pieced together the arrangement in the studio, it still had some of the magic of us listening to each other and figuring out the arrangement.”
[Calvin plays “Who The Devil” from The Muse by The Wood Brothers.]
Calvin asks about the roots music acts that they are following or find inspiration in these days,” Chris says they have been into Shovels And Rope, Chris says “We've been big fans of them, their sound, their approach, their attitude. They have a great combination of folk and roots/Americana I guess you'd say, but they definitely have the spirit of rock and roll.”
Chris Wood sets up “Honey Jar.” He says, “Honey jar is a song that started with a riff, a certain groove and bass line. Oliver got inspired from the groove and wrote the lyrics.
[Calvin plays “Honey Jar” from The Muse by the Wood Brothers. ]
Americana Music Show
- Subscribe by email, by iTunes, or by RSS. It’s all free and you won’t miss an episode.
- Visit the episode list to listen to past episodes
The Americana Music Show is podsafe and copyright 2013 by Taproot Media. The music and interviews in this episode are used with permission of the artists.
If you have any feedback for this episode or any other episode feel free to leave a comment on the episode page or send mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.