The Wood Brothers

By on January 30, 2020
The Wood Brothers Chris and Oliver Wood.

The Wood Brothers Chris and Oliver Wood.

The Wood Brothers Band, brothers Oliver and Chris Wood and percussionist and multi-instrumentalist Jano Rix play an 8:00PM show at the Kodak Center, 200 West Ridge Road, on February 5, 2020.

Brothers Oliver and Chris Wood had their start in Boulder, Colorado in a musical family. Their father Bill Wood, who is a biologist by trade, was a folk musician in his younger years. “Our father was serious about his music as a young man. He had some success as a folkie and played with many folk groups including musician Joan Baez. He was always playing music, we kind of took it for granted as kids. Chris and I were both influenced by him, he knew hundreds of songs and had an extensive record collection,” Oliver Wood said. As teenagers the brothers played music together while growing up. 

There is a four year difference in age between Oliver and Chris, with Oliver being the elder. As young men, when they left home, Oliver went south to Atlanta and Chris went north to New York. They both pursued musical careers. Early on Oliver joined the Tinsley Ellis band and later formed the King Johnson band, a mix of blues, country, funk and R&B. Chris studied jazz bass and formed Medeski Martin & Wood band, a centerpiece of contemporary avant-jazz sounds. For over 15 years both brothers achieved success on their own. 

“Over the years we grew apart, separated by the miles. There was a disconnect,” Oliver said. After more than a decade of separation where the brothers honed their individual skills, they were brought back together in North Carolina when Oliver’s King Johnson band opened for Chris’ Medeski Martin & Wood band. Oliver was invited onstage to play a couple of songs with Chris’ band. “It felt so connected on stage. It brought us back together like when we were kids growing up. We reconnected musically and as brothers. It opened our eyes to the idea of playing together again. It was a very unforgettable experience,” Oliver said.

In 2005 the Wood Brothers started putting it together as a duo. “It was undeniable, the musical chemistry was there. We are genuinely connected and it was immediate, in a way it was supernatural and a real rush,” Oliver said. They both had grown musically. At the start Oliver was the lyricist and Chris the instrumentalist, over the years they worked together on crafting the songs. Their mother, who passed 10 years ago, was a poet. “Our mother had a talent for writing. Growing up we kind of took that for granted,” Oliver said. Her poetic influence is evident in their song lyrics, poetry in motion. Since 2006 The Wood Brothers have released seven studio albums and four live albums, with their 2018 release One Drop of Truth receiving the band’s first GRAMMY Award nomination for Best Americana Album.

On January 24, 2020, the Wood Brothers will release Kingdom In My Mind, their new studio album which is described on their website as, “An 11-song collection representing a reckoning of sorts, examining circumstance, mortality and human nature. Finding strength in accepting what lies beyond our control, the material on ‘Kingdom In My Mind’ hones in on the bittersweet beauty that underlies doubt and pain and sadness with vivid character studies and unflinching self-examination. While the lyrics dig deep, the trio draws from across a broad sonic spectrum to create a set of songs that although thoughtful and inward looking is ultimately transportive and effervescent.”  

The Wood Brothers’ approach to recording Kingdom In My Mind is unique in that it is the first album where they worked in the studio and improvised as they worked through the songs. “We worked on the songs together. It was like children at play. When you improvise you play it a different way, it’s your first impression. You capture the moment, mistakes and all, and musically it works. Most inspiration comes when you are alone. We keep our ideas in notebooks and on a computer which is full of parts of songs. We bring our ideas and share and build on it together. Early on musicians had only one chance to record the song, that is our favorite part of improvised music. One chance brings in the human element where mistakes happen, the mistakes are the magic,” Oliver said.

Kingdom In My Mind is the first album where the Wood Brothers used their third member Jano Rix to the fullest extent of his talents. “Chris and I started out as a duo. We were folkie, acoustic and stripped down. As we grew our audience we decided to grow our music. In 2011 we hired Jano Rix as our drummer. Adding him has been amazing. He is like our third brother. He is not only a skilled drummer but a great piano player and singer. He adds beautiful harmonies to our sound,” Oliver said. 

“At the same time we were making this album, we were looking for some sort of philanthropic organization we could support with our music and in a bit of synchronicity, we came across this great group called Thistle Farms, which was based just down the street from our studio. Their goal is to help women who have been victims of sex trafficking or prostitution or addiction to get off the street and into safe housing where they can participate in therapy and job training. The work they were doing was so inspiring and it felt like such a fit with the kind of album we were writing that we teamed up with them to donate a portion of ticket sales from all our shows. It’s our way of using what we’ve got to do whatever good we can in the world.” Oliver said.

The brothers have both recently relocated to Nashville. “Chris was in New York in the Hudson Valley and I was in Atlanta, Jano was already in Nashville. We were looking for a place to come together and Nashville was a natural choice. We have our own studio here which is new for us. We now have the luxury to take our time with recording because we aren’t dealing with studio charges. It is very freeing, and we have our recording engineer Brook Sutton, who is very talented. It is great to be in Nashville,” Oliver said.

For their February 5th show in Rochester Oliver Wood said, “ We love to play in Rochester. We will certainly feature our new songs. We also love to bring back our old songs. We have way too many songs, it’s hard to choose so we rotate songs out for our shows and play as many as we can in the time we have.”

For more information on the Wood Brothers visit www.thewoodbros.com 

Photos by Karen Fien

Photos taken at Borderland Music and Arts Festival at Knox Farm State Park, East Aurora, New York on September 21, 2019.

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Wood Brothers Eric and Oliver Wood.

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Oliver Wood on vocals and guitar.

Wood Brothers Band, Eric Wood, Jano Six and Oliver Wood.

Wood Brothers Band, Eric Wood, bass, Jano Rix, drums and multi instrumentalist, and Oliver Wood, guitar and vocals.

 

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