STORY WRITTEN BY ROB NAGY
For Digital First Media
With decades of success under their respective belts, Chris Wood, a longtime member of “Medeski, Martin and Wood,” and his brother Oliver, of the Tinsley Ellis’ band and King Johnson, it was only natural that the duo would one day merge their creativity.
The Wood Brothers, whose line up includes Chris and Oliver Wood along with multi-instrumentalist Jano Rix, released their debut album “Ways Not To Lose” in 2006. Awarded Amazon.com Editor’s number-one pick in folk for that year, the album made NPR’s “Overlooked 11” of 2006.
Speaking of their approach to music, Chris Wood says, “I’m coming from New York City, where I used to live and was highly influenced by jazz and things like that. Oliver was living in Atlanta for so many years. So, his strong influence was real roots blues music. In my mind I thought, ‘what if Charles Mingus and Robert Johnson started a band? What would that sound like?’ I don’t know what you would call that. But that was the initial impulse.”
“The secret to success — as far as getting along within a family — we didn’t start our band until we were already middle-aged,” adds Chris, speaking from his home in Nashville. “A lot of brother bands are tumultuous because they start bands when they’re kids and still have all this youthful baggage. We’ve been humbled plenty separately. So, by the time we came together we were grateful enough for each other’s strengths. It outweighs any difficult brother stuff by far.”
After heading to Nashville, Tennessee for the recording of 2013’s “Muse” album, Chris and Oliver officially made Nashville their home base. For the first time the duo lived in the same City, and they were able to write and record uninterrupted.
With the merging of Chris’ jazz background and Oliver’s rock and blues experience, The Wood Brothers focused on American Roots music. They released their latest album, “Paradise,” in 2015. Standout tracks include “Singin’ To Strangers,” “American Heartache,” “Snake Eyes” and “Raindrop.”
“Most of that time we’ve lived far apart,” says Chris Wood, from his home in Nashville. “Over the years most of our writing has been long distance. We decided Nashville would be a good place in which to be a real functioning band that lives, rehearses and writes music in the same room together.”
“This was first time we wrote and made a record from scratch and toured on it,” adds Chris. “We never could do that before just because of the distance between us. That’s one of the significant things about this record. It was great for us. It was also the first time we self produced a record, which we did because we felt we were finally ready. We felt that we’d matured enough as a band and as writers and experienced enough that it was time to do it on our own. This is our most rockin’ album.”
With his success as a member of Medeski, Martin and Wood and The Wood Brothers, Chris finds himself elated by his ability to earn a living doing what he loves. Outwardly shunning the music industry’s practice of pigeon holing artists, Chris pays homage to the music and the artists that have been The Wood Brothers greatest inspiration.
“We are definitely influenced by “The Band,” says Chris. “A lot of people think of them as America’s first Americana band, really diving into roots music in a rock and roll setting. We absolutely relate to the writing and the combination of northern and southern influences and everything that’s in there.”
“Americana is quickly becoming another sort of meaningless genre,” adds Chris. “It’s a nod in some way to some roots kind of music. Most of it seems to be mountain or blue grass. I think in our case there’s a lot more. Delta blues, R&B and African American influences are what we love and are inspired by. It’s a very important part of the roots of music in this country.”
Anything but an overnight sensation, the ascent of The Wood Brothers has been slow and steady, as they crafted their signature sound while building an audience one fan at a time.
“It’s been just right,” says Chris. “Until just the last couple of years, I was pretty much touring with Medeski, Martin and Wood as well as The Wood Brothers. So, between that and slowly getting better and better at what we do and finding our own voice as a group, I think that the pace of the growth has actually been a good thing.”
Adds Chris, “You always think, ‘When are we going to get our big break?’ We’re just doing what we do and people, little by little, are catching on. We feel like we have a solid loyal fan base that really gets us and appreciates all of the work we’ve done and makes us feel really good. That real connection to the audience that we have feels great.”
“We’re lifers in music,” says Chris. “I can’t imagine doing anything else. I want to do this my whole life. I feel like there’s still so much more to say. I just want to keep doing it little by little and keep people paying attention, which I’m so grateful for.”
To stay up to date with The Wood Brothers, visit www.thewoodbros.com.