A conversation with Oliver Wood of The Wood Brothers

By Elizabeth Thomas 

February 8, 2017

Brothers Oliver and Chris, along with Jano Rix, make up The Wood Brothers, an American folk trio that’s rolling into town next week to play a gig at Neighborhood Theatre in NoDa.

After the brothers left home and went their own ways, both in life and musically, Oliver and Chris found themselves at home again—- this time with their own band and their own original sound. While the brothers grew up in a musical household, Oliver went on to join Tinsley Ellis’ touring show before forming his own group, King Johnson. Chris, meanwhile, studied at the New England Conservatory of Music and then went on to form Medeski Martin & Wood.

It was more than 10 years later when the brothers came together at a show in North Carolina, where Oliver sat in with Medeski Martin & Wood that the brothers realized it was time for them to create music as one. Now, with more than a decade and hundreds of songs under the belt, The Wood Brothers are back in the Queen City to show off their unique and soulful style.

TWB’s latest studio album, Paradise, delves into the complexities of relationships and one’s personal and sometimes treacherous journey to achieve happiness and fulfillment. It’s an album all can relate to, both young and old, married and single, so concertgoers should expect to be among a diverse crowd on Valentine’s Day when The Wood Brothers return to the Queen City. The band’s most recent concert album, Live at the Barn, was recorded at Levon Helms’ old home studio in Woodstock, New York, and TWB recorded their own rousing take on The Band’s “Ophelia,” which is likely to bring the house down and close the set.

(Left to right) Chris Wood, Oliver Wood and Jano Rix

While technically classified an American folk band, The Wood Brothers capitalize on their individual styles, strengths and powerful harmonies, which culminate into a show that transcends a singular definition. There’s a heavy soul and blues influence that oozes out in the best possible way.

The show comes as a welcome night of entertainment, as many ticketholders were expecting to see the group play with Patrick Sweany back in October; the show was postponed due to an illness. This time around, T Sisters, an Americana trio from Oakland, California, will be joining TWB for the performance. And there’s more TWB on the horizon. The guys will be joining the Tedeschi Trucks Band and Hot Tuna this summer as part of the Wheels of Soul tour, which rolls into Charlotte July 16.

Before the scheduled show last October, Oliver Wood and CLTure were able to catch up for a quick chat:

CLTure: Coming from two bands from different genres, how did you two land on an Americana style, and in what ways have your musical styles influenced your sound today?

Oliver Wood: Chris’ jazz background and my years playing roots/blues stuff really came together naturally. Partly because we are brothers, but also because we started out with a lot of the same influences. We both listened to our dad play folk music when we were kids and we dug into his record collection and shared interest in a lot of the same stuff—- everything from Lightnin’ Hopkins to Led Zeppelin.

CLTure: What separates The Wood Brothers from other folk Americana bands?

OW: Not many bands on our circuit have a virtuoso bass player (if I may brag on my brother) or a drummer who can play drums and piano at the same time (if I can brag on Jano).

CLTure: If The Wood Brothers could collaborate with any musical act, living or dead, who would it be and why?

OW: Tough to pick one, but Willie Nelson and Ray Charles come to mind.

CLTure: Who are you listening to know while out on the road?

OW: Seems like we always go back to JB Lenoir and The Band.

Oliver Wood, Chris Wood and Jano Rix

CLTure: Deserted island scenario: If you could only have three albums with you, which would you choose and why?

OW: Passionate Blues (JB Lenoir), Hoodoo Man Blues (Junior Wells & Buddy Guy) and the Great Ladies Of Gospel compilation. Those are albums I never get tired of and always go back to for inspiration.

CLTure: What one moment so far really stands out to the band as your biggest, most defining moment?

OW: Again, it’s hard to pick one, but playing shows with Levon Helm (and actually getting to sing with him) was a huge highlight! Since he’s such a hero of ours, it felt like we’d died and gone to heaven.

CLTure: As a touring band, you spend a lot of time out on the road and you’ve probably had some crazy experiences. Is there a crazy moment you guys often look back on and laugh about?

OW: It’s probably an old joke but was new to me: We played a big hippie festival once and at the end of the night someone told us a joke: “What did the hippie say when asked to leave the festival? Namaste” (Nah I’ma stay).

CLTure: Is there a spot in Charlotte the band must go to when you’re in town? Bar, restaurant, venue, event, etc.

OW: Well, I have fond memories of playing with a real mentor of mine, Tinsley Ellis, at the Double Door in the ‘90s. I heard it might have closed?

Jano Rix, Chris Wood and Oliver Wood

CLTure: For someone who may have never been to a Wood Brothers show, what should they expect?

OW: Well, I’ve heard we are good date music. And I like the fact that parents and kids seem to turn each other on to our stuff. So you can expect some soulful and diverse sounds and a multigenerational audience.

CLTure: What’s on the roadmap? Can we expect a new album soon?

OW: Yes, looks like we’ll have a live record coming out fairly soon. (Which, as mentioned above, is out! Check out their latest concert album, Live at the Barn.)

Catch The Wood Brothers in Charlotte on Tuesday, February 14.

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