The Wood Brothers: A Conversation with Oliver Wood

By Elizabeth Thomas

October 12, 2016

Brothers Oliver and Chris, along with Jano Rix make up The Wood Brothers, an American folk trio that’s rolling into town this 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 both 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 Americana style.

Oliver Wood sat down with CLTure for a quick get-to-know-you interview:

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

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’s 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?

Oliver Wood, Chris Wood and Jano Rix

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.

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.

Jano Rix, Chris Wood and Oliver Wood

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?

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.

Catch The Wood Brothers at Neighborhood Theatre on Thursday, October 13. (*Concert has been postponed due to medical emergency*) 

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