It’s been an unpredictable musical ride for Oliver and Chris Wood. Their father, once part of the late ‘50s Cambridge folk scene, introduced the brothers to songs and artists he featured on his college radio broadcast. He told them stories of playing with Joan Baez, allowed them to pillage his extensive record collection, and always kept a guitar handy at family gatherings.
But when it was time for the siblings to forge their own musical paths, they went in different directions. Literally.
Oliver, four years the elder, headed for Georgia and formed Atlanta-based blues rockers King Johnson. Chris, after a stint at the New England Conservatory of Music, moved to New York and founded long-running jazz trio Medeski Martin and Wood.
And as the story goes, after 15 years of nonconverging paths, both bands played a show in North Carolina and the idea to work together was born.
“It’s strange,” the senior Wood brother told Discover SD recently. “But we left the house at different times and got into different grooves in different parts of the country. In the process, we grew apart - not just musically, but personally. We weren’t close for several years. But I think it was necessary for us to go our separate paths and evolve on our own.”
Performing American roots music as The Wood Brothers for nearly a decade, the duo only wrote when given the occasional chance in scheduling, and mainly sent ideas back and forth digitally. At least that’s what they did until last year.
That was when Chris moved to Nashville (where Oliver and his family had moved the year prior), and drummer/multi-instrumentalist Jano Rix officially became a part of the band - both significant changes that Oliver believes are bound to elevate the music.
“It’s definitely made a hugely positive influence on our writing,” he said. “Being able to co-write and collaborate without all that distance makes a big difference. We can sit in each other’s living room and work things out. In the past, it was in hotel rooms or by email. Jono lives in Nashville as well, so we can have full-on writing sessions and rehearsals.”
All of that convenient creativity will have to be put on the back burner, however, until the trio knocks out their upcoming West Coast tour. The Wood Brothers will kick off an 11-date swing with a stop at the Belly Up on Jan. 13.
And while an additional 23 dates across U.S. and Europe will keep them busy through the first part of June, they’re still planning on releasing a new album when they return.
“We’re touring again,” Wood said. “It’s a constant on and off thing - a way of life. But we’re working on a new record that’ll be out in the summertime. We’re already somewhat deep into that process. But it’s a little early to have anything very interesting to say about it.”
Scott McDonald is a writer, on-air personality and consultant with 15 years of experience in the San Diego music scene. He has interviewed hundreds of artists, from the legendary to the underground, for print and television. Follow McDonald and his melodic musings on Twitter @eight24_ or Instagram @scotteight24. Send your music musts to email@example.com