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Friday April 18th 2014

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When Brothers Converge

By Kate Peterson

Sometimes it takes 15 or so years to realize you had a band formed—when you were born. That is exactly what happened to Chris and Oliver Wood of The Wood Brothers. After their formative years, Chris Wood went on to be a founding member of the jazz trio, Medeski, Martin & Wood, while Oliver was on tour with famous electric blues musician, Tinsley Ellis and formed his own band, King Johnson.

Each of these brotherly pursuits were lofty enough on their own, but after playing a gig together, the brothers Wood, decided they should be performing together all the time. Their voices and skills blend so well, it was a logical move. So began, The Wood Brothers.

They are a roots-music, blues inspired, harmonizing, treasure trove of musical talent. Oliver plays guitar and is lead vocalist, Chris is stand-up bass and vocals.

IN had a chance to talk to Oliver Wood and pepper him with some questions about their humble beginnings, the separate musical lives they both lived and the reunion to form The Wood Brothers.

Growing up they were inundated with the music their father played and listened to. According to Wood, “My brother and I have a very musical dad, when we were kids he played guitar all the time, folky stuff. He had a huge repository of blues and folk records; we were exposed at an early age. It made an impression on us both. Even though we went our separate ways later, we started out together.”

Fighting is something all siblings do, and it was no different for these brothers.

“We were pretty average,” Wood said. “I was the normal older brother, and picked on Chris plenty. He has an obsessive motivation and a tendency to overachieve; I may be responsible for that.”

“I have two boys now who love to get on each other’s nerves,” Wood continued. “As for us being siblings and forming a band after all these years, I would have to say that getting a later start, we already had shed our baggage, we had complete identities, skill and confidence.”

Wood toured with Tinsley Ellis, which he noted was a great experience for him starting out as a musician.

“It was two years, and my first gig, in Atlanta, the early ‘90s and I was green,” he explained. “The pace on the road was a little bit of, ‘What have I gotten myself into,” and a lot of, ‘This is the greatest thing ever.’ It was free and perfect, no mortgage, no kids yet. Being able to get out there, and do it was the best education. Ellis was a great mentor.”

The idea to form The Wood Brothers, as they are today, after all the years of doing their own separate projects, happened when they were booked for the same appearance.

“We were ready,” Wood said. “I had been touring for years with King Johnson, my band, and Chris with Medeski, Martin & Wood. We had attended musical college, and decided to get together to join forces. Being on the double bill together, we decided to sit-in with each other. It felt so good, it was a blast.”
They deemed the performance worthy enough to make an album, even though they each had their own bread and butter projects. In 2006, they made The Wood Brothers, “Ways Not to Lose.”

You cannot help but notice a New Orleans backbeat infused in their sound.

“That sound is both complex, and simple,” said Wood. “It is a huge part of what is ingrained in us—roots musicians. The New Orleans influence feels good, it is primitive and sophisticated, all at the same time, yet not easy to execute.”

Although the band is primarily comprised of the brothers, they have incorporated other musicians to play percussion. Over time, they have tried on a couple other musicians, but one musician in particular blended both with his vocals, and his percussion skills. That musician is Jano Rix. In 2011, Rix became a permanent member.

“It really rounded out our sound,” Wood explained. “A two or three-part harmony is a beautiful thing. Adding Rix filled out our sound. We like the space we have now, and we would not change a thing.”

Everyone participates in the songwriting process. It is a collaboration that takes place separately,
then when they get together, it gets added to and finished by all involved. Seems that is how the band formed, so it makes sense that the song writing process is the same.

The Wood Brothers are currently on tour promoting their new album, “Live, Volume 2: Nail and Tooth.”

THE WOOD BROTHERS
6-7 p.m., Sunday, GoPensacola Stage

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