The Wood Brothers Return to the Vogue: An Interview with Chris Wood

woodbrothersbigmicThe Wood Brothers are once again bringing their unique blend of folk and blues to the Vogue Theatre on Tuesday, September 30.  The band is comprised of brothers Chris and Oliver Wood, with Jano Rix providing percussion.  They are touring in support of their recent album, The Muse, released on October  1st 2013.

I had a chance to speak with Chris Wood, who plays upright bass and sings. We spoke about how the brothers formed the band, life on the road and the show that they performed last year.

MOJO: Could you talk a little bit about your and Oliver’s childhood? Did you guys grow up playing music together?

Chris: We did. My brother is four and half years older than me. He left the house when he was twenty, but there were a couple of years where we both started playing music. We would write things together and mess around on the four track. But, it wasn’t a lot back then, it was a small window before he left the house.

M: When did you guys start playing again?

C: Well, we didn’t hang out that much for a lot of years because we were living in different parts of the country and had our own careers going. We were focusing on that and never thought to play together until eight or nine years ago. We started to reconnect. I think Oliver’s band was starting to slow down. One of the key members moved down to Atlanta where he was from. His band did a double bill with Medeski Martin and Wood and he sat in with us. That was kind of a memorable moment where I realized how good he was and how much we were musically similar. We had a connection.

M: What kind of music did you guys grow up listening to?

C: We listened to our dad. Our dad was a folk musician coming out of that late 50’s Cambridge scene. He played with Joan Baez before she got really famous. He had a radio show back then.  He was a folky with a big record collection, all kinds of things. There were things we heard like Josh White and Leadbelly and a lot of things the folk guys were influenced by.

So I think that we grew up listening to all kinds of 60’s rock and of course what was on the radio in the 70’s and 80’s. I think eventually when my brother started playing guitar, he got real interested in tracing it back to the roots of that music. So, he started listening to blues like Muddy Waters, Lightning Hopkins,  Jimmy Reed, things like that, just to find the roots of that music. Where did Jimi Hendrix learn guitar from? He started asking those questions and had some great vinyl that he listened to.

M: I could definitely see that. When I first saw you guys perform, seven or eight years ago at Summer Camp, it was just you and Oliver. I was wondering, what has adding Jano Rix done for the band?

C: Jano adds a lot. He is a multi-talented guy who can not only play the drums very well, but he is an amazing keyboard player, too. He actually went to school down in Miami for jazz piano. He is a very proficient piano player and a great singer.

He also plays this percussion instrument that he kind of co-invented with a friend in Nashville called the, “shitar,” which is a crappy guitar that he uses as a percussion instrument. What is really cool is that the shitar has allowed us to play unplugged but still have a beat. It sounds kind of like a beat box. It doesn’t sound like a drum set, yet it kind of imitates what a drum set does and it comes in handy when we do radio shows and we just have to walk into a radio station and play acoustic songs.  It is great in a live show because we can have a segment in the show where we break down and he can get away from the drums but we still have percussion. Then he will play the little melodica keyboard that you blow through. He adds so much sonic variety to our music.

M: In keeping with folk tradition, you guys play a decent amount of covers. How do you guys woodbrothers2decide what songs you want to cover?

C: Not a lot of thought goes into it. We just stumble across things and you relate to them. You have an instinct that you can make that song your own in some way that is unique.

M: You tour with Oliver and MMW. I imagine you are on the road a lot.  Do you like living on the road?

C: Oh, it has its pros and its cons, you know. I have a family and try to live like a normal person, but yeah, I am traveling a lot. It is definitely challenging. It takes a lot of work to keep all of those worlds together, especially in two separate bands and having a home life. To raise children and all of that, life is full.

M: What do you do after a show? Do you have a way to wind down or are you off to the next city?

C: I don’t really have trouble winding down. We put so much energy into our show. We’ll often go sign stuff or hang out with people after the show. By the time that is all said and done and we’re packing up, we’re pretty wiped out and it is time to just go to bed as soon as possible because we have to do it all over again the next day.

There is this whole image of a partying musician and it is true when you are in your twenties, I guess, you did a lot more back then. What is interesting is people come out to see you play. Especially when we have friends come out. For them, this is the one night of the week they are going out and it is a big party. For us, it is just another gig and of course we love the atmosphere and everyone having a good time, but you can only sustain that for so long because you have to make sure you get enough rest and make good decisions so that you can get through the next day.

M: I really liked the segment with Big Mic last time you guys played at the Vogue. Will we be seeing that again?

C: Big Mic? Yeah, we’re going to be touring with Big Mic. We love doing that for part of the show. We don’t get to do that during the summer time because we are playing the festival circuit and it just doesn’t work for those shows. When we play club shows, we love having that.

M: Another thing I noticed at that show is that you’ve got some really good dance moves.  Where did you learn to dance?

C: I don’t know. I always liked to. I can’t say I learned it, I just like to move. I guess I finally get my chance.

The Wood Brothers

The Vogue Theatre

Tuesday, September 30th at 8:00 p.m.

Tickets are $22 at the door and can be purchased here.


To see what I thought of their show last year, check out my review, or watch the video below to get a feel for their sound.