Wood Brothers on labels and big moves



According to industry lore (read: press releases), after growing up and leaving home, brothers Oliver and Chris Wood existed in separate music worlds for quite a long while — Oliver, in Atlanta, with bluesy King Johnson and Chris in NYC with jazz trio Medeski Martin & Wood. But fate brought them back together musically in the early aughts, and then introduced their smoky, blues-flecked Americana to us with the excellent 2006 release Ways Not To Lose. They've followed it up several releases since, including last year's late release The Muse. Somewhere along the line, they grabbed a drummer, Jano Rix, too. 

They'll play tonight at The Vogue. Here's a selection from my conversation with Brother Chris. 

NUVO: Blue Note just celebrated their 75th anniversary. The Wood Brothers' first two records came out on Blue Note. What does it mean, as a jazz musician, to have a record come out on that label?

Chris Wood: You know, I was on the label for years with Medeski Martin & Wood, so we already had a relationship with pretty much all the people at Blue Note. We started the Wood Brothers, at that point Blue Note was kind of expanding their palette. It wasn't all just about jazz. They'd already had a big hit with Norah Jones and were signing other people. Everything from Al Green and Van Morrison, people like that. Established, iconic people. Amos Lee, more singer-songwriter things. So it wasn't just all jazz. So, as a jazz musician, of course they have this amazing legacy. But the new incarnation of Blue Note is sort of different thing, which is why Medeski Martin & Wood fit into that. They were looking for something not classic jazz, something more contemporary, something of the moment.

NUVO: And now you're on Southern Ground, with two live albums and two studio albums. Why pick Southern Ground?

Wood: Well, the latest is that actually Southern Ground is no longer. Southern Ground Records is officially disbanded. Zac has decided not to continue [that label]. For us, it was a good experience. Zac was a friend, more so with Oliver through the Atlanta music scene. He was a fan of his, and became a fan of the Wood Brothers. He was this rising star who was starting a label. What was exciting about it was that it was not a traditional record label. There was a personal connection. He was trying to think outside of the box, to try new things. So for us, it seemed like a cool opportunity and we had a good run with him. On the last record, The Muse, we feel very good about releasing it on his label, and they pushed it great. Kind of right at the end of that cycle is when they decided to disband the record company.

So, we're actually, as of now, preparing for a new record, but we don't know who is going to release it yet. 

NUVO: Is that stressful?

Wood: I don't know. Not yet! But it's hard to know. I think it's a good time for us. We're excited about possibilities out there. We're excited for how things are going for us on the road. We feel like our fan base is growing, our identity as a band has become more solid. It's an exciting time to find a label. But on the other hand, the record business is completely bizarre and unpredictable these days. Our expectations, we're trying now to set them very high, because you just don't know what you're going to get these days.

NUVO: You mention your identity as a band is solidifying. Did some of that come with the addition of a third memberJano Rix on drum, in the recording process?

Wood: Not the recording process as much as just the time. Touring, all the time we spent together. And one thing that's big for us that's happened in the last few years is that we all moved to Nashville. For the first time in the career of this band. We're able to rehearse more, we're able to write together in the same room instead of trying to rehearse backstage or at soundchecks, or emailing song ideas back and forth. We can actually first try and get together and properly write a song together in a room, face to face.