The Wood Brothers bring their soulful folk to Breckenridge | SummitDaily.com

The Wood Brothers bring their soulful folk to Breckenridge

Alan Sculley
Special to the Daily

This year, The Wood Brothers celebrate their 10th year as a recording act, and as singer/guitarist Oliver Wood looks back on the first decade of the group, he's content about the career the trio is building.

The group has gradually worked its way up from playing clubs to where many of its shows now are in theaters and other medium-size venues, as well as major festivals.

"It's interesting because I know personally some people who in a much shorter time got really big and famous and on the radio," Oliver Wood said in an early November phone interview. "And then I also know countless people who I started out playing music with who dropped out of music because they had wives and kids and they couldn't sustain (a career that could support their lives). So I've got to say I like kind of being in the middle, in between.

Breckenridge Creative Arts hosts The Wood Brothers at the Riverwalk Center on Sunday, Dec. 13 at 7:30 p.m.

"On some days I do feel the pressures of the industry, like your manager calls and says we haven't sold enough tickets (for a certain show) or whatever," he said. "There are always those things that get in there. But I can't imagine, that would just be exponential if you were playing arenas and you had hundreds of employees. I think that would be a little much for me. I like having a little bit more of an independent family style thing, where we can make a living and we have people that enjoy the music and I feel like we can really connect with people who need the music."

The Wood Brothers are actually working more like a do-it-yourself operation than ever as the trio of brothers Oliver Wood and bassist Chris Wood and drummer/keyboardist Jano Rix tours behind their new album, "Paradise."

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Their 2013 album, "The Muse," completed their contract with Southern Ground Records (the label owned by Zac Brown). But rather than sign with another label, the group launched its own label, Honey Jar Records, and outsourced the distribution and marketing of "Paradise" to Thirty Tigers.

The three musicians also self-produced "Paradise," putting the album, from start to finish, in the trio's hands.

Even the sound of the "Paradise" album is a sign of the growing popularity the group is enjoying as it starts its second decade.

"Paradise" retains the rough hewn folk-influences of the three previous full-length albums and has a few stripped back, primarily acoustic tunes, including "Never and Always," "Two Places" and "River of Sin." But "Paradise" is easily the most rocking Wood Brothers album, with several songs (like the bluesy "Singing To Strangers," the expansive "American Heartache" and the brisk and catchy "Snake Eyes") that feature a full sound built around electric guitars, bits of keyboards, horns and harmonica, with assertive beats that drive the music forward.

That more rocking dimension, Oliver Wood said, was partly a creative choice and a reaction to the personality of "The Muse."

"I think every time we make a record, we somehow are reacting to the previous work," he said. "I mean, 'The Muse' had a couple of rockers, too, but I think when people think of that record, they think of it as more of a, I don't know, a little bit more subtle and acoustic, which we're very proud of, but at the same time we want to do something different."

But the bigger sound also reflects the career path of the Wood Brothers.

"It's interesting, we've had far from a meteoric rise," Oliver Wood said. "But we are playing bigger places than we ever have. Often times, if you play a giant room with a standing audience, you tend to shape the show to match the venue. And so when it gets a little louder and rowdier, and we play at Red Rocks or something like that, you just find that the subtle things aren't going to get across as well. So by no means have we abandoned any of the subtle stuff, and we try to include that in our shows still. But I think, if not just subconsciously, we've also written some new material that can fill a bigger room of loud people."

The Wood Brothers began their musical journey under rather spontaneous circumstances in 2003.

During the preceding decade, the brothers had pursued separate musical paths. Oliver Wood had played in bluesman Tinsley Ellis' band during the '90s before co-founding his own group, the Atlanta-based King Johnson.

Chris Wood, meanwhile, gained considerable notoriety as one third of the forward-looking jazz ensemble, Medeski, Martin & Wood, which racked up critical acclaim and very respectable album sales during its first two decades as a group.

The brothers had only sporadically been in touch during those years until a 2003 concert in which King Johnson opened for Medeski, Martin & Wood. The brothers took the opportunity that night to play together and discovered that they still connected musically — as well as on a personal level as brothers.

They realized they wanted to continue to play together and formed the Wood Brothers, releasing four studio albums, a covers EP and a pair of live EPs before "Paradise" arrived in October.

Along the way, Oliver and Chris Wood expanded to a trio, after making Rix — who started out as a hired hand — a full-time band member in 2010.

The commitment the three group members have made to the Wood Brothers was further solidified when, after "The Muse" was recorded, Chris Wood moved to Nashville, where Oliver Wood and Rix had also moved.

Being in the same city made the writing and recording of "Paradise" easier logistically and more collaborative than ever.

"It's fun just to be able to relax and work together and try different things, try different ways of collaborating," Oliver Wood said. "Just for us also as a live band, to be able to have rehearsals in the same (place), it's easy to try and experiment with things. It's like you have time and space to do that. We have that now. That, too, where we just get together and play music, that's where a lot of the writing starts. All the seeds of the music come from just sort of jamming together. Now we can do that almost any time we want. So that's a change."

The trio, though, doesn't figure to be home in Nashville all that much over the next year since there's a new album to tour.

Wood said the group currently is playing about a half dozen songs from "Paradise" in its shows, which leaves enough room to also cover the back catalog songs fans want to hear.

The shows in general have gotten a bit more rocking, and the trio also has surprises in store with the occasional older song.

"One thing we like to do, even with our old catalog, is to re-work songs," Oliver Wood said. "For instance, we take like an old sort of rocking song, like 'Shoofly Pie,' is one from a couple records ago ("Smoke Ring Halo"), but it's sort of a real rock and roll song. Now we like to perform that acoustic around one mike and almost do it bluegrass style. So it can be fun to rework things. We don't feel like we have to re-create albums when we play live, and it really keeps it fresh for us anyway if we can sort of rework the music every once in awhile anyway."

IF YOU GO

What: The Wood Brothers

When: Sunday, Dec. 13 at 7:30 p.m.

Where: Riverwalk Center, 150 W Adams Ave., Breckenridge

Cost: Tickets: $25 Advance, $30 Day of Show

More information or tickets: breckcreate.org