Brothers Oliver and Chris Wood hadn’t planned on forming a band together. While their childhood was full of folk, blues, bluegrass, and country, it would take the two 15 years of pursuing individual efforts before finally joining forces.
The brother’s father, a molecular biologist by trade but a musician by passion, surrounded his sons in music from a young age. From family gatherings to lonesome campfires, the Wood Brothers learned quickly the value of performing live music while listening to their dad play. With a poet for a mother, the two were also introduced to the importance of strong storytelling along the way.
As the two brothers continued to grow in their Boulder, Colorado home, Oliver became enamored with the guitar, thanks to the records his father would play by artists such as Lightnin’ Hopkins and Jimmy Reed. Chris strayed just slightly, focusing on studying clarinet and piano, until an interest in jazz fused with the idea of trying out the upright bass.
By the time college had rolled around, the brothers began pursuing separate ambitions. After a brief stint at UC Santa Cruz, Oliver started tackling the working musician lifestyle. Performing at Fat Matt’s Rib Shack every Tuesday night secured him a spot in veteran blues artist Tinsley Ellis’ touring band, who would push Oliver to take on singing for the first time, and to try his hand at songwriting, too. It had a profound effect on the musician’s future, inspiring Oliver to form King Johnson, a band that went on to record six albums and tour tirelessly for twelve years before finally calling it quits.
At the same time Chris took a more traditional approach to honing his skills, studying jazz and developing his bass playing at the New England Conservatory of Music. After gigging regularly, Chris, along with keyboardist John Medeski and drummer Billy Martin would form Medeski Martin & Wood, combining jazz, funk, blues, experimental noise, and plenty of other subgenres into an internationally touring powerhouse.
Finally, one fateful day in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, King Johnson opened for Medeski Martin & Wood. When Oliver sat in during his brother’s set, it all clicked.
In 2004, at a family reunion, Oliver and Chris would sit down for their first recording. After starting their musician-paths together, and fifteen years of honing their individual skills separately, the two had finally come full circle. No sooner than completing their first demo recording, the duo had a record deal from Blue Note Records.
2006’s debut release, Ways Not to Lose, would end up as Amazon’s top pick in folk that year. Their 2008 sophomore effort, Loaded, would be cited by NPR among the news outlet’s Overlooked 11. After their third release, Halo, the Wood Brothers went on tour with Zac Brown, who would eventually bring the duo over to his label Southern Ground. After opening for crowds upwards of 20,000 in size, The Wood Brothers would work with Brown as their producer, putting together the band’s most recent release, Smoke Ring Halo, in 2011.
The Wood Brothers are currently touring the United States and Canada through mid november. Dates and tickets are available from the band’s website.
Dean Goranites | Associate Editor