Oliver Wood of The Wood Brothers spoke with Shows I Go To ahead of the band’s trip to Suwannee Roots Revival this October. Their last visit to Suwannee was a barn-burner sandwiched between some of the legends of Roots music.
We asked Oliver about that trip and creativity in general. The result was a conversation about the power of a good meal, the brilliance of a certain fellow Suwannee veteran, and how human connection is at the heart of artistic expression.
Jason Earle, SIGT: Your set at Suwannee Springfest 2015 was an absolute riot. So much fun. What are your recollections of that experience?
Oliver Wood: That was our first time at Suwannee. What I remember most was the vibe. I was not feeling well, and I can’t tell you much about the music we played, but the fans were amazing. The feeling on that (amphitheater) stage was incredible. It’s such a fun atmosphere.
SIGT: Springfest that year featured a lot of the same folks who will be at Suwannee Roots Revival — Col. Bruce Hampton, Jim Lauderdale, Verlon Thompson, Town Mountain — as well as some iconic musicians such as Sam Bush, Leftover Salmon, and Peter Rowan. If you could have a dream jam session of no more than four players at Roots Revival, who would you play with and why?
I may just play as a duo with me and Colonel Bruce. He is amazing. Colonel Bruce has been a mentor to me since my time living in Atlanta. Just such a wonderful guy. He even married my wife and me.
SIGT: You have spoken a lot about musical influences like Colonel Bruce Hampton. What inspires you outside of music?
Just life. Things like fishing and my kids keep me going. And I get inspired by artists of different kinds. I love the written word. I love visual art. People who make really amazing, inspired food. Food is this incredible connector of people. That is what we are trying to do as artists of any kind, connect people.
Just living. It could be a struggle or a beautiful thing. All of those things inspire.”
SIGT: What was the last really inspiring meal you ate?
I had a chicken marsala that made me very happy earlier today. Sometimes when we are on tour, we will share the best food together. Somehow the show that night seems a little better, a little more enjoyable. I am not sure that the music is necessarily any better, but there is a heightened quality to the show that night if we shared a meal earlier in the day.
SIGT: That is a great point about food. It is such a common denominator for people. Music is a difficult thing to explain in words because of the subjectivity and intensity of the feelings it evokes. But everyone enjoys and can relate to food on a certain level. If you are eating together, you share a connection.
Exactly. Music, food… we all want to be connected together. When that connection happens at a show, we can feel it on stage.
SIGT: You mentioned reading as a creative influence. What are you reading now?
Recently, I have been reading a lot of Richard Broutigan. He was kind of the last of the Beat Generation writers, most famous for his book Trout Fishing in America. I have been reading some of his poems and short stories recently. His work is more abstract. I’m a fan of abstract art. I like when things are not too literal. For example, rather than a realist painting I prefer abstract work. It can move you even if you don’t understand it on an intellectual level.
I enjoy when someone comes up to me and interprets my songs in a way I was not necessarily thinking when the song was written. I may not have thought of it that way, but it is cool that you get that from it.
SIGT: There is something inclusive about abstract art of various forms.
Right. It can be interpreted in many different ways. You don’t have to “get” it to enjoy and be moved.
SIGT: And you and I could look at the same painting, see different things, but still feel a connection to that piece of art and each other.
Words can make that connection, sounds can make it. Somebody can give you mac n’ cheese and it feels like the best thing you have eaten. Why? There is something special to your interpretation of that otherwise simple dish.
Something similar is true of Blues music. I always go back to the basics. My musical heroes were people like Lightnin’ Hopkins, B.B. King, Freddie King, and Mississippi John Hurt. As musicians, we always feel like we have to be creative or come up with something completely fresh, but we also gravitate to the raw stuff. I mean actual people on actual porches making natural music in its element.
Really, we are all using the same ingredients but trying different recipes.”
Oliver Wood, his brother, bassist Chris Wood, and percussionist Jano Rix join a Suwannee Roots Revival lineup full of brilliant musicians this October 13-16. He is one hell of a nice, fascinating, talented guy.
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