The Wood Brothers Explore Desire On 'Paradise' | WGLT

The Wood Brothers Explore Desire On 'Paradise'

Oct 31, 2016

The Wood Brothers: Chris (l), Oliver (r)
Credit John Legg /

Oliver Wood sort of chuckled when he said joining forces with brother Chris to form the Wood Brothers in 2005 was a good career move.

"Until that time, I certainly put in my 10,000 plus hours of playing music and working as a musician, but I was never able to realize the creative part with the business part to really make a living and be taken seriously in the world" said Wood.

For nearly two decades, Oliver  was struggling to gain the musical notoriety brother Chris was receiving as part of the instrumental jazz-groove group Medeski, Martin & Wood.  That began to change the night Oliver's blues-rock band King Johnson opened for MMW in Winston-Salem, NC.  Chris has said watching his brother open for MMW was "a creepy experience, like watching myself. He had a lot of the same impulses I did. Part of it was influences; part of it was blood.”

A few more years of playing together at family gatherings and sharing tapes coalesced in 2005 when they formed The Wood Brothers.  Oliver said the years of grinding tours and writing original songs allowed him to hit the ground running when he and Chris came together.

"My brother and I had sort of evolved into grown ups and mature, seasoned musicians with our own musical identities and personalities" said Wood.  "When you're in your 20's and even into your 30's and you're figuring stuff out, you're shedding baggage along the way.  So I think we shed a lot of our baggage by the time we put The Wood Brothers together, and I think we're grateful for that."

In their 11 years together, Oliver and Chris have released eight albums as The Wood Brothers, with 2015's "Paradise" their most recent.  It's a recording that captures the everyday tension of desire and regret.  "Snake Eyes" and "American Heartache" detail the American ideal of being a failure for not obtaining the mythical pot of gold.

Oliver Wood (r)
Credit John Legg /

"That's a common theme for the whole record" said Wood.  "I think it's something we all experience all the time.  For me, as I get older and start to see that happening, I'm much more aware of that in myself and other people.  Even as aware as you might be, you still suffer from that kind of thing."

Wood points to albums seventh song, "Without Desire," as the counter to those two. 

"We need some things to inspire us or give us energy" said Wood.  "Whether it's creative energy, sexual energy, or anger, which is important too.  All those things come from desires and wanting more or reaching for something. It's not that it's such a bad thing.  I think 'American Heartache' is more cynical about it, where 'Without Desire' is a little more positive, it shows you where the fuel comes from."

The Wood Brothers play The Castle Theater in Bloomington IL November 2, Chicago's Vic Theater November 3, and The Varsity Theater in Minneapolis November 4.