Chris Wood is a man who loves the leaf. OK. Not that one, although he might. We just didn’t ask him. We’re talking about veggies. “I just love greens,” he says. “Kales, collards, chards. I always make sure to have that part of a meal.”
You might even consider Wood, the bassist for both the Nashville-based roots act the Wood Brothers, something of a foodie. In fact, he first developed a passion for food during the early days of his other band, the jam-jazz combo Medeski, Martin, and Wood. “MMW was always a very food conscious group. John Medeski was an incredible cook, and when I lived with John in the early New York days, I actually went to cooking school for a little while just to keep up with him, so I could help in the kitchen.
“Food was always an extremely important part of the touring, finding where the meal was, where the good place to eat was,” Wood adds. “In the early days of MMW we cooked in the RV. We did all of our own cooking as we went to the gigs. We had to do a lot of shopping at the college food co-op and get some good produce. We put together some great meals.”
Fortunately for Wood, he’ll be playing this weekend at the Southern Ground Music and Food Festival, Zac Brown’s annual foodie fest and concert. And as in year’s past, Brown has assembled an eclectic mix of talent, from Willie Nelson to Trombone Shorty to Fitz and the Tantrums. For the “Chicken Fried” superstar, booking the Wood Brothers was a no brainer. Their latest album Muse was released on Brown’s label, Southern Ground. The LP was recorded in Nashville, and it hit the racks just a few weeks ago.
For the Wood Brothers, Muse just might be the start of something special. For the first time in many, many years, Chris and his brother Oliver (guitar and vocals) are living in the same town, that town being Music City, U.S.A., and that close proximity has changed how the brothers write and record. They have begun to truly collaborate. “There was always a physical distance. I was living in the Northeast. Oliver was living in the Southeast,” Chris Wood says. “For the first time ever, we can get together, write together, and rehearse. We’ve never been able to do that before.”
Although the brothers weren’t together in Nashville while Muse was being written, the pair had slowly been moving toward a true songwriting partnership. “I was coming down and spending a lot of time in Nashville,” Wood says. “It’s just become more and more collaborative over the years. We’re able to take material we’ve written separately and combine it. For example, the song ‘Neon Tombstone’ [off Muse], I had a chorus and Oliver had some verses. We just kind of slapped them together because they somehow magically fit in a way. It worked.”
Wood also notes that there are major differences between the Wood Brothers and his more lucrative project. “The Wood Brothers is the kind of band where we want to rehearse. We want to write together. It helps the music to be in the same room together. Medeski, Martin, and Wood — at this point in our career, we tour still and that’s when we see each other, but the days of spending hours together playing music and developing a sound have kind of passed,” Wood says. “We still love to play together and we have a certain chemistry that’s like riding a bike. We get together, and it feels great. But I think that since everyone grew up and had kids, that youthful energy of being a new developing band has passed, so it’s fun for me because the Wood Brothers has that energy even though we’re more mid-life.”