Grammy-Nominated Texas Bluegrass Band WOOD & WIRE Discuss Their Newest Album ‘No Matter Where It Goes From Here’ and More!
Get to know all about the Grammy-nominated quartet Wood & Wire. Their last record “North of Despair” was nominated for Best Bluegrass Album at the 2018 Grammys. They are gearing up to release their second album under Blue Corn Music, “No Matter Where It Goes from Here,” tomorrow on August 28th.
“No Matter Where It Goes from Here” was recorded at The Zone–a studio outside of Austin in Dripping Springs. Co-produced and engineered by Pat Manske, they utilized the studio’s vintage analog gear and experimented with different recording setups, ultimately creating enough songs for nearly two albums. They eventually whittled the record down to nine tracks–telling stories about old high school friends (“John”), money and exploitation (“Pigs”), the infamous Whiskey Rebellion of 1794 (“Spirit of ‘94”), and even a beloved Border Collie named Roadie (“Roadie’s Circles”).
Reigning from Austin, TX, the band is composed of Trevor Smith (banjo), Billy Bright (mandolin), Dom Fisher (bassist), and Tony Kamel (leader singer/guitar). While the band was nominated for Best Bluegrass Album at the 2018 Grammys, their sound is boundaryless–forming their musical wheelhouse from an array of outside influences. Trevor spent his teens playing in hardcore bands, Billy swore his youthful allegiance to punk rock, while Dom earned a jazz studies degree at Ithaca College. Rather than dismissing bluegrass or whatever common perceptions listeners may have, the group has decided their sound goes wherever it goes–evolving with the band rather than keeping them pigeonholed in one genre.
Even the band’s bluegrass idols, like legend Bill Monroe, have played a role in their genre-defying sound. Mandolinist Billy Bright explains, “There’s nothing more punk than Monroe’s mandolin playing and the entire outlook he had on creating his own sound, writing most of his own material and defying convention by doing everything too fast and in the wrong keys,” says Bright.
Connect With Wood & Wire Online Here: WEBSITE
Learn more about Wood & Wire in the following All Access interview:
Thanks for your time. Given everything that is going on in the world today, how are you staying sane and continuing with your music?
As a matter of fact I had to get a dayjob to pay the bills just before covid started, so I have been working customer service from my little apartment this whole time. Very fortunate considering how many people have lost their jobs. It pays about half of what unemployment has been paying, so that was strange, but has made up for it by giving me a daily routine which has helped my sanity quite a bit. Musically, it’s been very difficult because getting together to play is basically out. On the other hand, I have space to breathe from trying to fill up my calendar with any and every gig opportunity that might present itself. I’m spending a lot more time listening for my own pure enjoyment. One example is that, since Cov. began, the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra has released a YouTube series of many past performances. Sitting and watching those for 90 min at a time has become one of my favorite things right now. –Dom
Staying sane by spending a lot of time with family and out in nature. Continuing with music by practicing a lot & zeroing in on the creative side of the process. – Billy
It’s been nice having a new record to promote. That’s kept us busy enough. Honestly I haven’t felt very musically creative lately so I’ve been just enjoying spending a summer at home with family (something we haven’t done in a long time) – I guess I didn’t know I needed that. I’ve been working on other things like video editing and animation. – Tony
How has this pandemic changed your day to day lives? Is your city starting to open up more now? Have you been able to get out and work on your music much?
Austin has been a hotspot recently, so even though there has been some (a lot of) opening up, I find it ill-advised to venture out much. On the positive side of that I’ve been more inclined to get out of town, more into the open spaces. I’ve had some sweet experiences discovering and swimming some of the surrounding rivers and lakes. – Dom
Everything is different. No real shows. Once this record promotion is finished, I won’t have as much to do so I’ll be looking hard for a day job. My wife and I have been going to the beach a good bit to get out though. I find it’s safe and spread out there and definitely helps with my sanity. – Tony
Do you feel like social media has become even more important these days? How are you trying to stay connected to your fans?
Well, I joined Facebook for the first time if that tells you anything haha. Can’t say I’m taken with it, but it has led to some interesting reconnections. That said, social media is one of the most important mediums any artist or entrepreneur, etc. can invest time and energy into, especially now. For me, I haven’t cracked the code yet, but for our band, let’s just say I’m grateful that others actually have a knack for it (COUGH <Tony>). As far as staying connected with our fans, releasing our new album is where we are focusing all our energy right now. We’re working with The Zone recording studio (where we cut the last two records) as they are establishing a solid live performance streaming platform. We will do an album release show there, and hope to be able to continue indefinitely, if we so choose. This will go hand in hand with all social media platforms. –Dom
Ha!! – Tony
Why do you all work so well together? What are the band dynamics like?
We work very well together because we are all so different in so many ways. That’s also why we don’t work well together. Haha I’m playin, but every group lives and dies by their ability to compromise as individuals on being part of a greater whole. When a project can function as a melting pot, selecting the best elements that can be agreed upon from different, far-flung corners of the musical world, there will be greater depth. –Dom
We have a deep respect and appreciation for each other and the great bounty each of us brings to the table. – Billy
Let’s talk about your just about to-be-released second album, No Matter Where It Goes From Here. How would you say that this collection shows how this group has grown since your debut album?
Every band gets tighter and more hive-mind the longer they play together. This results in subconscious levels of creativity that ripple throughout the recording process. What I think stands out here is continuing to hone in on effective arrangements and “dressings” for songs and material that is sometimes years old, and sometimes brand new at the time of going into the booth. Working as a group to carve away and find the sweetest presentation is what I think we all find most rewarding. From a growth standpoint, there tends to be less discussion about these things since the last album, and I think we did a pretty good job of serving the songs here. –Dom
Did anything surprise you about the overall process of making it? Were there any unexpected challenges? How long did it all take from beginning to end?
I was surprised that we recorded a good 33% more material than we ended up using. The challenge was in deciding what to put together. We all had different ideas on that, but this playlist seems to flow with most listeners. Don’t ask me, buddy. It’s hard to have perspective when you’re so involved in the creative process. I get attached to certain tracks or moments that I think are really strong, but when some of them get left out, it has a blinding effect until I get away from listening for like, many months. Then I can forget what I was attached to in the first place and usually I’m like, “oh, right on I dig this.” We spent around one year working on music, play testing live, and cutting tracks. –Dom
While it’s difficult to pick, can you choose a few of the stand-out tracks on this album?
I like “My Hometown” because the lyrics are spot on and the vibe is very groovy, with electronic sounds and overtones, yet the rawness that comes with acoustic playing is heavily felt as well. The vocals are very much in the tradition of bluegrass duet singing, and I think myself and Tony have cultivated a good blend over the years for that kind of thing. However, in this case, that vibe lands in this totally unique audioscape. I think all the elements come together here in a way that lights up the taste buds with fresh flavor, but stays satisfyingly simple to digest.
I also like “Pigs” because we just walked in and cut that thing and it was pretty much slammed straight down the middle. That was the first take of the day and we were just like, “well, yeah that’s it. Print it.” –Dom
How did you go about choosing Blue Corn Music as the place to support this band and your music now?
Blue Corn Music is an amazing label. There are so many great reasons to work with them. They work with a vast array of artists across many genres. This is good for us because they aren’t solely trying to fit us into the bluegrass box, but instead keeping all the doors open. Denby & Daria, the folks who run the label, are very giving with their time and fun to work with. They give us complete artistic freedom to produce and deliver the music ourselves. In the age of typically artist-squashing record deals, they are artist-friendly and fair. If I were to read between the lines I’d say their business model is as much or more about growing their artists as it is about growing their business. Plus, they did a great job with our previous record, North of Despair. -Billy
Since we are all desperately missing live music, what has been a favorite show of yours from the past and a favorite show that you attended? What about some of your favorite venues from around the world?
We’ve been fortunate to be involved with some great shows, both as performers and consumers. Too many to remember in one sitting. One that always sticks out to me was the Durango Meltdown in Durango CO. It takes place in February in a few indoor venues around town, including the historic theater there. There were a great bunch of acts the year we were there and I loved listening to them all. Including but not limited to Foghorn Stringband, Chris Henry, Jeff Scroggins and Colorado and more. Also, the John Hartford Memorial Festival was great to be a part of in 2019. Laurie Lewis’ sets were killer, esp. when she was joined by Michael Cleveland for a night time set.
How have you been affected by this incredibly necessary and overdue Black Lives Matter movement? How do you think it will affect future music?
As musicians, I think and hope it shines more light on black artists in our genre. We want to do our part to make the bluegrass community a welcoming place for artists of color that are interested in this music. There are some fantastic artists of color within the scene. Check out Amathyst Kia and Kia Kater – they’re fantastic. – Tony