ALBANY – Coming soon to the Palace Theatre are The Wood Brothers, an American roots band consisting of brothers Chris and Oliver Wood and multi-instrumentalist Jano Rix. The trio is currently touring to promote their current album, “Heart Is the Hero,” released April 14.
The band will perform Saturday, Oct. 28, with opener Maya de Vitry.
Earlier this month, in between Hillberry Harvest Moon Festival stops in Eureka Springs, Ark., and San Jose, Calif., Rix spoke with TheSpot518 about his musical career, the making of the new album and the band’s tour.
TheSpot518: Where does the Hillberry Festival take place? What is the festival all about?
Rix: We are in Arkansas. Oftentimes, these festivals are, you know, three-day festivals where the audience comes in. Most of them camp for the whole weekend, and there are bands all weekend in multiple stages, and we are out in the middle of nowhere on some farm or in some big field, so I don’t know where I am really! Today, I know we’re in Eureka Springs, Ark. I believe we did play this festival years ago as well. Tomorrow, we’ll be heading to a different festival in California.
TheSpot518: How many music festivals does your band take part in a year?
Rix: I don’t have a good count on that, but every summer, really starting in the spring, festival season begins and by the time June is over, we have pretty much quit doing routed tours and are flying from festival to festival for most of the summer. This year, it went longer than most. We’re still doing festivals through October. We’ll start a proper tour on a bus where it’s five or six shows a week, sleeping on the bus, at the end of October.
Festival season is long weekends, usually Thursday through Monday, and we’ll play one to three festivals, usually in different states so it requires flying in between them. By the time festival season is done, we are really ready to get back to bus touring, where we always have all our own gear, all our own light show, and a bus to be home away from home. And then come spring, it’s a nice change to get outdoors and play festivals again.
TheSpot518: Do you enjoy performing at festivals more or the bus tours? Or both?
Rix: It’s good we get to switch it up. Keeps us on our toes. If we had to pick one, we’d probably pick bus tours where we can do our whole show every night and we have all our gear. But after having everything so dialed in, it’s good to get thrown into the sometimes uncomfortable situations of playing on backline gear, not really knowing what you’re going to get and having to adjust to changes in some discomfort aka festivals. It’s good for the music and it’s good for life and our sanity to be a little uncomfortable. Good for creativity.
TheSpot518: How is your tour going so far for you and your band? What was the creative process like in the making of this new album?
Rix: Tour is great right now, one reason being, we have started working on new music for what will be the next record. Over time, we’ve realized that having a creative musical endeavor during the tour, that is in addition to the show itself, really helps keep the show fresh every night. It keeps us inspired so the process backstage, and in soundcheck, of working on new ideas, gives the show a fresh energy each night. It puts our heads and hearts in a different place after exploring new music. So when we play the material from all our previous albums, it feels new again.
The process of creating the music for our latest record, “Heart is the Hero,” took place on the road for much of it. It was the first time we did so much of that. But we all worked on our own as well and got together in Nashville a few times in between tours to flesh out ideas. Some ideas we’d record on our own and send to each other and see if they created a spark. So it went in all directions between us. But we did a lot of rehearsing on the road for this last album, which was new to us. But it was very intentional, one reason being we decided we would record to 16-track analog tape, which is one of the best sounding ways to record, but also limiting, in the best ways as far as the process goes, which was the most important intention behind it. Long story short, we were trying to be able to play everything live in one take as much as we could for this record. No editing after the fact if possible.
TheSpot518: Will you be performing all of your new songs from the album at the Palace Theatre stage as well as some older songs?
Rix: We are playing many songs from the new album but mixing it up. We try to make every tour and each night different. Also there are many songs from our catalog that people really want to hear, so we will include some of those every night, as well as mixing everything up each night. We make a different setlist every night. If the previous night was not that far away from where we are, in case people are coming to both shows, we want to make sure we give them a new experience, and we also look at what we played the previous year in that city and try to make it different. And we try to keep it fresh for ourselves and a little challenging in that way. Our new thing is to try to pull out an old song that we haven’t done in a long time each night and challenge ourselves.
TheSpot518: How many albums, including your new album have been released?
Rix: I’ve been a member of the Wood Brothers for more than 12 years, so it’s been a lot! Looks like we have 12 records, some are live records.
TheSpot518: Why did you decide to record the songs on the 16-track analog tape compared to composing the songs on Pro Tools?
Rix: Recording to tape, and 16-track in particular, is actually more about process than sound for us at this point. Yes it does sound amazing, and no, there isn’t anything quite like it, though plug-ins can get very similar sounds close to it. But the real point is the process. We had no screens on during the entire making of the record. And there’s nothing wrong with screens, except … in practice, they’re kind to us. You end up staring at the screen, energy goes way down, it’s easier to fall into a psychological low energy funk of sorts. You spend a lot more time in editing and analysis mode, less in playing creating mode. The results can be good, but they are never the same as playing more and playing a great take. Don’t get me wrong, you can make a great record that way. It just isn’t the same feeling from the music.
TheSpot518: Tell me a little about your opening act who will be performing at the Palace Theatre.
Rix: Maya de Vitry is a badass human and artist. We met her first when she was a member of The Stray Birds and they did a tour opening for us years ago. She’s soulful, honest. She’s in the “Americana” genre.
TheSpot518: How are you enjoying being a member of The Wood Brothers?
Rix: The Wood Brothers were my favorite modern day band before I joined them over a decade ago, so that was a very surreal experience at the beginning. I couldn’t be luckier, in that the music is creative on a level and full of influences that I love. It is always evolving and it turns out they and the whole organization from management to touring crew to Chris and Oliver are full of trust and kindness. We’ve all been at it a while so we’ve learned what kind of world we want to live in and try to create that.
TheSpot518: What bands were you previously with prior to The Wood Brothers?
Rix: The longest was a band called the Gabe Dixon Band. Lizz Wright, mostly in Europe touring and recording, and so many others from Loggins and Messina (Kenny Loggins original band, for those not familiar), to jazz gigs, just a lot over the years making records and doing tours being more freelance.
TheSpot518: How many times have you performed at the Palace?
Rix: I don’t know, but a few times. I remember seeing an amazing rainbow out of the dressing room window. That’s the kind of stuff that sticks. After two decades on the road, the theaters all blend together. We’re more focused on the music onstage. It’s the little things that make a day different that stand out. I work in a different place, pretty much in a different state almost everyday of my life for over 20 years, so even the most ornate theater can sometimes get filled in memory like another line on the highway. I do remember a good vibe and I know it’s a beautiful space … But that rainbow!
TheSpot518: What was it like working with Loggins and Messina?
Rix: Loggins and Messina was a trip. That was the first time I had my own tech to set up my whole rig, etc. It was a learning experience, different from anything I’d done prior. It had its good and bad but, glad I did it.
TheSpot518: Will you be going overseas for the new album?
Rix: Next year, we are headed to Europe, but still for this album cycle. The Wood Brothers haven’t been overseas in a while, it will be a nice change and excited to see if they remember us.
TheSpot518: What can fans anticipate when they go to the Palace Theatre for your show?
Rix: We’ll go on a journey together with new songs and old. We’ll laugh, we’ll cry. For real though, we’ll just all try to be present and connect and be with the uniqueness of the night!
Tickets for The Wood Brothers Heart of The Hero tour are on sale now. Tickets for the show are $40, $47.50, 8 p.m. showtime. The Wood Brothers | Palace Theatre Albany (palacealbany.org)