Last week I got a chance to speak with Chris Wood, the bass player for The Wood Brothers and (one of my favorite experimental jazz bands) Medeski, Martin and Wood. [Read that interview here] We talked about the similarities between the two bands, songwriting and singing before taking a quick detour into a subject we both enjoy: reading. Here, Wood talks about the influence of his mother, who was a published poet and recommends a book he thinks everyone should read. So, with the likelihood of inclement weather coming to Central PA this weekend, now would be the perfect time to brush up on some reading. Take a look. It’s in a book…
Mike Andrelczyk: Your mother was a poet?
Chris Wood: Yeah she was a published poet.
MA: Would I be able to find her stuff online?
CW: I think so.[Editor’s note: Yes, you can. Right here.] I’ve never done a search. [Her name is] Renate Wood.
MA: Do you have any favorite lines by her? Or anything that inspired lyrics, or did you gravitate toward writing when you were younger because of her?
CW: Yeah, when I was a kid, I think her poetry was way beyond me. She was a refugee in World War II in Austria and she had a lot of heavy subject matter. There were things that I recognized as being a part of our lives, that I could appreciate, but as far as the artistry, it wasn’t until later that I was able to appreciate that. But she taught creative writing classes, which I took, so I was working a lot with metaphors and expanding ways of description and how you can get your points across. She’s definitely an influence. But I think with both of our parents, we didn’t appreciate their influence until we started the Wood Brothers. As we started developing and writing together that’s when we started to realize like, “Oh, our father was a huge influence on us.” He was the first live music that we heard in the house. The appreciation for poetry and writing in general was a huge influence, but you know, you just take that stuff for granted as a kid. It’s not until our 40’s that we look back and realize that was a huge influence.
MA: Are you a big reader?
CW: Yeah I love to read.
MA: What are you reading right now?
CW: I’m reading this mind-blowing book right now – it’s not new, someone turned me on to it, but I somehow missed it when it came out in 1998 – it’s called The Alphabet vs The Goddess by Leonard Shlain. He had this idea that the creation of the alphabet is basically what turned – what used to be in prehistory – our goddess worshiping matriarchal societies into monotheistic male god worshiping societies where women had basically no rights. It’s an incredible book if you’re into mythology, comparative religions, Joseph Campbell and stuff like that.
MA: I know Joseph Campbell wrote how lots of these ancient myths, or variations of them, were happening all across the world at the exact same time and that they’re a part of the human unconscious.
CW: Yes. Absolutely, and that where his theory starts to makes sense because the creation of abstract thinking caused by the alphabet – it’s a whole thing, but it sort of enhanced our left brain usage which kind of changed the way we functioned. [The book] follows the lineage of the myths that led to modern religious myths. It’s incredibly fascinating. You start seeing it everywhere in our culture. It’s one of those books I wish everyone would read. Whether he’s right or not about the actual cause of that transition, just his analysis of all the myths is incredible. Everyone should experience that. And actually on a footnote there, if people do check it out, one of the reasons I love the book I think is because it vindicates some of the things I already believed or felt. The song on the new record “Touch of Your Hand” [see video above] is pretty much exactly what the book is about – in a sort of abstract way. But I hadn’t read the book yet. I just heard that song again and realized that’s what I was writing about. Amazing.
The Wood Brothers perform at the Lancaster Convention Center during the Lancaster Roots & Blues Festival on Febraury 28 from 7-8:15 p.m. Visit lancasterrootsandblues.com or call 1-800-838-3006 for tickets.
Looking for more inside activities in case of snow this weekend? Check out our guide to getting snowed in here.