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Seven Quick Questions... Will Wood

Seven Quick Questions... Will Wood

Interviewed by
Danielle Street
Friday 19th September, 2014 2:06PM

Over the past few years Will Wood has been a familiar face behind the drumkit for a diverse range of musical acts including Luckless, Bernie Griffen and the Grifters, and most recently hardcore outfit Parents. The diversity of his skills doesn't stop there however, Wood is a classically trained pianist and violinist and can ingeniously turn his talents to playing guitar and singing. On top of all this, he earns a crust by working as a psychiatric nurse during the day, and moonlights at Auckland's Whammy as a bartender.

Today, the world is officially introduced to the fruits of Wood's labour from his branching out on his own for debut solo album Broken Man. The 10-track record is a heart wrenching alt-country affair laced with the musical contributions from some of New Zealand's best contemporary country musicians including Dave Khan, Ben Woolley, Reb Fountain and Delaney Davidson. We caught up with Will Wood for Seven Quick Questions to learn a bit more about what got him out from behind the skins and tubs and where he is heading from here...

You are well known for playing drums for a load of local bands, but when did you start playing guitar and writing your own songs?

I started playing the drums when I was 19, but I think I got my first guitar at 15 or 16, so playing guitar does pre-date the drums for me. However, I never got completely taken over by guitar in the same way that playing the drums so quickly became a huge focus in my life. When I started writing songs a couple of years ago I used the guitar as more of a means to an end, as you can't really perform country songs as a one drummer solo act! I think I play guitar like a drummer, its very rhythm-focused and I could never play a lead break or anything, I much prefer sitting behind the drums and leaving the guitar up to my talented friends!

When did you actually decide to do the solo thing proper and put your own album together?

After the Grifters broke up at the end of last year I realised that for the first time in maybe 5 or 6 years I was only playing in one band (Parents). I couldn't see any opportunities to form or join any new bands, and I'd been playing solo for about a year or so and had managed to achieve a few small milestones with that, so it seemed like a good opportunity to put some more time into the singer-songwriter thing and see how far I could take it. I think having a lot more time on my hands musically ended up combining with the fact that I was at a stage in my life where I felt really directionless and wasn't having much fun, so I decided that doing something radically different like becoming a solo artist and trying to make a record and tour it around the world was exactly the sort of shake-up I needed.

The songs on Broken Man seem pretty close to the heart. How do you feel putting such personal stories out so publicly?

It can be pretty intimidating baring that side of yourself to a bunch of strangers. As much as I wish I had the ability to cloak ideas in beautiful metaphor I'm not that lyrically gifted so my lyrics often end up being quite direct and honest, and thus when people hear my songs they can tell exactly what I'm talking about, which is quite scary. That being said, I quite often get people coming up to me after shows saying that they can totally relate to what a particular song is about because they've felt that way themselves, and really that's a pretty huge compliment and it means a lot more than someone complimenting your playing ability or your sweet cowboy shirt.

How do these songs come to you… what’s your creative process like?

A lot of my songs are stories, and so the writing process is a manner of figuring out a way to tell that story in my chosen medium. Other times I'll start off with an idea that I like for a chorus, or a single line of a verse, or a guitar or piano riff, and I'll try and build a whole song around it. I constantly note down lyrical ideas on my phone, and when work isn't too busy I get some time to sit down with a guitar and do some practice and figure out some new music. I always, always for my entire life have had a constant stream of music playing in my head for every waking moment. Often times its a segment of a classical piece, or it's a country song, but if I'm lucky enough that my subconscious feels productive then I get a continuous loop of an unfinished song that I'm trying to figure out how to finish.

How did you get connected with the crew at Lyttelton Records?

I've known a lot of the local Lyttelton artists for years, and have been to watch heaps of their shows and played a fair few shows with them as well. Working at the Wine Cellar for so many years I would see all these great artists and all their different acts every time they came up to Auckland to play, plus through playing in the alt-country scene I would end up playing a lot of the same shows as them as well. I first met Ben Edwards when I was playing in Luckless and we did a gig in Christchurch during a long national tour a few years ago, and he was in the process of recording The Eastern's Hope and Wire record in a busted up house. He's engineered so many of my favorite records that I knew he would be the absolute best person to work with when it came to having a go at a solo album, and although we barely knew each other before we went into the studio I swear we were best of friends just a few hours after he picked me up from the airport.

Can you tell us a bit about doing the actual recording?

It was all tracked in The Sitting Room in Lyttelton, and produced and engineered by Ben Edwards. I lived at Ben's place (his house and the studio are on the same property) for two weeks while we tracked and mixed the album. We had a pretty odd schedule as we were working around the availability of all the different musicians who played on the record - my guitar player Tom Landon-Lane flew down with me and stayed in the studio for the first week, Dave Khan the fiddle player and the local rhythm section of Joe McCallum (drums) and Ben Woolley (bass) were all busy rehearsing and peforming with Tami Neilson that same week so we had to poach them all at weird times in order to get it all done, but in the end it worked perfectly!

Once all the instruments were tracked, Reb Fountain turned up on a Monday afternoon and managed to track the backing vocals for the whole record in about two hours, you'd be hard pressed to find an equal to her! There's a couple of tracks that stand out to me from that period, the first is 'Take Me Away' because we formed a four-piece string band on the spot in the studio and did the whole song in a live take, and the second is 'Hymn', where Dave and I played it live together on the deck outside the studio with Ben running a couple of mics out of the window, you can actually hear birds and traffic noise at points on the song and it adds an awesome atmosphere.

You are heading overseas to tour soon, where are you going and what are you looking forward to most?

I'm playing in France, Switzerland, Germany, The Netherlands, The Czech Republic and London. I think I'm looking forward to my first two shows the most as they are both in Lyon, which is also the current hometown of my childhood best friend who I haven't seen for a long time. Apart from that, they're all equally exciting and I can't wait to get over there!

When I get back I'd really like to organise a proper two or three week long national tour where I can hit all the smaller venues, especially in the South Island. This NZ release tour that I'm about to start was supposed to be like that, however the record suffered a lot of delays and I had already booked my flights for my overseas tour, so I ended up with just a week in which to do Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. I'm making plans to play some shows in Australia at the start of next year too.

Will Wood has a handful of shows around the country over the next week, head over here for more details and to buy tickets.


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