Live On The Green: The Wood Brothers look back on first Nashville memories

From left: Jano Rix, Oliver Wood and Chris Wood | Courtesy Calabro Music Media © Alysse Gafkjen

Live On The Green: The Wood Brothers are scheduled to play Thurs., Aug. 9, at 7:45 p.m. on the Main Stage. Also playing that night: Dispatch, Mt. Joy and Roscoe & Etta. Click here for the full schedule.

NASHVILLE — When Oliver Wood moved his family from Atlanta to Nashville six years ago, one of the first things he did as a Music City resident was attend Live On The Green.

Lightning 100’s annual outdoor music festival was in its fourth year, and Wood wanted to catch Dr. John’s headlining performance. The Wood Brothers frontman figured he might run into a few old acquaintances throughout the night. Instead, he saw an army of familiar faces.

“The reason I moved here is because I had a lot of friends here that are musicians,” Wood told Lightning 100 in a phone interview last Friday. “And I remember just running into all of those people, like, ‘All my friends are already here.’ It just felt like such a cool community thing, to be surrounded by musicians and people who love music.”

On the heels of their most recent album, One Drop of Truth, The Wood Brothers are making their Live On The Green debut this Thursday night.

They’ve been an active band for 13 years now, but have only spent four in the same city. Drummer and multi-instrumentalist Jano Rix first moved to Nashville more than a decade ago. Oliver arrived in 2012, and his younger brother, Chris Wood — the bassist — followed in 2014.

The current arrangement makes for much easier songwriting and recording.

“It’s been great to bring our families together, but also to work,” Oliver said. “It’s so much more relaxed. [Chris] can come sit in my living room, and we can work on a song. It’s a huge improvement on what we used to do.”

‘Powerful, physical things’

Natural disasters dominated the news in 2017; At one point, a trio of deadly hurricanes — Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria — all tore through U.S. soil in the span of four weeks.

These storms, as well as several more regional disasters, struck Oliver with inspiration during the writing and recording process. Related metaphors show up throughout One Drop of Truth, the cover of which features an illustration of a woman sinking into water.

One night during flood season in 2016, Oliver was watching the news when the TV anchor wondered aloud whether a Shreveport, Louisiana, levee would hold up.

That led to the first line of “River Takes The Town,” which kicks off the album.

“I hope the levee in Shreveport does what it’s supposed to do,” Oliver sings. “Cuz the rain keeps comin’, yeah, the rain keeps comin’.”

Storm imagery also appears in the songs “Happiness Jones” and “Seasick Emotions.” The latter actually features audio from Hurricane Irma toward the end of the track.   

“Those kind of things, when you put ’em down in a song, you start treating them as real things, but then they become metaphors for other things,” Oliver said. “Storms and floods are really powerful, physical things, but they’re also great metaphors for how we relate to people and each other.”

From left: Oliver Wood, Chris Wood and Jano Rix | Courtesy Calabro Music Media © Alysse Gafkjen

Live On The Green: A chance to be ‘casual’

After more than two decades of professional touring, Oliver is always happy to see a hometown show on the schedule. The band made its Ryman Auditorium debut on St. Patrick’s Day, and Oliver will enjoy similarly simple logistics this week.

“I don’t have to get on an airplane,” he said. “I don’t have to get in a bus or a van. I can probably take my own car to the gig and be independent, and my family can come over. It’s super simple in that way. It feels very casual, like, I’m playing down the street in a club or something.”

He did point out that these types of close-to-home concerts come with their own set of problems, including an inflated guest list. There’s no need to worry about that at Live On The Green.

“This is a free show,” Oliver said. “So no guest list issues! That should be easier. Everybody can just come have a picnic.”

When The Wood Brothers hit the Main Stage on Thursday night, Oliver will look out into the same type of crowd he joined six years ago as a newly-minted Nashville resident.  

“Man,” he said, “that night really set the stage and made us appreciate this city.”

Learn more about Live On The Green here, and check out The Wood Brothers’ latest album here.

Alex Martin Smith is a Nashville-based journalist and author. You can find him on Twitter @asmiff.