Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Jonathan Glen Wood interview

Jonathan Glen Wood is a country/folk/singer-songwriter magician making tentative steps into the Louisville musical jungle. His debut EP, things you find out about the people you love., is available for free listening by clicking here. He'll soon leave for a short East Coast tour with fellow local Johnny Berry.

Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Sissonville, WV, which is about 20 minutes outside the state capitol of Charleston. Once, I bought a copy of a book published by The Onion and a tiny article in the book actually included a bio of a fake soldier from "the rural, impoverished village of Sissonville." They really must have done their homework. It really wasn't a village, but when I was growing up, there was a bar at the mouth of my road called The Village and it was certainly rural and impoverished.

Is your family musical or artistic?
Music and art were never an important part of my family when I was growing up. It was almost taken for granted. The dreams and aspirations of most of the people I knew were to have a family and a job they could retire from. I could never understand why I never shared those goals and felt pretty lost. Creativeness seemed almost equal to daydreaming - it was certainly fun to create, but there was really no future in it and it was shelved. My parents always wanted me to be a dentist. I'm still not really sure why, other than the fact that my mom is obsessed with keeping her teeth clean and white.

What is your musical background / training?
Everything I know about guitar, I learned from my good friend Robin Kessinger. Robin is a renowned old-time flatpick guitar player from close to my neck of the woods, with a musical heritage that's out of this world. It wasn't necessarily the flatpicking aspect that drew me to the guitar. I loved finding new chords and rhythm patterns to play behind fiddlers and lead guitarists. Everyone I knew wanted to be a lead guitar player; I felt like I just wanted to be a strong rhythm player. Robin started taking me around the country on gigs with him to back him up and I learned so much from so many incredible players along the way.

I always dabbled in songwriting on the side, but never really thought about playing much on my own. I liked singing a song or two in sets with the folks I played with. I completely quit playing music for almost two years right before I moved to Louisville, due to lots of job stress. I decided playing and writing made me happy and I needed to strive to do it more often. Louisville has given me a fabulous opportunity to be creative and happy.

Who are your musical favorites/inspirations?
Most of the usual suspects. When I began writing songs, Hank Williams, Norman Blake, Townes Van Zandt and Merle Haggard were probably my biggest influences. I felt so connected to their words and delivery. I still think they were/are the greatest poets that ever lived. I went through a pretty large Gram Parsons phase when I discovered him. My mom was a huge John Prine fan, so I still hold those first few Prine records dear. One music related childhood memory I do have is knowing all the words to "Illegal Smile." I had no idea what an illegal smile was at that point, but I could sing the hell out of it. Over time, I certainly learned what it meant.

I'm interested in so many different things. Can I just list some things that I'm fairly obsessed with? Ginny Hawker and Tracy Schwarz, The Byrds, The Delmore Brothers, The Delta Sisters, Jody Stecher, Tex Ritter, Hamper McBee... the list just goes on and on.

Being new to Louisville, I'm completely inspired by the immense talent that surrounds me. I'm also flattered to call some of my favorite singers and songwriters in the country, friends. Thomas A. Minor and the Picket Line, Elephant Micah, Joe Manning, The Ladybirds, Johnny Berry, Andrew Iafrate, Maiden Radio, Mickey Clark, Young Widows, Nathan Salsburg, Glen Dentinger, Natural Geographic... all continue to reassure me that Louisville has one of the richest music communities in the country.

What bands/projects are you currently involved with? How did you get involved with them?
Usually when I play out, my good friend Andrew Iafrate accompanies me. He's actually from West Virginia as well and I've known him before we both ended up here in Louisville. Our voices and ideas blend well, and playing with him has shaped some new creativity.

I've got a few new things on the horizon that I'm really excited about. I've been writing a lot of songs with Oscar Parsons, of Thomas A. Minor and the Picket Line, for a project we hope to get off the ground sometime soon. Oscar is a kindred hillbilly. We got to talking about where we grew up and our circles started overlapping. We know some of the same folks. We sat down with guitars and three and four songs started happening at a time.

I'm also writing some things with Evan Patterson of Young Widows. Evan and I met last year when I played a show with him and Dan Davis under the moniker Bad Secrets. It was completely improvised and I was terrified. I lived, though, and Evan and I stayed in touch. We've been talking about collaborating for a while and lately we've been working some things out. We're both pretty excited about the sound.

What do you hope to achieve with music?
I just want to keep doing what makes me happy. The only "goal" that I have is to make an album at some point down the road. I don't put time lines on many things, for better or worse. Maybe a few people will like what I'm doing and come out to a show? Oh, I also hope to make enough money to buy a decent ribbon microphone.

Jonathan Glen Wood plays at Sunergos Coffee on Saturday, June 12th, along with Andrew Iafrate and Joan Shelley. The concert begins at 7 p.m. and is free.

c. 2010 Velocity Weekly

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