Saratoga Springs is about to get a bit more soulful.
Tedeschi Trucks Band, The Wood Brothers and Hot Tuna are making a stop at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center on Monday, July 3. It’s the third stop on their intense Wheels of Soul summer tour — they have shows slated for nearly every day in July.
The three bands are a blend of soul and rhythm and blues, making for an idyllic tour. Headliner Tedeschi Trucks Band brings some of today’s most famous blues artists to the stage. Derek Trucks, the lead guitarist, started touring when he was 12 years old. He eventually became a member of the Allman Brothers Band and played until the group’s last performance in 2014. Susan Tedeschi, the lead singer, also began touring and singing at a young age and has been nominated for six Grammy awards. The two married in 2001 and formed the Tedeschi Trucks Band in 2010, which brings together the best of their blues and soul influences. The band has released five albums and won a Grammy for the Best Blues Album.
Hot Tuna is one of the most famous American roots bands. It’s made up of lifetime friends and musicians Jack Casady and Jorma Kaukonen. They’ve been touring together and making albums since the 1960s and have no plans of slowing down.
The Wood Brothers are a bit of a different story, although maybe with stronger roots. While biological brothers Chris and Oliver Wood have only been operating under the name “Wood Brothers” for a little over a decade, they’ve created a dedicated fanbase through their unique mix of blues and American folk, with drummer Jano Rix.
Here, Oliver takes a moment to talk about his career, life on the road, and on the upcoming tour with Tedeschi Trucks and Hot Tuna:
Nash: You and your brother grew up in Colorado. Do you think that influenced your style at all?
Oliver: To be honest, very little. It was a great place to grow up, but we were much more influenced by our father, his record collection, the radio and our friend’s music. My parents would take us to see Hot Rise, which is an awesome bluegrass band that used to be in Boulder. So once in awhile, we’d get exposed to music outside of the house, but for the most part our father, who was a musician and also had a great record collection, I think that’s what got us started searching for other stuff.
Q: What records did you grab onto?
A: What really got us going, or at least what got me going and then I pulled Chris into it, was some of the blues records. They had a lot of cool rock and roll stuff, but when I found Lightin’ Hopkins, that was a revelation for me. There’s something really raw and really soulful about it. As a budding guitar player, I was like ‘I might be able to actually do that.’ I remember that very clearly, Lightin’ Hopkins, Jimmy Reed, Muddy Waters. Then it was fun to see how it relates. Like how Hopkins relates to Hendricks and Led Zeppelin, which is stuff I got into later.
Q: Did you start touring right out of high school or did you go to college for a bit?
A: I did a little of everything. I went to college. I dropped out of college. I went back to college, but in the meantime I was always playing music and getting better at it. Eventually got my first touring gig when I was in my early 20s with Tinsley Ellis, who is a blues guitar player out of Atlanta. I was living in Atlanta at the time. So I didn’t start touring until my early 20s but I’ve basically been doing it since.
Q: What was touring with Tinsley Ellis like?
A: It was incredible. Tinsley was very influential because not only was he a great musician and loved a lot of the music that I loved, but he also showed me the ropes as far as what it means to be a professional touring musician. There’s a lot to it beyond the music. I just learned that life from Tinsley and he was a great mentor to have. When I broke off and did my own thing, he was my biggest supporter. He was the one who encouraged me to start singing even, I didn’t even sing when I joined his band. It was very exciting just to be making a living making music, to be out there everyday and learning it and living it.
Q: What are some of the things beyond the music that you had to learn and maybe struggle with?
A: As far as touring life, there’s the dynamic of not really having a home base. As I got older, I had a family at home. It’s really hard to leave and be apart from that. When it was younger it was maybe easier because I didn’t have such deep roots back at home. Then there’s all kinds of subtleties that change as your career grows. That was the cool thing about Tinsley, he really showed me about making a record, the touring aspect of it and the ups and downs of the finances and the ups and downs of the creative process. Sometimes you’re just on a creative roll and other times you get stuck. Or sometimes you have to haggle with your record label and sometimes you lose your record label or sometimes you wish you could lose your record label. While I was with Tinsley, I actually met Derek [Trucks] and Susan [Tedeschi]. He was super young at the time. Trucks was also a friend of Tinsley's and we were playing with him when he was probably 13 or something like that. We met Susan Tedeschi around that time, she opened some shows when she was in her late teens. They were already established musicians then. I’ve always kept up this friendship with them so now it’s really exciting to work with them.
Q: For a while, you and your brother were [touring separately]. What led you to come together?
A: When I left home, I eventually formed my own band, I was living in Atlanta. I spent most of my adult life there, [although] I now live in Nashville. My brother, when he left home he moved to the Northeast and started with Medeski Martin and Wood. We really grew apart musically and even as brothers. We just never saw each other, we had different scenes we were in and lived in different parts of the country. So that went on for a good ten or 12 years. But what’s really cool about those years is that’s when we really grew up and found what our musical identities and who we were. Then [in the early 2000s] my band played a show with my brother’s band. We opened for their band and they invited me to play with them. Chris and I had such a great time playing together and realizing that we’ve been doing the same job for the last ten years. I think that was a turning point, we realized that we wanted to do this together. So we started writing songs together and it turned into something more.
Q: When did you officially form The Wood Brothers?
A: 2006 is when we released our first album. We didn’t think it would really . . . it was just going to be for fun at first, it was just going to be a side project. So we made a demo and it turned out people liked it and we got a record deal. Eventually, it became the main thing that both of us were doing. We both moved to Nashville so we could be in the same town. So it’s grown.
Q: What’s your songwriting process look like with your brother?
A: At this point, there really are no rules. It happens every which way. One thing we always do is we have writing sessions — and I use the word lightly because we’re not really writing anything — but we’ll get together and improvise. We’ll invent on the spot, just musical sounds and brews, chord progressions and such. We just record that and we’ll sort of gestate and take it with us. Then Chris writes lyrics, I write lyrics and we find lyrics to marry with that music. Sometimes we have a lot of words and we write music for them. Sometimes we have a lot of we have a lot of music and we write lyrics for it.
Q: What do you hope audience members to come away with, at least at the SPAC show?
A: For our portion of the show, I feel like it’s cool for us to get in front of Derek and Susan’s crowd because I feel like our audiences overlap since we’ve collaborated in the past. But we’re playing in front of people that are really there for the music, who appreciate music. So I’m excited to make some new fans and I hope that people connect with us through the music... kinda the ultimate reason we end up doing this, we find. Sometimes we’re like ‘What the heck are we doing going all over the country and leaving our families at home?’ Sometimes there’s an ego boost when people are cheering for you, but eventually you realize it’s not even about that. It’s when people come up to you and say ‘Wow, you really got me through a tough time’ or ‘Your concert made me so happy.’ You realize that there’s healing powers to the music and that there’s compassion in the music that really connects people. So that’s what I hope happens. It’s not about the glory, it’s about the connection.
Q: How did the tour with Tedeschi Trucks Band come about?
A: We’ve talked about doing a tour for the last three years, so it’s been in the works for awhile and it just hadn’t worked out until this time. We’re honored. I’ve done some stuff on our albums and they’ve done some stuff on our records, we’ve collaborated some in the past. We’re very familiar with each other.
Q: Will there be any certain songs that you join together to play?
A: Absolutely! That’s part of the package here. Everyone is going to be doing some playing together.
Q: Do you have any advice for young musicians who want to do what you’re doing?
A: If it’s someone’s passion they should go for it with the realization that it is at last as hard as any other job. It’s not just a talent thing, it is a determination thing and it’s a passion thing.
Tedeschi Trucks Band with The Wood Brothers and Hot Tuna
WHEN: 7 p.m., Mon. Jul. 3
WHERE: Saratoga Performing Arts Center
TICKETS: $19.50 and up