Austin band Wood and Wire celebrate evolving bluegrass sound on new ‘Mexico’

Updated May 15, 2013
  • By Brian T. Atkinson
  • Special to the American-Statesman

Wood and Wire’s new “Mexico” backs introspective lyrics (“Overblown”) with innovative instrumentation (the title track). The local bluegrass quartet supports its endlessly energetic debut Friday at Stubb’s indoors.

“We’ve been touring and we haven’t played a big show in Austin for a while,” guitarist Tony Kamel says. “I’m pumped to have a big rager. Stubb’s indoors is awesome, sounds great and feels good. I’m just looking forward to a good party!”

American-Statesman: Describe how the new album took shape.

Tony Kamel: This album is made up of some songs that we’d previously written individually and reformatted and rearranged as a band and several songs we wrote with the band in mind once we started playing together and feeling each other out.

How collaborative is your songwriting process?

It’s definitely a collaborative process at this point. When we first formed we had some songs we’d already written. Now, an individual might start the song and get an idea with some lyrics and an idea of the melody. Then we’ll bring it to a practice or something and finish the song together.

Tell the story behind writing the title track.

I started “Mexico” with just an idea for a chord progression and then I took it to (bassist) Dom (Fisher), who’s my roommate. He helped me rearrange the chords and laid down the arrangement. Once I had the chords worked out, then I sat down and luckily wrote all the lyrics in one sitting, which is rare. That banjo lick at the beginning we didn’t come up with until we got into the studio.

Did these songs typically evolve in the studio?

I think everyone’s different. Some sessions everything’s really laid out, (but) the sessions I’ve worked on there’s usually openness to change. In our case, we had a producer on board and every morning we’d sit down and play (songs) for him and he would make suggestions.

Describe working with (producer) Erick (Jaskowiak).

He’s an incredible sound engineer. I mean, the guy can get some of the most incredible acoustic sounds. On top of that, he’s a super cool, super laid-back guy with really good suggestions. He did the perfect amount of production advice and he wasn’t trying to change what we were doing. We all hit it off really well.

How did you find Erick?

Originally, we weren’t dead-set on going to Nashville to record, but we heard about Erick through our friend Carl Miner, who’s the guitar player for the Greencards. The whole situation just worked out beautifully and perfectly.

How much does living in Central Texas impact you as musicians?

Oh, big time, man. There are a lot of great players around here, a lot of incredible musicians in all kinds of genres. As far as the bluegrass scene goes, it’s growing and that’s affected us a lot. We’re really blessed and lucky to be apart of the budding scene in Austin. Some of the musicians here are insane.

Do any particular players stand out?

Well, the players in Milk Drive are some of the best musicians in the world. You really have to step up your game when you’re playing with musicians like that.