Featured Music: Wednesday, October 12, 2005
Producer/singer-songwriter Walker Wood knows ‘The Distance Between.’
All the Album’s a Stage

Walker Wood is devoted to album-length stories in music, and he has the Americana trilogy to prove it.


Walker Wood appears to be Everyman, everywhere. You’re likely to run into the gnomic, mop-topped indie rocker anywhere along West Berry Street, especially at Panther City Coffee — his guitarist’s uncle owns the joint. Walking by and catching a glimpse of Wood among the kiddy artwork and neo-folkies strumming off-key covers of Coldplay songs, you’d probably never guess that the young twentysomething has a helluva knack for crafting enduring Americana-ish pop songs. His dramatic yet sometimes spastic demeanor only obscures the maturity of his music, especially as it’s captured on his latest full-length, The Distance Between. Though the disc hasn’t really set scenesters a-talkin’ since its release in April, it should — there are a dozen reasons that this producer/singer-songwriter should be heard.

Wood grew up in the company of two uncles who were jazz guitarists, and legendary producer T-Bone Burnett (O Brother, Where Art Thou?) was a family friend. Wood’s childhood was filled with the sounds of lots of pop and jazz standards, but he didn’t pick up a guitar until a few years ago, when he began college at Texas Christian University. At the time, he was primarily interested in soundscapes, particularly scenic arrangements of unusual sounds. His first c.d., 2003’s All Good Things ..., was riddled with washes of instrumental landscape painting. While the music may not have generated much interest, Wood’s skill behind the mixing boards did — the production content is solid and definitely not what you’d expect from a guy with no prior experience running the show.

Musically, Wood draws from the nasally giants — Neil Young and Tom Petty, with a little Dylan for good measure. When asked about his ideas on worthwhile songcraft, Wood paraphrased Petty: “He said, ‘Give me three chords, and I’ll give you nine songs.’”

Wood calls his approach to music making “Beatles playing,” which means crafting easily digestible songs to please the ear and thoughtful lyrics to teach the head. (Wood, a theater major, is a firm believer in the Aristotelian principle that creative products must please and teach.)

Wood is fascinated by 1960s and ’70s Americana. He isn’t afraid to employ twang in his vocals if it’s called for by a song, and he believes in the value of “authentic” albums — musical works with beginnings, middles, and ends — in deference to mere collections of songs. “I dislike a lot of music today,” he said. “The whole idea of an album is completely lost. There is no relation to any of the other songs ... just a collection of songs surrounding a few singles.”

The ideal, according to Wood, is not necessarily a concept album but a cohesive album, such as Dark Side of the Moon, Pet Sounds, Sergeant Pepper’s. “Albums should keep a certain theme, go on a particular journey that is being expressed in all the tracks,” he said. “With The Distance Between, I guess the basic sense is about the end of a relationship. Love and loss.”

The Distance Between is the second in a proposed trilogy of full-lengths; Wood said he has finished writing the material for the third album and plans on recording some time next year. The Distance Between is divided into two acts, and the first ends with one of the c.d.’s better numbers, the potent yet subtle “Transparency 30.” “It’s just a song completely devoid of emotion,” Wood said.

With the c.d.’s lead-off track, “Twilight of Our Lives,” Wood said, the characters in the album’s relationship are “trying to make the best of things,” but by the time “Transparency 30” comes around, the air of hopefulness and naiveté has dissipated. Act II starts with “After the War,” an epic that deals with the anger that replaces the love between two people who’ve separated.

Wood hopes that listeners recognize the mood shift between the two acts. “I think I’m telling a story,” he said. “I’m hoping people can see the big picture and in the end get something from the journey.”

Though quiet and good-natured, Wood is integral to the local scene — he’s played theremin for Flickerstick, and he and his next-door neighbor, alt-country darling Collin Herring, regularly bounce ideas off each other. Wood’s back-up band, The Easily Replaced, are a group of like-minded musicians who often help one another out on projects.

The local scene, Wood said, is “so open and friendly.” Though a lot of local artists think L.A. and New York are where it’s at, Wood is perfectly happy here. Fort Worth, he said, has a “close-knit group of incredible musicians,” he said. “Everyone is open to help everyone else out. We all just want to come together and do what it takes to make the music scene as a whole better.”

Wood and the Easily Replaced are planning to do some shows near the end of the year. In the meantime, you can pick up The Distance Between at Panther City Coffee. While you’re there, say hi to Wood — he’s the guy in the middle of the crowd, waving his hands all over, talking passionately about something, probably music.

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