Wood Robinson's New Formal is the soundtrack to a road trip, a collection of stories witnessed through a van window while crossing the country on tour.
But Wood's story starts long before that. Growing up in Greensboro, North Carolina, Wood gravitated to the upright bass. He studied jazz in college, playing in small combos and big bands, and then felt drawn to old time and bluegrass music. He started the band Mipso with a few friends, in the process learning to reconcile his jazz roots with his new folk foundation. After college his band hit the road.
From dive bars to old theaters, from Portland, Oregon to Portland, Maine, 2014 and 2015 brought hundreds of shows and more oil changes than most people need in a decade. Wood half-jokingly called himself a "professional driver with a night gig." Truth be told, he was learning from the scenes outside the van window, gradually hearing songs take shape.
As the highways of America started feeling more familiar than Chapel Hill, Wood was collecting images and characters. Every geography offered a new setting; each stranger implied another narrative. These kernels of road stories -- the lonely woman on a Tulsa barstool, a bright green yard in Santa Fe, the feeling of leaving home in the rain -- made their way into lyrics.
Drawing equally from jazz grooves and the spare storytelling of folk, the songs offered Wood a new vehicle to develop his understanding of the places he was exploring--as well as his own songwriting voice. Each story may be incomplete, each narrator imperfect, but together the songs offer both crystal-clear snapshots and a panoramic blur: a vision of the country in motion, of Wood's view through a tour van window.