Looking for Solid Ground, and a strong foundation to build upon, and a place to lay down roots both musically in life, the five-piece band Wood Belly’s latest release evokes feelings of change, growth, and evolution of life and they are finding it around every corner. Wood Belly is the official winners of the Telluride Bluegrass band contest in 2018. They are now the first officially confirmed band for the Main Stage of the 2019 Telluride Bluegrass Festival (June 20-23, 2019).
The new album, Solid Ground, was a gradual process, and that took shape slowly as they developed and wrote new material. The songs started to come together in the summer of 2015 when Craig Patterson (guitar), Chris Weist (Mandolin), and Chris Zink (Dobro) met and started playing together. The band took its full shape in the fall of 2016 with the additions of Aaron McCloskey (banjo) and Taylor Shuck (bass). Those new melodies attracted the big win at Telluride.
Shuck says right after winning the competition, “We won the 2018 Telluride band competition and we’re so excited!! The bands were great and were very honored to have won such a prestigious contest.”
The band is getting more attention, playing bigger rooms and attracting more fans. The band headlines Hodi’s July 20, 2018, for the first time. They have opened for so many legends at Hodi’s but never been the headliners.
When asked what this means to the band, Taylor says, “Progress– it’s a real honor and a testament to our hard work. We’ve worked tirelessly on our songs, our playing, and growing our band in every way. We’re humbled that so many people enjoy our music, and we need a bigger room to hold them.”
As a regionally touring band, Wood Belly shares the stage with some of the legends of bluegrass and is quickly building a name for themselves in the Colorado bluegrass scene. Taylor Shuck elates, “We’ve determined who the second strongest guy in the band is. I’ll give you a hint; he sometimes has a beard. In all seriousness, we’ve played some amazing venues with some incredible musicians such as Del McCoury (one of our heroes), Billy Strings, and Head for the Hills. We produced our debut album, a product we’re all very proud of. We play all over Colorado and are expanding into the rest of the Rocky Mountain Region.”
Taylor talks about the collaboration they share when writing, “It’s like a non-profit democracy– we move slowly but sometimes make good decisions. We all collaborate and have an equal voice. Listening is the key when you have five people in rehearsals, the studio, and on stage.” Shuck adds, “We all write songs, which keeps a strong balance in the band. The writer presents the band with a new song that typically has lyrics, chords, and melody but has not yet been fully arranged. Lyrics don’t often change much, but we like to try a lot of different things with the chords, melodies, and harmonies. We also try a variety of structural ideas and arrangement suggestions before finally settling on the song form.”
Wood Belly tends to get their inspiration from within the band, unifying a sound built on strong relationships between the group. Shuck says, “We draw a ton of inspiration from each other. It’s rare that somebody brings a new song to the table that we’re all not excited about. All of us work very hard, and we bring the best out of every member. The Colorado bluegrass scene is super inspiring right now. There are so many great musicians and bands, and we’re all driving each other to be better.”
Being better people and adding value to fans and supporters is an asset that makes the band proud. They work hard to curate melodies and lyrics and build connections everywhere they go. After a set at the Durango Bluegrass Meltdown, a fan described their performance like this, “a lot of bands play their music at you, but I felt connected to you guys and like we were having a conversation.”
What is on the bill for the summer for Wood Belly? Shuck says, “We’re playing all over Colorado and have some great gigs at festivals and bigger venues. Some of the highlights are headlining at Hodi’s, the Keystone Beer and Bluegrass festival, the Grapes and Grass Festival, the Aspen Bluegrass series, and many other town concerts.