Woodshedders don’t need no stinkin’ labels
The Woodshedders are: Dwayne Brooke on guitar and vocals, Ryan Mayo on upright bass and piano, Jared Pool on guitar and mandolin, Jesse Shultzaberger on drums, and Dave Van Deventer on fiddle.
Graffiti: How did you guys start doing your thing?
Jesse Shultzaberger: Well, the band started somewhere around 2003 with two guitars, a bass, a fiddle player, and a mandolin player. The band came out of a kind of hot jazz kind of thing. Think Django Reinhardt kind of genre. That’s where the band was originally headed to start with. It was kind of a jazz idiom – an acoustic group.
I’m a drummer and I joined in 2007. The mandolin player left the band and went on to do other things. I came into the band at that point and did the first album with them, which was “Catch That Yardbird”. I’ve been on board kind of ever since. Now we … just released our third album. So the band has sort of developed out of that sort of hot jazz realm. In our music we do a lot of different things, but I’d say that we fall under that Americana type of thing, at this point. We play the bluegrass festivals, we can do the laid back jazz thing, we do the jam band festivals, which is good for us because we get to play a lot of different venues. Since we have a fiddle in the band, and we now have a mandolin player in the band, we can play some more traditional things, but with a drummer it kind of takes us to this other sort of place. I guess that’s where the Americana, new grass, country thing kind of comes from. I get very leery about putting labels on this sometimes.
Graffiti: So what is a writing session for the Woodshedders like? How do you guys develop your music?
Shultzaberger: Well, we work in a couple of different ways – all ways it seems like [laughs]. Dwayne Brooke – guitarist and lead vocalist – is our primary songwriter. Sometimes he’ll just come in with some lyrics for a basic chord progression and run ideas by me and the bass player a lot of times. We’ll kind of start to devise a song around that. That’s one sort of scenario. You’ve got this framework, and we’ll just work from that, you know. Another scenario would be when we work and improvise; you know, maybe record the rehearsals and then craft songs out of a jam idea. On our latest album, Wildfire, there’s been a little more collaboration in the songwriting. We’ve picked up Jerod Pool, who’s our mandolin player and lead guitar player, and he wrote a new tune fork the album, so he’s bringing that in to us. We’re really open to all sorts of scenarios. But mostly, I’d say that Dwayne writes about 99% of all lyrics and most of the material.
Graffiti: Have you done any touring recently?
Shultzaberger: Well, yes. We’ve played from the northeast down to the south; pretty much the east coast. We’re getting ready to gear up for more of that this coming year . We just got a full-time booking agent, as we’d been booking ourselves. We’re really pushing for the festival circuit. In the past we’d done like four day runs, that kind of stuff. We’ve gone up to New York, Massachusetts, gone around West Virginia, that kind of thing.
Graffiti: Where is the band based out of?
Shultzaberger: Well, our geographic center is Harper’s Ferry. I live in Shepardstown, some of the guys live around northern Virginia, but Dwayne, the singer, is in Harper’s Ferry, so we kind of call that home base. Yeah, we like to say we’re a West Virginia band.
Graffiti: What is a live experience like for a Woodshedders event
Shultzaberger: It depends on the room, but when possible there’s a lot of people dancing [laughs]. It’s pretty upbeat. We don’t stretch things out really far in terms of the jam band kind of thing like a jam band would. There may be some extended solos here and there, but we try to keep everything wrapped into the songs. But the live show is fun and when we get those really moving crowds, that’s when we really feel at home.
Graffiti: So you personally give drum lessons. Is that what you do for a living?
Shultzaberger: Actually I teach drums full-time, our fiddle player teaches full-time, and Jared-one of our guitar players-teaches full-time. That is when we’re not playing music.
Graffiti: So music is how you guys make your living, in one respect or another then.
Shultzaberger: Oh yeah.
Graffiti: How long now has the newest album, Wildfire, that you’ve released been out?
Shultzaberger: Um, we released that in July, but we’re really pushing that right now. We just did a big PR [public relations] thing. I mean, it was available in July but we’ve really been ramping it up lately.
Graffiti: What does the campaign for that look like?
Shultzaberger: Well, we hired Powderfinger, a promotion and publishing company, basically, out of New York who will get it out there for review. They put our music in the hands of bloggers, magazines, other internet outlets. They’re kind of pushing it toward the market. So, that was a big thing. I mean, the band had already set up stuff like Pandora, Spotify, our website, and other things like that. So we had already taken some different angles. Then as far a more promotion goes, we’ve got our booking guy and he’s really pushing it. He’s going after the festivals, going for the bigger venues, trying to get us into those kinds of places. We just want to get out in front of as many people as we can.
Graffiti: So you guys have taken proactive steps to take the Woodshedders to bigger places.
Shultzaberger: Absolutely right. In a nutshell, we want to take it to another level. That would be going beyond and taking us to a higher place than just being a regional band. I mean, we do well in our neck of the woods-northern Virginia, D.C., places like that-but we’re trying to expand that radius and the fan base and do the kind of things that we’ve really been wanting to do. And we feel that the music’s there, you know. As a band, we’re all pros; we’ve all been doing this a long time. We’re ready to take it to wherever that next place is. We’re touring and things like that.
Graffiti: You mentioned 2014 and trying to get out there more, but what are your goals for the coming year?
Shultzaberger: First and foremost, to make the best music we possibly can. That has always been our vision. We want to make quality music. Secondly, we want to get it out there to as many people as we possibly can! [laughs] To expose the world to the Woodshedders and what we’re doing. We feel like we have something unique because we don’t fall into all of these categories, and we feel like we’re sort of crossing genre boundaries a little bit. Ultimately, if we can make a full-time living at this, then that’s great. We’re all just focused on making the best music that we possibly can, you know. Since finishing this last release, we’ve learned some techniques and are able to do a bit more and hopefully come across as the best band possible.
Graffiti: With that said, do you feel like you guys are on the right track now?
Shultzaberger: I do feel like we’re on track and we’re getting good buzz. The Washington Post just did an article on us last weekend. We’re breaking into some better venues in D.C., which is good. The festivals are doing well for us. We played the Watermelon Park festival, which we’ve played for ten years now. We’re actually kind of one of the host bands for that now. So through that festival we’ve been able to increase the buzz around the band pretty well. I do feel like we’re on track. I mean, you need that exposure, you need people to hear you, you need the right people to hear you. You need to get in front of the right audiences, and that’s what we’re doing right now. We know what we need to do and we’re willing to do it. We’re willing to hit the road and travel. We want this.
Graffiti: OK, say someone wasn’t familiar with what you’re doing. What would you say to pique interest? What would you say that the Woodshedders are about?
Shultzaberger: Well, I would say Wow. That’s a tough question. I would say that we are an Americana band. We’re steeped in tradition but we’re willing to break that tradition and break that mold, I would say. We can take it to somewhere a little more contemporary. The live situation is very high energy and engaging. There are some almost virtuosic solos that are happening, so there’s never really a dull moment. Even the slow songs are engaging lyrically. So, from the lyrics to the music, you get a total package.