Interview: Oklahoma Roots Duo Wood Willow Discuss New Single ‘So Much Runnin’, Upcoming Album, & More

“Based out of Oklahoma City, Wood Willow can best be described musically as if Gillian Welch and the White Stripes had a baby. Armed with a repertoire of harmony filled traditional and original music, this duo brings old time sounds into the present.”

Now if that tag line doesn’t perk your ears, nothing will. And after listening to the Americana duo, it’s hard to dispute.

Pioneered by Rebecca Herrod and Joel Parks, the two OKC musicians are looking to make 2022 their year. Having released two singles in 2021, the two have just released their newest single, the infinitely catchy and resonating “So Much Runnin'”, with their debut album, Southern Intentions, to follow on April 22nd.

Before their work with Wood Willow, the two were making music together with bluegrass band Steelwind, with Parks’ brother, who is the band’s front man. With three albums released by Steelwind between 2010 and 2019, there is no doubt that the band played an inspirational role in Wood Willow.

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We got to ask the duo some questions about the new single, the accompanying music video, upcoming album and more.

So I was hoping you could discuss the inception of Wood Willow in a nutshell.

Becca: Joel and I met in the Fall of 2018 at Oklahoma’s International Bluegrass Festival, and shortly after meeting, we were playing music together all the time. One day Joel called me up and told me he had a dream about seeing a lady in a crowded sidewalk with a T-shirt on and on the front it said “Wood”, and on the back it said “Willow”. He asked what I thought about that being our band name and I loved it. Lucas Gillette, our bass player, has played music with Joel for over 15 years so of course, he was the next addition. 

What’s the OKC music scene like, and how might you try to sell someone on it?

Joel: We love the Oklahoma music scene. Not just OKC but Tulsa, Norman, Stillwater, and more have had an incredible amount of world renowned musicians come from there. For one, there is a support between fellow musicians, venues, and audiences that could be hard to find in larger markets. Moreover, being a smaller market allows newer bands to get a foot in the door and network with local music veterans quicker and more naturally than I’ve found in larger markets. 

I see you describe your sound as “if Gillian Welch and the White Stripes had a baby.” Can you elaborate on that a bit? And is this a style that came naturally, or did you intend to try to combine these two artists’ sounds?

Joel: I’ve found that genres can kind of be misleading. In every genre, there is incredible music and terrible attempts, so when starting out we tried to give people a more tangible depiction of our sound and energy. It’s definitely a description that came naturally after quite a bit of time of playing and writing together. Since we originally started as a duo, we resonated immediately with the other duos that we admire musically. Our acoustic instrumentation makes the Gillian Welch comparison easier for people to understand but we like to add a bit of angst and attitude into songs that call for it so we felt like we were channeling a more raw and raucous filled duo like the White Stripes. 

So you’ve got your new single, “So Much Runnin,’” which dropped this week. What’s the inspiration and backstory behind it?

Joel: “So Much Runnin” is based off of the concept that I think a lot of people are familiar with. We get caught up in the grind and often let time pass us by, working our entire lives and benefiting other people. It’s important to always make time for what you love and what you enjoy, careful not to let time slip away from you.

Where was it produced and who helped it come to life?

Becca: Joel came up with the general riff and melody and lyrically it was co-written by Joel and myself. Our bassist, Lucas Gillette, helped us with the form of the song. Our producer and engineer, Wes Sharon, had a big hand in how the vibe of the song turned out. We produced that song and our whole album at Wes’s studio, 115 Recording. 

What made the abandoned train cars the perfect setting for the music video? Can you walk us through the day or days you shot there and what it was like?

Joel: On the surface level of the song lyrically, the abandoned train car was the perfect juxtaposition for the chorus lyrics of “So Much Runnin’.” As you get deeper into the words, the song also touches on the ‘rise and grind’ culture of modern society and our own mortality. Therefore the trains seemed to be the perfect metaphor for what the song is warning us about.

The shoot was very fun, very cold, and very spur of the moment. In Oklahoma, we don’t get snow very often so we had to act fast. We shot it all in one day and all on an iPhone. Definitely our most DIY video to date!

Where do you typically draw inspiration for your music, and how does the songwriting process work between the two of you?

Becca: We draw inspiration from different bands we love, and past experiences, and sometimes just concepts that we love. Our songwriting process generally starts with Joel coming up with a line or a riff and we both try to expand on the idea with either words or more instrumentation. A lot of times Joel loops the song and sings gibberish over the loop until coherent words come out. I tend to come in strong after the song has a skeleton, helping with form, writing/editing lyrics, etc. 

Do you have any dream collaborations? How about dream gigs?

Becca: Our dream collaboration would have to be with Tom Waits. He is a big inspiration to us as far as songwriting goes. He is also unapologetically himself, which you can hear in his music. We strive to have the same approach to composing songs and we would be over the moon to do any kind of collaboration. Our dream gig would be at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado. We have been to a few shows there and it is such a magical place!

What is the most rewarding part of creating music for you guys?

Becca: For me, the most rewarding part is getting to do it together. We are engaged and it’s always so fun to be able to share music and create things together. Another rewarding aspect is sharing it with other people. Seeing them dance to our songs at a show or know that it brought them some kind of joy is a great feeling.

What might fans expect from Wood Willow come spring and summer?

Joel: We are releasing our first full length album locally on April 1st with a record release show at Ponyboy, and worldwide on April 23rd. In May, we’ll be at the Folk Alliance conference in Kansas City, and then this summer we plan to do some short tours across the Midwest. We have already started writing the next project so hopefully by the end of the year, we are back in the studio working on our next album!

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