Sean Nevison (315 Music): Jano could you speak to your history with music before joining The Wood Brothers?
Jano Rix: I grew up sitting behind my father’s (Luther Rix) drum kit. He has a pretty storied career playing with Bob Dylan, Leonard Coen, and Patti Labelle to name a few. Then when I was born he settled in New York and did mostly studio stuff which turned into Broadway gigs after a lot of studios in New York closed.
So I grew up watching him and he cut down his hardware and built me a kit for when I was little. I grew up in Nyack, NY, and had a great music scene. In elementary school, I was in a band with Adam Deitch, who is now in the band Lettuce. It was a fun musical community and we were playing regular gigs by the time we were 15 years old.
Then I went to music school in Miami to study jazz piano. I put in my four years and moved back to New York City for a minute and then joined the Gabe Dixon Band for about a decade.
We toured and I had some freelance gigs. It was a great band and right when we signed to a major label, the whole industry fell out, so I learned all the booby traps there the hard way. I did some freelance gigs as that band disintegrated and was able to do a tour with Liz Wright which was amazing. Off broadway to Blue Man Group…so much, but at some point, you know I just had not made any money, so I decided I wanted to be a carpenter. I did that for about 9-10 months and then decided Nope! I need to just play music, there is no question. No matter how broke I am, no matter what happens, I need to put all my eggs into this basket, music is what I need to do.
Shortly after that everything started to get better. I knew for sure now I had to do this. There is something I loved about leaving my job and feeling tired and the routine, but the creative process can also be exhausting. Then I started meeting the right people. Things were falling into place. I got to open for the Wood Brothers who were opening for Zach Brown Band, but I talked to Oliver. I was already a huge fan. In fact, they were my favorite band, my favorite current band. One day I told my wife in the car while listening to their first record,”One day I’m going to play with these guys.” She was like, “That’s great honey. That’s a nice thought.” A few weeks later I got a call and it turned out I was recommended to them as they were ready to expand. I was so excited!
315: I’m sure there are so many incredible side stories that are layered into all of that.
JR: Mostly just a lot of breaking down on the side of the road.
315: How was your relationship with music affected during the heart of the pandemic when everything was put on hold for musicians?
JR: Well at first I was happy to be off the road. I was scared though because the majority of my income was touring with The Wood Brothers, but I had been on the road non-stop for 20 years. It was a really nice break. After the two-week lockdown ended it started to get really scary for musicians, I took a landscaping job. Eventually, in the fall of 2020 everyone was going into the studio. The Wood Brothers and our engineer Brook own a studio. So that fall we just started producing. Holy shit did that feel good. In The Studio Nashville I worked on Oliver’s solo record, Chris Kasper, Bridgette Meyer, Steve Poltze, and obviously the Wood Brothers recordings. It’s a cozy space and has all our toys in there.
Oliver booked a gig at City Winery in Nashville and it was an outdoor/masked show. It was incredible. He invited so many friends to sit in. Although I played, there were a few tunes I just got to sit on the side and just watch my friends… tons of people…we were all crying. Man, it had been so long since we had seen music. I had such an appreciation for music, these people we get to work with, spend our lives with, and just the talent and joy pouring through them. It was incredible and a huge wake-up call. It was a big wake-up call for all of us like holy shit, we’ve gotten to do this for years, and man we need to appreciate it.
315: I asked Christopher and Oliver about their inspirations, and since they refer to you as their third brother, could you talk about your musical inspirations?
JN: JB Lenoir’s record Passionate Blues is one we all go back to. Nobody’s ever heard of it, but it’s one of the best records ever made. It’s so interesting the way that the drummer and JB play together. It’s hard to describe, but they have so much feel together, two opposing swings that just work together in this beautiful way.
I feel like on this last record we referenced a lot of Bill WiIthers. I bet we all gave different answers. I tell you what though, this record we are currently working on…we are so inspired by turning off all screens. Everything in the room. It’s been lovely just to look at each other and go directly to tape. Listening instead of looking at waveforms on a screen. This process is a different relationship to feeling the music that we had all forgotten about. Being in the moment brings such great surprises. It hits you and you feel it or you don’t and it’s just become really nice.
315: It’s something I struggle with and most everybody does is setting their relationship to screens.
JR: Screen time, a powerful drug humans have created.
315: Within this connection in the studio, how do you feel the give and take of performing live is important to you?
JR: I think it’s like we are all there for the same thing. I mean we have a job to do, and all the training is to let the music pass through us. Right? So the less we can obstruct that the freer we are to let go. People are there in the audience to let go as well. So I feel like we are all connecting to the same thing and moment. When it’s flowing we can feel that with the audience and that is just a whole other level. It’s all about openness too. Being open with exactly who you are, in that moment, and letting go of your anxiety in the song. If you can let go of your care or express your emotions at our shows, that’s when it works really well. It’s a beautiful thing. That’s connecting.
315: So we always end interviews with two fun ones. What’s your favorite food on the road?
JR: Thai food is my go-to.
315: Lastly, you can transport to any historical music moment, where would you go?
JR: Oh man, I think I would like to see Herbie Hancock when he was getting the Headhunters together. That was some funk fusion, that was damn good. Everyone should listen to Headhunters.
The Wood Brothers return to Beak & Skiff this Sunday, June 12 with Guster and David Wax Museum. Tickets for the show are still available and can be purchased here. Doors open at 5:00 p.m. for the 6:30 show.
Their new album, Kingdom in My Mind was released on Jan. 24 via Honey Jar/Thirty Tigers and is available through their website and on all the popular streaming services.