Tune in: Rising Bluegrass Band Wood Belly Talks Man on the Radio

Wood Belly
Wood Belly Emily Sierra Photography
Wood Belly formed at RockyGrass in 2015, when members of the group, who live on the Front Range, first met and bonded over their shared love of songwriting and bluegrass music. Since then, the talented outfit, which won the band competition at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival in 2018, has been steadily releasing a trove of original material that improves with each new project.

The group, comprising Chris Weist on mandolin, Craig Patterson on guitar, Chris Zink on dobro, Aaron McCloskey on banjo and bassist Taylor Shuck, marks the introduction of its third effort, Man on the Radio, this Friday with a show at the Oriental Theater.

Westword spoke briefly with the group's banjo player to get the latest on its ongoing rise:

Westword: What's been happening in Wood Belly land lately?

Aaron McCloskey: Well, part of what we got for winning the Telluride band competition was a recording package from eTown in Boulder. So we recorded and released an EP this past spring and then had a great summer of shows, including a performance on the main stage at Telluride, and shows at the Northwest String Summit and a bunch of other festivals all over the state, including the Palisade Bluegrass and Roots Festival, the Keystone Beer and Bluegrass Festival, Rhythms on the Rio in Southfork, Colorado, and also the Ogden Bluegrass Festival in Utah.

We had a great summer of gigs and a great response. We met a ton of really amazing musicians and people. We played about a hundred shows in 2019, so it was a big jump up with us trying to strike while the iron is hot from Telluride. We played in sixteen different states, from the north to the south, east and west. We got around as much as our schedules would allow. It was a big year of growth for us.

Were you trying to fit this in around day jobs?

Well, we're all in slightly different situations. One of us has a serious full-time day job, so it's a lot to fit in, and all of us have side gigs. I teach a lot of music lessons, and I also build custom guitar amplifiers. So I do all music stuff, though it's not all performance-related. But we're all trying to make as much time for gigging and touring as we can.

Can you tell me about the new album?

It's called Man on the Radio. It's got thirteen original songs on it. In the past two and a half years, we have released 29 original songs via the debut album, the EP and this new one. So, yeah, we've got three different recording projects out in the world now.

The new one was produced by Sally Van Meter, who is an amazing dobro player, producer and Grammy winner. And Jeremy Garrett from the Infamous Stringdusters plays fiddle on four of the tracks. He's amazing to work with. We met him last summer, and he sat in with us on a few sets. He'll be joining us on Friday at the Oriental. He's a super-cool guy and an amazing musician. So that's been a real pleasure.

We recorded the album at Swingfingers Recording Studio in Fort Collins with Aaron Youngberg. We also recorded our debut album there. So it was a great experience yet again. I feel like we had a killer team behind us. The tones are all great, the arrangements are great, the harmonies are all great. They are amazing to work with.

Anything fun on the horizon after this album release?

Yeah. We have some festivals that we can't announce yet, and we'll be playing a few shows in early February with Trout Steak Revival; they're doing an album release tour. We've got the Midwinter Bluegrass Festival coming up in Northglenn and the Winter Folk Festival in Longmont coming. So lots of fun stuff. We're super-excited to play.

Wood Belly hosts its album-release party with support from the Billy Failing Band and Grace Clark Band, at 8 p.m. Friday, January 31, at the Oriental Theater, 4335 West 44th Avenue. Tickets are $12 to $80 and available at the Oriental website.
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Nick Hutchinson writes about music for Westword and enjoys playing his guitar when not on deadline.
Contact: Nick Hutchinson