Beth Wood has been making music professionally for more than 20 years now. Long nights on the road have taken her as far from her hometown of Lubbock than one could hope for. Yet the self-described modern-day troubadour says she still feels like an emerging artist.
“I’ve always struggled, my whole career, to try to figure out what kind of music I make because I honestly don’t even know right now,” Wood says. “All of my favorite artists are the ones that I can’t put into a category. Like Lyle Lovett or Shawn Colvin or Rickie Lee Jones. There’s not one word to describe what kind of music they make and that’s what I strive for.”
Wood’s upcoming 11th studio album, The Long Road, is a symptom of the same restlessness and curiosity that have defined her musical career. Slated for a Nov. 16 release, the album is an honest-sounding collection of songs that are ultimately failed by the limitations of the “folk-country” genre it happens to fall under.
That’s simply far too generic a description for tracks that are essentially short stories penned and performed by a veteran of the craft. Leaning more toward the '90s folk of Tracy Chapman and the Indigo Girls, with just enough southern flair reminiscent of Dolly Parton, The Long Road sounds as if Wood has truly traveled one herself.
“It felt like that was the title all along because the timing of it, it was at the same time I was celebrating 20 years as an independent artist,” Wood says. “I definitely felt like the culmination of my life’s work and also at the same time, sort of in a bigger picture way, things [were] transforming in my life.”
With this new perspective on life also came some dramatic creative changes as well. Most notably, The Long Road was Wood’s first foray into crowd-funding. Her campaign raised more than $20,000 from nearly 300 backers. She says the decision to look toward her fans for money was nerve-racking.
“Anytime you do something like [this] it’s a risk,” Wood says. “If it doesn’t work then you’re back to square one. It’s just sort of like taking a giant leap of faith.”
But faith is something every troubadour needs in spades, and Wood is no stranger to betting on herself. Whether simply due to necessity or a desire to remain true to her own sound, Wood has self-produced a number of albums over the years. The Long Road is not one of these albums, however, and letting people in has been a big step, Wood says.
“I’ve always felt free to create the music that I want to create and part of the decision to go out on my own was sort of a knee-jerk reaction to a bad experience with a label." – Beth Wood
“I’ve always felt free to create the music that I want to create and part of the decision to go out on my own was sort of a knee-jerk reaction to a bad experience with a label,” she says. “I’ve always felt compelled to make the music I want to make, and sometimes I struggle with that because I play mostly solo. I play a lot of shows in the folk world and it’s wonderful, but sometimes they freak out if you have drums on your record, you know? But I figure I can’t really help that because I have to make the music I want to make.”
Despite the initial anxieties, Wood says the experience felt like a large-scale collaboration, allowing her fans to join her creative process after so many years growing accustomed to performing as a one-woman show, handling both the creative and business aspects of her career. The recording process was equally as collaborative.
“For me what was different and unique about this project is we went in as a trio and recorded everything live as a band,” Wood says. “I wanted to keep that energy and that magic that happens when live human beings play music together and I didn’t want to separate those things out.”
Wood will play two nights in DFW, on Nov. 17 at The Epic in Grand Prairie and Nov. 18 at Medical City Lewisville Grand Theater.