Meet a Musician: Chris Woods & the Groove Orchestra

Chris Woods Groove is a highly acclaimed guitarist, composer and international author of his book, Percussive Acoustic Guitar. He has a distinctive style of percussive guitar playing and has sold thousands of Albums. He often joins forces with other musicians to form a collective known as Chris Woods Groove Orchestra.

We are lucky enough to have him as a hub partner, delivering original and inspiring projects for us across Bournemouth & Poole that challenge traditional methods of music education.

In another addition to our ‘Meet a Musician’ series, we managed to grab Chris for a chat about why academia is not the only route to success and how he owes it all to a dinosaur…

Your guitar skills are insane! What made you pick up the guitar in the first place and how did you develop your distinctive style?

I picked up the guitar for a variety of reasons, but I think ‘Denver the last dinosaur’ has to take the credit for being my main inspiration. I was obsessed by fluorescent colours as a kid, and Denver ‘the last’ Dinosaur rocked a neon pink guitar which pretty much blew my mind.

As for how I developed my ‘style’ its been a bit of musical common sense really. At university I was really focused and inspired by Jazz and Indian Classical, which opened my mind up to  new harmonic and rhythmic realms, and I started to think about ‘colour’ and ‘tone’ in a far more rich way. Although through that I became pretty focused on theoretical thinking, which started as an inspirational thing but ended up being a massive hindrance. As a reaction to that I started tuning my guitar to a random tuning for every piece I wrote, meaning I literally had no idea what was going on… thus I ended up completely working by ear which I guess made things progress in a particular direction very quickly. I was completely free…which I think ended up being the most major contributing factor in creating something original.

What has your career path been like so far?

Completely unexpected really. My career as ‘guitarist and composer’ has been almost unintentional. I focus on writing music I want to…and through that doors have opened in places I never thought would. Whether its been touring through Europe, playing in LA, awarded a signature stomp box, songwriting with an ‘All Saint’ or our ‘Guitar Revolution’ project…it’s all happened organically, just by creating really.

What recent projects have you delivered with SoundStorm that you’ve felt passionate about?

All of it! – I’m particularly passionate about the ‘Big Collaboration’ and ‘Scratch Orchestra’. I think the instrumental lesson and orchestral world is in need of evolution and ultimately being bought into the modern world…and these projects have been doing just that!  Inspiring open and creative thinking. It’s been amazing to see.

What positive impact do you think music education can have on young people’s development?

Quite simply music can help us learn anything. It is a guide to history, to culture, to literature, maths, visual art, fashion, film, games, technology, communication, politics, well-being, the senses! – I’m not sure of anything else that delivers quite so much, and crucially it facilitates rather than teaches, helping people to develop with an open mind – and arrive at original ideas. That’s a pretty positive impact!

Do you have any advice for young people that want to pursue music as a career?

Understand why you want to have this career. That’s crucial. If you can keep that at the heart of what you do, you’ll love every minute.

You have great stage presence; do you have any performance tips for those that struggle?

I find mindfulness and meditation has been the key for me… being able to separate myself from on stage anxieties and focus on the music. Worth a go!

Do you have any gigs coming up? Where can we find out more about your work?

This week my ‘Groove Orchestra’ is off to perform at a special concert in Real World studios which is pretty exciting. Then amongst various other things we are off for a show in London at an amazing historic venue ‘The Troubadour’ which has hosted the likes of Hendrix to Mitchell, and Sheeran to Adele. Then its more solo times for me with another tour of Switzerland and a lovely show in Berlin all in the run up to Christmas. You can find more at www.chriswoodsgroove.co.uk.

Finally, why is music important to you?

I can’t really begin to describe how important music is to me. It’s in my life on so many levels. I do know that without music, I would have been trapped by the limitations that school presented to me….

Coming out of school barely able to spell, I never thought I would have a book published world-wide on guitar playing which would sell in the tens of thousands. I didn’t think I would be left in charge of a budget of hundreds of thousand of pounds as an Arts Manager, when I struggled with basic maths. I never thought I would go on to sell thousands of copies of my album after I got a C grade in GCSE Music. Ultimately I never thought in a million years people would pay for an evening of listening to what me and my guitar have to ‘say’…

Music has done so much for me….

In 2018 Chris will deliver two Seeing Sound workshops, blending sonic exploration with digital visuals alongside ‘Orchestra ®evolution, offering a four part score for ensembles that will tour schools and culminate in a collaborative final performance next April