Virtuoso guitarist for Monroe'sAugust 16, 2012 - 5:32pm
INSTRUMENTAL guitarist Chris Woods plays Monroe’s Live this Friday, August 17. The young English born musician is a technically gifted player whose warm, percussive style has wide appeal. How would he describe his show to someone who’s never strummed a guitar – or even heard his music?
“It’s instrumental music, basically,” he says. “It’s very rhythmic based, and rhythm driven. I suppose it’s somewhere between classical music and dance music. It’s always a hard one [describing the sound]. People think about instrumental music as classical music, but sometimes it’s like a nineties rave.”
Chris began playing music as a teenager, when the dying embers of one dream sparked the flames of another.
“I picked up the guitar a little bit, but it was only when I was 16 when I realised I was absolutely terrible at football, even after trying very hard that I got serious,” he recalls. “Everyone’s got to focus on one thing, haven’t they? That’s when I really started to get obsessive about [the guitar], I suppose.”
His move towards a more intricate style of playing was inspired by some of the most seminal figures in English folk music.
“I used to be into quite heavy music,like metal bands,” he says. “But when I started to listen to John Martyn my whole tastes changed. I didn’t throw away the heavy stuff or anything, I just opened my ears to Nick Drake, and people playing finger-style guitar, and being a little bit percussive with it as well.”
Chris Woods may be playing for over 15 years, but that doesn’t mean he shies away from practising. “I’m strict with myself,” he says. “I do teaching as well, but if you’re doing a lot of gigging you can quite easily become slack, thinking because you played for an hour that night you don’t have to practise during the day.
“Having said that, when you’re 16, during the summer holidays there’ll be a week where all your friends seem to be away at the same time. And you have nothing to do other than sit and play the guitar for hours and hours and hours. I’ve lost that, I suppose, but I try and do three hours a day.”
Modern technology now means that life on the road can be combined with something more practical, like giving guitar lessons. Chris gives many of his classes over Skype.
“I do Skype lessons a lot – I’ve only got one ‘physical’ student!” he laughs. “Quite a lot of my students are in Africa, America and Asia as well; they are really spread across the globe. Most of the people I teach usually come to me in blocks, they’re trying to nail a certain thing I do, and they’ll come to me for a few weeks.
“I get so much out of it, teaching people who nine times out of ten I think are actually better than me – but they don’t realise it. I think it’s really good for your music as well, learning about how other people learn.”
As well as featuring his sublime guitar skills, Chris Woods’ live show also sees him make use of a stomp box. This is a small wooden box that is placed under the foot, and then used for percussion. “It’s quite a traditional instrument; it’s been around for a long time,” says Chris.
“Because what I do is so rhythmic based, just having a low-frequency stomp, so being able to do clever things with that means it blends in really well with the body percussion on the guitar. I’ve got an extra arm, basically, playing percussion. “So it makes a really significant difference. As soon as I started using a stomp, I noticed people heads turn; it became more of an entertaining thing. It really adds a bit of life to it.”
Chris Woods plays Monroe’s Live this Friday, August 17. Doors at 10pm, admission €12/€15.