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20 Questions With Wood Willow

The Oklahoma roots duo on shocking gigs, getting funky and multiple concussions.

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Wood Willow are about to make their intentions known. On April 22, the Oklahoma City roots outfit founded and fronted by singer-guitarist Joel Parks and singer-mandolin player Becca Herrod will release their debut album Southern Intentions, introducing the world to their dynamic hybrid of old-time and contemporary sounds (think Gillian Welch meets The White Stripes). Of course, if you’ve been paying attention, you’ve already met them — several weeks back, they premiered their boisterous, bluegrass-laced leadoff single So Much Runnin’ HERE. Either way, now’s your chance to get really up-close and personal with the duo, who put their heads together to answer my stupid questions. If that doesn’t send them running, nothing will:

 


 

Introduce yourself: Name, age (feel free to lie), home base and any other details you’d care to share — height / weight / identifying marks / astrology sign / your choice.
Joel Parks (28) and Becca Herrod (26) of Wood Willow. We are based out of OKC. Joel has had three concussions (that he knows of) and broken multiple bones. Becca has never broken a bone and neither of us have any tattoos.

What is your musical origin story?
Wood Willow started very casually. The name was born from a dream, and once we had the name, everything else fell into place. Lucas Gillette, our bass player and co-songwriter, has been a part of Joel’s musical family for almost two decades so he was a natural addition.

What’s your latest project?
Southern Intentions is our debut record. Recorded and produced by Wes Sharon of 115 Recording, set to release worldwide on April 22. On April 1, we’ll be playing an album-release show at Ponyboy in OKC.

What truly sets you apart from other artists?
Becca: I think it’s our connection as musicians. Joel and I are soon to be married and Joel and Lucas, our bass player, have known each other since kindergarten and have played music together for over 15 years. That kind of history and connection really helps with chemistry and banter on stage and allows total honesty and transparency in the songwriting process.

How will my life improve by listening to your music?
We want to take you on a journey and hopefully allow the listener to dissociate from the world, if only for a moment. The ability of transcendence that music creates is one of our favorite elements of playing music.

Tell us about the first song you wrote and / or the first gig you played.
Joel: My first song I ever wrote was when I was 12. It was a love song called Do You Know, written for my girlfriend at the time who I was still afraid to even hold hands with. Ahhh, young love!
Becca: My first vocal performance was at the age of five, singing in a small-town church in southern Oklahoma.

What is the best / worst / strangest / most memorable performance you have given?
Joel: We have individually or together played gigs in the blistering heat and the bone-chilling cold, but one of the more mildly infuriating gigs I played was in a backyard during a house party. The PA wasn’t electrically grounded and the microphone shocked me until my lips started to go numb.

What is the best / worst / strangest / most memorable performance you’ve seen?
Joel: I used to work cruise ships that would put on entire festivals in the middle of the ocean. I saw a lot of strange shows during my time at sea but my most memorable was during the company’s first land festival in the Dominican Republic. I was lucky enough to be on a sandy beach watching John Prine perform an incredible show mere months before passing.

What living or dead artists would you like to collaborate with?
Tom Waits, hands-down.

What artist or style of music do you love that would surprise people?
Joel: I am a huge fan of ’70s and ’80s funk. Anything by Sly & The Family Stone, Parliament-Funkadelic or Tower of Power will get me going.

What words do you hope people use when they describe you?
Joel: One of my favorite lines I never really heard until starting Wood Willow is, “You look like you all were having a lot of fun up there and watching y’all have fun made us have fun!”
Becca: Yeah, obviously we want our music to elicit an emotional response and our music can get serious at times but to echo Joel, I do love it when people comment that because at the end of the day that’s what we are here to do. After these last couple years, we all could stand to feel some joy, if only for an evening.

What useful (or useless) skills do you have outside of music?
Becca: In our free time, Joel and I are makers. I make and sell handmade rings and necklaces while Joel’s area of expertise is making and selling handmade leather goods.

Who can you do an impression of?
Joel: Absolutely no one. I lived in England for six months and still couldn’t fake a British accent. Becca can imitate accents pretty well, but no one person in particular.

Tell us a joke.
Did you hear Elon Musk opened a restaurant on the moon? I hear the food’s great but there’s no atmosphere. (Duh dum tsss)

What do you collect?
Good times!

What would you like to be reincarnated as?
Joel: Peregrine falcon.
Becca: Dolphin.

Which historical event do you wish you had witnessed?
Becca: Woodstock just seems to be an event that you had to be there to truly understand and appreciate.
Joel: I’ve always wanted to go back in time and see the world before humans. Things like the Great Barrier Reef and the Redwood Forest come to mind.

What’s your idea of perfect happiness / total misery?
Joel: We are both pretty happy people, so let’s try the miserable one. I think total misery would be forever living in that dream state where you are trying to run away from something trying to get you but can’t get up to speed because your whole body feels like you’re swimming in molasses.

What are your pet peeves?
Joel: Noisy eaters.
Becca: Bad drivers.

What’s your greatest regret?
Joel: Musically, I regret not being able to take my old band Ripple Green to the distance that I think we could have. We had an entire record written that remains unrecorded and we finally started to get international attention only after we had disbanded. Luckily, we are all still great friends and all of the original members played on our album Southern Intentions.

What are you afraid of?
Becca: I think claustrophobia is a real one for both of us. Watching any kind of close-quarters cave spelunking sends us over the edge!

What would the title of your autobiography be?
How Much Wood Could a Wood Willow Wood if a Wood Willow Could Wood Willow: A Memoir by Wood Willow.

Who should play you in the movie of your life?
Elijah Wood and Willow Shields.

What’s your motto?
“Get busy living or get busy dying.” — Stephen King

What’s always in your refrigerator?
Coffee creamer and hot sauce.

If you had one day to spend as you please without any consequences, what would you do?
I’ve always wanted to be in a high speed chase with the police.

What’s the silliest thing you believed as a child?
Joel: I thought cemeteries were where heaven was because both places were explained to me the same: “That’s where you go when you die.”
Becca: I remember thinking that whenever I watched a movie, all of the actors had to get together and reenact their parts every time. Same with radio; I thought the bands were playing the song live every time.

What was your favorite class in school and why?
Joel: I always enjoyed science. The process of exploring the world around me was great thanks to a few dedicated teachers!
Becca: I was never the best at math but loved it a lot.

What world record would you like to break?
Most Thai food ever eaten in one sitting.

What was the worst job you ever had?
Joel: Not the worst, because there were a lot of fulfilling aspects to the job, but definitely the most challenging was when I taught eighth grade algebra for a year during the pandemic. I will forever have a huge amount of respect and be grateful to our teachers.
Becca: I have generally always enjoyed my jobs.

What’s the best and / or worst advice you were ever given?
Becca: ‘Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.’ I find this to be an easy way to end up hating what you love if you are not careful!

Watch So Much Runnin’ above, check out more of Wood Willow‘s music below, get tickets for their album-release gig HERE, and run into them at their website, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.