PROFILE – Des Moines Cityview Magazine

After the thunder

IMG_4228It was a bit of a come-to-Jesus moment for Matt Woods a couple years back when his band, The Thunderbolts, called it quits. Matt Woods & The Thunderbolts had played together since 2005, and even before then, drummer Michael Swanger and bassist Scott Cochran had played on Woods’ first solo album. In short, it was a process of rediscovery for Woods, transitioning to being a purely solo artist.

“It was getting back to my roots,” Woods said of the process. “I was still around, getting my act together, so to speak. I was changing from playing with a full band for seven or eight years. So I spent some time woodshedding my music and getting used to playing alone.”

There was never any doubt that Woods could make the transition. The 35-year-old is one of the best blues guitarists in the state. But when you have had a musical family around you for so long, stepping out on your own can be momentarily disorienting.

“That’s kind of the trick,” Woods said. “You sort of need to fill up that space with just one person. It seems like you should play more, but you actually need to play less and let that sound fill the space.

“Lyrically, there’s not much difference,” he continued. “But when you’re with a band and you’re writing guitar parts, you know there’s going to be a rhythm section to back you up. It even changes the keys that I write in.”

All of that self-adjustment and practice came to fruition this year, with the release of “Sawdust and Gasoline,” Woods’ first solo album in nearly a decade and the first album he’s done that has relied on nothing but his voice and six strings to carry the day. It might seem like a long time coming, but Woods has always followed his own creative ebb and flow.

“When I get some material together that I think is worth a shit, I just book some studio time and play it,” he explained. “If it winds up sounding like something I think is good, I’ll record an album. If it doesn’t, then I don’t.

“But I don’t consider songwriting to be one of my strengths,” he added. “I’ve never written a lyric down in my life. I’ve always just wanted to be a guitar player.” CV