“A Wedding Ring or Two Rattling off the Frets” : John Bell on Widespread Panic’s Wood

John Bell

Widespread Panic’s last act before taking a much-deserved break for much of 2012 was a run of all-acoustic shows this past February, spread over 11 stops in 4 cities (DC, Atlanta, Denver, and Aspen). The totally-unplugged setting presented challenges for the band, but they rose to them like true jam veterans – and the results are documented on their new release Wood. The 2-CD/20-track album finds the band in top-notch form, taking advantage of the unique setting to explore new territory in some familiar tunes (along with a number of choice covers). Don’t mistake “acoustic” for “peaceful” – Wood is powerful and pure. It’s Panic at their best.

Widespread’s John Bell shared some of his time with us recently to talk about playing in an acoustic setting, personal rediscovery, formation flying, and the building of Wood.

BR: I don’t know what most folks’ vision of a Widespread Panic hiatus is, but it’s not like a lot of golf games. It seems like you have all been pretty busy individually this past year.

JB: (laughs) Yeah – the other guys have been playing music with different bands. Plus, we have families and stuff, too … it’s just a healthy thing for everybody.

Personally, I like getting away and doing something totally different creatively – whether it’s gardening or painting or something like that – and try and find myself again.

Speaking of your painting, where can we find some examples of it?

Well, I don’t do it that much. Usually, it’s a once-in-a-while thing and if I do one, I’ll put it up for auction at my charity event in Orlando. But I don’t push myself – I do it when I do it and it’s a lot of fun. I listen to somebody else’s music (laughter), have a glass of wine, and start slapping some paint on. It’s not like I have any training, so there are no rules – it comes out the way it comes out.

Just like the music.

That’s right – I don’t have any musical training, either, so it just comes out the way it comes out. (laughter)

I wish I could remember who it was – one of the old blues guys – who was asked if they had any musical training and they answered, “Not enough to bother my playing.”

(laughs) I like it.

Read my complete conversation with John Bell at Jambands.com

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