One of the coolest things about teaching a music industry class at the College of Charleston is following the paths of students who are actively implementing what they've learned. Three of the four members of Charleston band Southwood have taken ARTM 210.
Lead vocalist/rhythm guitarist, Mitch Wetherington wasn't actually in the class, he audited it, but he showed up more, and asked better questions, than some of the students that were registered. Mitch has a pure voice, and he is driven and talented. He made it out to Hollywood with American Idol last Spring.
Henri Gates plays a mean lead guitar and also sings quite well. He complements Mitch much like Mike Campbell fits Tom Petty, including the classic curly 'fro. Henri and Mitch do most of the songwriting, and aside from having a knack for a hook, their voices blend together naturally.
Christian Wood plays bass and sings. He is the most recent addition to the group, but I've known him since he was a tyke, hanging around his grandparents house next door to where I used to live in the Old Village of Mt. Pleasant. Christian epitomizes the humble, yet passionate spirit that it takes to forge a career in music.
Craig South is the drummer, and although he didn't take my class, I can tell you that he's been rock solid every time I've seen these guys play.
Get wood...Get Southwood!
We're very excited for Twice to be featured as the song of the fortnight! Here is the information you asked for. Our website is www.SouthwoodBand.com, and we have our first EP and the single "Twice" on iTunes.
Mitch, please give us some insight into the American Idol world...
It was a bit of a roller coaster ride to say the least. There are so many layers of experiences. First, there is an unbelievable culture shock waiting in quarter-day long lines with people of every walks of life, and the amazement of seeing talent on both opposite ends of the spectrum. You pass the hours of wait time by scoping out the competitions of thousands of hopefuls, but friends with the ones immediately around you, with a sense of comradery on the Idol journey. Each time the nerves start to settle, a bigger wave comes at each step of the process. Continually going over the song you plan to audition with in your head, unless you were one of the ones who thought it was your time to shine every 5 minutes. But the nervous feeling and the feeling of tremendous excitement, only seperated by state of mind, seem to flip flop at every second. After the emotional ride of each 5 seperate audition performances which landed me in the middle of Hollywood Week, I was able to walk away with a tremendous amount of experience to put under my belt. With that came some great friendships, great stories, and great memories. In hindsight, I am glad that my journey ended with Idol when it did, my ideal career path as a musician looks a little different in my head. But I am honored to have been able to share such an exciting event with my friends and family. For the 4 month long process, I was supported and encouraged by not only friends and family, but my alma mater family at The Citadel, and my band Southwood back in Charleston. On the plane out to Hollywood, I was joined by fellow local musician and friend Elise Testone, who's talent carried her very far in the competition. I consider myself extremely lucky to have been given the opportunity to be a part of Season 11. Lucky also to have been fortunate to sing to a living rock legend, Steven Tyler... And Jennifer is beautiful, period. The American Idol world is almost exactly what you think it would be like... lights, cameras, celebrities, producers, back stage waiting rooms, contracts, and can definitely be overwhelming at some points. But I would encourage anyone to go for it and take a chance, you can only end up right back where you are currently, only with a few more cool stories. ;)
Henri, where do the songs come from bro...?
The songs really come from who we are and the people, places and things that have influenced us. It usually starts out small, with a guitar riff or a lyric, or even just an emotion. As we build on it, it usually takes on a mind of its own and ends up somewhere else. We have a general idea of what the song is about, but we let the creativity direct it instead of trying to force it. In the beginning we mostly wrote individually, but now we're at a point where we all try to sit down and write together. Its awesome getting everyone's input and opinions from the start of the writing process, and it allows each person to put more of himself into the song. I'm very excited about our new EP, because i think it reflects how we've grown together as a band.
Christian, how did your mountain upbringing inspire you to become a musician?
Being raised in the rural Lowcountry, my only real inspiration for picking up the guitar was my cousin, Adam. We learned from each other as the years went on. When I moved to the mountains of NC, I was introduced to some great blues musicians and bluegrass players that took me under their wing and exposed me to some amazing local cultural experiences. So I have definitely drawn my inspiration from truly talented musicians from the hills and the lowcountry together.
Craig, Tell us about this band from your perspective behind the kit...
Being stationary on the drum kit while performing a Southwood show is difficult for me sometimes. The energy levels are always pumped up, especially when the people we are playing to get into the music. We see them being moved by what we are playing, and it moves us! (literally) haha
It's a beautiful thing to be able to create an enviroment where people can be inspired. Every person has a story and every song has a story. Playing an instrument while telling and hearing these stories is the pinnacle of life for me. Being still is necessary. I like soaking in the surroundings behind the kit. Being honest, deliberate. Rooted in the music, locking in with the bass, it all goes with being grounded. My arms and feet flail a lot. Cymbals fall over, I break things all the time. But it's okay because the purpose lies in electrifying a room, conveying a feeling, bringing a heavy mood, or jumping up and down. I love being behind the kit, and I wouldn't have it any other way!