TCN’s chat with caddie John Wood, who recently released his first album
Caddie John Wood just recently closed the books on his 23rd year as a PGA Tour caddie.
It’s been a successful career thus far for the 49-year-old, who calls Sacramento, Calif., home.
“Woody,” as he’s known amongst his peers, has been part of several team rooms at Ryder and Presidents Cups. In his two plus decades on Tour, he spent seven years with Kevin Sutherland (the first player in PGA Tour Champions history to shoot 59), worked briefly for Chris Riley and Mark Calcavecchia, spent nine years with Hunter Mahan and is now embarking on year four with Matt Kuchar…
…Yes… the Matt Kuchar that just won the Mayakoba Golf Classic in Mexico, his first victory since 2014, with a local caddie since Wood had the week off when Kuchar was late to add that event to his schedule.
And we’ll get to that in a bit.
Wood has long been one of the most well-liked, well-respected and well-prepared caddies on Tour.
But golf isn’t the only thing in Wood’s life.
His passion is music. So much so, that Wood has released his first album called “record66,” available on Soundcloud. Wood wrote and produced the entire thing himself.
We caught up with Wood upon his return from Australia and the World Cup of Golf just after Thanksgiving to talk about his new album and how music is a big part of who he is.
Here’s our conversation.
The Caddie Network (TCN): How long have you played the guitar?
Wood: I’ve messed around with the guitar for probably 15 years but have really started to play a lot in the last five.
TCN: You’re on the road a ton. Do you travel with a guitar?
Wood: I do travel with one. It’s a Taylor GS mini that I take on the road and I have a Jeff Tweedy model Martin to play when I’m at home.
TCN: Do you catch any shows on the road?
Wood: I catch shows on the road as much as possible. It was amazing seeing Pearl Jam at Fenway Park this last year. But my all-time highlight was getting to see my favorite band of all time, The Replacements, play just their second show in 25 years in Chicago in 2014.
Other favorites I’ve seen over the years on the road include Drive-By Truckers, Wilco, X, Tom Petty, Elvis Costello, Gillian Welch and The Gaslight Anthem. There have been A LOT over the years.
TCN: What bands have had the biggest influence on your style of music?
Wood: Definitely Paul Westerberg (of the Replacements), Wilco and Drive-By Truckers. I like lyrics, I like stories, and I think my overly wordy writing probably says I like it too much. My biggest struggle when I’m writing a song is editing and actually stopping the damn thing.
TCN: How would you describe your music?
Wood: Overly wordy and a lot of sad stories. I don’t think I’m a sad person, I just think I’m more attracted to those dark stories than the happy ones. They’re more interesting to me.
TCN: If you could meet one musician past or present, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
Wood: I’m always wary of meeting my heroes. I’d be too afraid of being disappointed. But, if I had my pick I’d probably say John Lennon or Joe Strummer from The Clash.
Lennon because he just did so much in his short time. I’d love to hear him talk about the early Beatles days all the way to a solo career and his politics and worldview.
Joe Strummer because I don’t think there’s ever been anyone in music more idealistic, or who achieved more through sheer will and desire. I love how much music MATTERED to both of them.
TCN: Tell us about your latest project and how it came to be.
Wood: Never in a million years would I ever think I would be able to do something like this. Songwriting always seemed like magic to me. I guess a little over three years ago, I decided to try and write a song. Any song. That song turned out to be “Lucky Then” the first song on the record.
I wrote it as a duet. It’s a conversation between a guy who never looks deeper than the surface, and who just thinks he’s lucky, that things just always work out for him.
In reality, his partner, the female voice, has been in the background doing all the work to keep their relationship afloat. So, this is their conversation when he realizes it and it’s too late. I’ve got a friend who sings beautifully who I want to sing the female part, I just haven’t gotten around to her singing it yet.
So, after that song, it didn’t seem so mysterious to me anymore. And I just kept going. Most of them started with a sentiment or one line or a title, and I’d just carry on and keep working on them until I was happy with them. There’s nothing earth-shattering here, but it was fun working out chord changes and melodies and fitting them together with the words.
TCN: Do you have a favorite song on the album?
Wood: I like “Lucky Then” a lot because it was the first song I wrote, and I think it tells a really good story. “Birds” is probably my favorite melody. There’s a song called “James” about an old friend of mine who has passed on, which means a lot to me. Tough to pin down one favorite one.
The song “Whatcha Gonna Do, Kid?” actually has a caddie angle to it. I wrote it as a gift to Michael Greller (Jordan Spieth’s caddie) and his wife, Ellie, on the birth of their first child, Barrett.
They’re such amazing people and they felt so blessed to have him and it got me thinking about what he would do with this life he was suddenly given.
TCN: What was the inspiration for the songs?
Wood: Quite a few of the songs are about relationships – mine, or those of people I know. Relationships fascinate me and scare the hell out of me as well. Other songs, like “Birds,” started with a single thought.
A friend said, “You know birds see more rooftops than people you’ll ever meet in your life?”
That line is almost verbatim in the song and the rest of it just came around and tied itself to a thought about vanity as a highly valued truth. I’m not quite sure if there’s someone I was thinking about or if it was vanity in general. It hasn’t come to me yet.
TCN: Have you ever had a live gig? Do you have any coming up?
Wood: I’ve never played a live gig. I’ve barely ever played in front of anyone before, but that’s the next hurdle; to get up enough courage and skill to do that.
TCN: What was the process of making your own album like? Did you do it all yourself?
Wood: It was all just an experiment. I have a rudimentary knowledge of how to use GarageBand on my Mac at home. So, I bought a good microphone and recorded everything at home in my little room.
I did do everything except the drums – they’re all just basic drum tracks from GarageBand.
TCN: Can you tell people how to get the album?
Wood: I posted the record to Soundcloud. So far, I haven’t really looked into posting it in other sites, which is something I should do. (CLICK HERE TO ACCESS “record66” BY JOHN WOOD)
TCN: You have a very limited “offseason.” Is creating music your primary hobby when you’re at home?
Wood: It’s definitely my favorite hobby when I’m home. It’s kind of my morning ritual. Coffee and the music room for five hours or so is usually how I start my day. I’m working on a song for Paul Tesori’s son, Isaiah, who Paul and Michelle say is in love with music. So, I wrote him a fun song about himself that he can sing and dance to. The song’s pretty much written, I just need to bang out a good recording of it.
TCN: How does this album created by you compare to having been on the bag for a PGA Tour victory? I imagine you take a lot of pride in your music because it really means something to “put yourself out there.”
Wood: Writing songs and creating is a much slower, rewarding progress. You don’t always know the path, but you know if you keep going, you’ll find something. Being on the bag for a Tour win or Ryder Cup is a more immediate thing, and you don’t always know if or when it’s going to come.
TCN: Lastly – and once and for all – can you please tell us what it was like to see Kuch win in Mexico with a local caddie during a week you couldn’t be there?
Wood: You know, when something like that happens, Kuch winning in Mexico without me being there to be a part of it, it cuts both ways.
Obviously, I’m beyond thrilled for Matt and his family and coach and everyone involved. He’s worked so hard and, this past year, I think he just got to pressing so hard, maybe too hard, and golf can be tough with that mindset. I’m just guessing, but maybe the new season created a clean slate for him to start all over and he consequently played with a lot more freedom.
He has been doing most things pretty well except for the one thing that he’s always been so great at: putting up a score. He would play really good rounds and one mistake would come and all of a sudden, you’re signing for a 73 instead of a 68.
In Mexico, he happened to add it fairly late to the schedule.
I think I’ve missed one tournament in 23 years of caddying, and that was for a wedding in which I was in the wedding party. The week of Mexico, I had had a bunch of childhood friends coming to town for a kind of reunion.
They all live out of town and, months earlier, had asked me what week I would definitely be home, so they could schedule a trip to town for a couple rounds of golf and to get caught up, not having seen each other as a group for a long time. So, I happened to tell them that week. So, what are you going to do?
As far as Kuch winning without me being there, like I said you’re thrilled for him and his family and everyone involved, but it definitely is a hit to your confidence as a caddie. And for me it’s way more about the job you’re doing for him than the financial hit.
You feel like you’re working hard and doing all the things you’ve always done and probably more, trying to figure out why the top finishes aren’t coming like they had. You take it home with you a lot more than when things are going well. You really wrack your brain trying to come up with THE answer, or at least suggestions, to help turn things around, be it in equipment or scheduling or practice or mindset.
And then you take a week off and everything clicks, and he goes out and wins. It definitely brings doubt into your head as to the job you’re doing for him. But we had some good talks in Australia and I’m really looking forward to a big year for Matt.