By Scott Elpers - Photography by Aaron Patton
Few things hold as much weight in Jenny Wood’s ethos as the truth. Just the word itself captures her attention and earns her highest reverence.
“As I get older, I really only want the truth,” Wood said. “In the music industry, there’s spite and there’s secrecy. I’m a simple person that just wants the truth.”
Wood has a commanding stage presence, but it’s her deeply personal and truthful lyrics that have made her one of the leading musicians in Wichita.
“I used to write in metaphors and be as obscure as possible. I was overdoing it, trying to find a purpose in my life and songwriting at that time,” she said. “Now I focus on deeply raw, genuine lyrics. That last cry for help. That’s what I love.”
Wood, a songwriter and guitarist, is far from new in the Wichita music scene. There have been numerous bands and solo projects, as well as stints in Los Angeles and Nashville. Her new album “Truth Has Legs” debuts next month, with a tour planned for the fall and winter.
Musicians like St. Vincent and Trent Reznor influence her dark pop sound. But nothing has influenced her songwriting like a series of recent tragedies. In the past two years, Wood has lost people close to her, including the death of her father.
“He was a judge for a long time. Everything was very truth-oriented. His judge of character was very noble. I admired that about him,” she said. “He was deaf. He might have not been able to hear me sing when he was alive, but he can definitely hear it now.”
Another family tragedy brought her back to Wichita, when she left Nashville to take care of her sister’s three children back home.
“I lost my sister, for the most part, to addiction and mental illness. She was a visual artist. Her decline was very public,” Wood said. “But it brought me somewhere I never thought I’d be. Here I am taking care of her kids. It’s so important to me. I never would have imagined this is where my life would take me.”
It also inspired Wood to take her music in a new direction, developing an anti-bullying program. She wrote the song “Don’t Let Them Get in Your Head” and shot an accompanying music video. The grassroots effort has a solid foundation with room for growth. She speaks to schools and children all over the Wichita area, teaching them how to take a “negative and make it creative.”
Los Angeles and Nashville were where Wood learned how difficult the business end of being a professional musician can be.
“Talent is a very small part of it. I can’t manipulate. It’s not what I do. I don’t understand that mentality,” she said. “When I first moved back to Wichita, I realized talent was the reason you got good shows here.”
It’s been a long journey for Wood to get from a 20-something wandering the Los Angeles music scene to the powerful songstress she is today.
“When the people around me thought that I couldn’t do it, that’s when I decided I could,” she said.