A Look into the Music of woodrowgerber

Tickled Ears and No Rules

Alyssa Mavor  |   Tuesday Jun. 30th, 2015

When Chad Gerber, aka “woodrowgerber”, agreed to help his longtime friend Clay Croft find musical tracks to put in his new cross-country driving TV show, neither of them knew how much the collaboration would change their future plans. Now, as the show wraps up its third season, it will feature only the original music of woodrowgerber, crafted precisely to compliment each moment of the intense Overland travel series.

The Bozeman based docuseries Expedition Overland features Croft, the creator and producer of the show, along with a few friends as they travel great distances throughout North America. woodrowgerber’s polyphonic melodies and signature electronic beats reverberate in the background through all of the group’s adventures. Gerber creates custom music for each scene, whether the crew is navigating rough terrain in the Utah desert or munching on caribou steaks in the Alaskan Yukon. The music compliments the intensity of the team’s many challenges and mishaps throughout the expedition.

The collaboration began when Croft reconnected with Gerber after almost ten years of separation. The two had known each other since they were five years old, but lost touch after Gerber moved to Los Angeles from Billings, MT. In 2012, Croft was on business in San Diego and called up his old friend to ask if he wanted to visit and potentially help him with a new project that would ultimately become Expedition Overland.

“It kind of started out on a trial basis where he’d be like, ‘I need a track for this spot,’ and I’d be like, ‘well I have one of those on my old record, we could put that in there,’” said Gerber. And so the fortuitous partnership was started.

When it came time to film a second season, Croft asked Gerber to create a custom album for the show. Gerber agreed, and produced 22 tracks in an album called XO for Expedition Overland. “It was way more successful than I think we’d really imagined,” he said. Tracks from the album began to grow in the underground music scene and he breached the top ten on several underground charts, including a #4 place on Deli Magazine and a #1 song on Bandcamp.

In the newest season of EO, the crew ventures farther from home than ever before, South through Central America to the Darien Gap in Panama. The 6,500 mile overland trip features nine countries in seven weeks. Though the footage won’t be released until this fall, enthusiasts can follow along on the EO blog as Croft and his clan battle dubious border crossings, questionable dining options, and generally get themselves in and out of trouble.  

After the success of the first custom EO album, Croft and Gerber immediately decided to collaborate again. This time they want to make it perfect, said Gerber. Before the filming began, Expedition Overland asked Gerber to pack up his studio and move to Bozeman so he could work closely with the production team and crew. Gerber agreed to drive, with his equipment  from L.A., even though he didn’t know where he would be living until the night before he arrived. “For great reward, you take some big risks,” he explained.

Gerber soon began to notice that being in Bozeman changed his sound, though he doesn’t exactly know how, he said. He typically explains his music as “moby meets m83,” or a sort of electro-house blend with IDM (intelligent dance music) which both fall under the EDM (electronic dance music) category. “In L.A., if I get bored or stuck, I have creative outlets that I can siphon creativity from… I’ll go to many art museums or many outdoor performance events or shows or anything… I’ll just go out and consume other people’s arts and it inspires me, and then I go back and I have all these ideas,” he said. His default place to write music is Santa Monica pier because he loves being on the beach while creating his sound. Because he prefers to write music late at night, Bozeman has proved a difficult place for him to find inspiration. Without late-night street performers and events, Gerber has struggled to find a muse for his music.

Thankfully, the location change has also opened up many doors for the upcoming artist. Whereas woodrowgerber’s last album had a “flight” feeling with big movements and classical music infusions, the yet-to-be-named new album has a strong sense of openness, said Gerber. The rule for this upcoming album is that there are no rules, he said. Shockingly, the production team and major sponsor, Toyota, at Expedition Overland have not put any restrictions on Gerber’s album. “Expedition Overland is a unique collaboration… they basically just gave me the green light to go to town,” said Gerber. “Nobody has said ‘this is how it needs to be done,’ which is really unheard of, especially when there is corporate funding involved,” he said. As a result of the freedom, the writers, film crew, directors, actors, and woodrowgerber all have an open door to explore their creative outlets. “All of us are kind of scratching our heads how that happened,” Gerber said.
Without an upper ceiling to his art, Gerber has begun to explore newer and more eclectic sounds for his tracks. The newest album will feature unusual collaborations such as an old-English hurdy gurdy mixed with “really nasty” electronic bass and huge beats. Until now, no instrument in history has been able to reach the low frequencies that electronic music incorporates, explained Gerber. “This is the first time in history that we’re listening to music down at the very bottom of the human spectrum,” he said, “it’s like ear candy… people are really just excited that their ear is being completely tickled by the entire musical spectrum.”

Ultimately, Gerber’s goal is to make electronic music have more of a human element to it, as opposed to the “bro-music” that is often heard bumping in clubs. “Nobody goes on a road trip and listens to dance music for like five hours,” he said, “...I want to make [my music] more listenable.”

To do this, Gerber incorporates his classical music background. Since he first picked up a guitar at the age of eight, Gerber has been infatuated with creating original music. When he was fourteen, he decided to dedicate his life to the art of making sound, despite being told that he would never make it. “There was a lot of like, ‘oh it’s just a fad’,” said Gerber, reflecting on his early beginnings.
After playing classically for a number of years, he began to explore the electronic genre. While in L.A., he taught himself how to use mixing software and control decks. It was incredibly difficult to learn, he said, partially because many electronic artists are incredibly secretive about the software they use to source their sounds. “You have your standard studio software like Ableton, ProTools, Logic, whatever, but then within that, you have your tricks,” said Gerber. Electronic artists are oftentimes tight-lipped about their sound-sourcing programs and techniques, for fear of giving away their signature edge to the competition.

“I’m incorporating tricks that I’ve picked up over the years in studios all over the country… whereas Skrillex, I have no idea what that dude does,” said Gerber, “but it sounds like he just scratches garbage cans and stuff. And who knows, he might actually be doing that.” Some electronic artists actually do record themselves making sounds by hitting metal or smashing things, noted Gerber, but even in those cases they might not disclose their methods. “It’s kind of like magic, you know, a magician comes up with a trick and doesn’t want to tell anybody how he does it,” he Said.

Though they’re on their own to discover the sound software, Gerber says he’ll still help people get a head start as budding musicians. In this day and age, people can use any help they can get to make their way in the corrupt music industry, he said. Tons of artists and producers are lobbying in congress right now to fight the big music streaming sites like Pandora and Spotify, which haven’t been paying for their content. “Those companies… are legitimately breaking laws. Pandora has not paid me in five years [and won’t pay me] unless I get a legal team to go fight them over however much they owe me, because they won’t release how much they owe people,” said Gerber.

Instead of fighting the system, however, he is a firm believer in adapting and making money where he can. So far, this approach has worked  out in his favor. The new record will launch this September with a possible European tour through Norway, the Czech Republic, Germany, France, the Netherlands, and England. European countries, said Gerber, are a lot more receptive to new artists than America.

Gerber sees himself playing music as woodrowgerber until he dies. Like the Japanese Sushi Master Jiro Ono, Gerber believes he won’t fully reach his potential until he is in his eighties.

“I don’t foresee this slowing down,” he said, “it just keeps speeding up.” Gerber’s music is available for purchase through iTunes on www.woodrowgerber.com or for free listening on Spotify.

You can check out Expedition Overland at: www.xoverland.com    

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