Wytham Wood

Wytham Wood is an Oxford-based folk band, comprised of Anneli Chambliss (Lead vocals, guitar) and Jules Dickinson (Lead guitar, vocals). Anneli and I have been friends since we were both students at Oxford and we have always shared a love for music and art.

I was so pleased to have the opportunity to hear Wytham Wood perform live at the Wheatsheaf in Oxford, on Sunday 17th February. They have beautiful songs and really emotive music. I can’t do justice to their sound on this blog – you really have to hear them live for yourself – but here are some photographs from a wonderful gig, and an interview with eloquent lead singer Anneli. 🙂

The Beginnings
About a year and a half ago, I was at a friend’s open mic, and in walked this very friendly Cornish art teacher with a Gibson. The moment the guitar came out and he played it I was totally ‘sold’ on his sound. It was one of those moments where you wonder ‘why hasn’t this musician been picked up by a major project?’ because all the elements are there – but I think Jules is someone who just loves music for music…

… So that was something we had in common. We only started working together later on, very gradually, enjoying playing pretty folk covers after work in living rooms with cups of tea. 

We seem to be rooted very strongly in British folk music, prog, and classic rock, but especially in anything from the 60s and 70s with intricate strings, non-standard tunings, and really moving lyrics and vocals: Fairport Convention, Michael Chapman, Roy Harper, Ralph McTell, John Martyn, and even Joni Mitchell.

… In practice, you’ll sometimes hear medieval or renaissance progressions in our underlying chords, or we may go off on an atmospheric ‘prog’ tangent before coming back to a song that has a more standard ‘pop’ feel. Sometimes we combine the two, and in that respect I think people might hear similarities between what we do and Show of Hands…

… Our inspirations are really drawn from folk sounds that can evoke both the natural world and the otherworldly, based on personal experience and even to some degree (for me at least) spiritual types of experiences. The idea is just to get immersed in beautiful patterns, sounds, and lyrics that have a powerful emotional content…

… An emerging theme for our newest songs seems to be the things that happen when you close your eyes and imagine or remember, and the ways that nature and ‘real life’ experiences and emotions can merge and grow into each other…

The name
‘Wytham Wood’ goes against the first rule of band names, which is that they should be easy to pronounce! The pronunciation is White-em Wood. But Wytham Woods is a real, ancient place just outside of Oxford that’s an important landmark in the local landscape…

… Maybe our ‘Wytham Wood’ is an imagined part of a real place… But I think the name is a reflection of a project that is rooted in the ‘crossroads’ nature of Oxford and some of the ways that this city and area seem to stand apart from time.

Previous musical experiences
You could say we both have ‘long instrumental histories,’ and as a duo I think our individual histories really come out strongly. Jules grew up around an amazing folk music scene in Cornwall: he tells me that from around the age of 16, he was involved with the famous ‘Folk Cottage’ after an advert was put up at Truro school…

… Jules was a regular at really important clubs such as ‘Pipers’ in Penzance and ‘Fal Folk’ (Falmouth) and got to know many well known bands, including Steeleye Span, Fairport, and experimental guitarists such as Nigel Mazlyn Jones. He apparently watched Michael Chapman play when he was 16 and still learning to play, and he was totally blown away.

… For my part, I’ve been a bit of a peripatetic migrant and am definitely a musical chameleon. I’m half-Finnish, grew up in Texas playing piano, sang in choirs through high school, got involved with a choir singing Bulgarian and Slavic folk music at university, and then met Dave Longstreth of Dirty Projectors and toured as one of his ‘stoned rhinemaidens’ for The Getty Address (though anyone who knows me knows that won’t mean literally!)…

… A few years later on, I’d arrived in Oxford to do a graduate Egyptology course, decided I would finally learn to play a guitar a little more properly, and the rest is history… I’m certain that all of that singing and instrumentation over the years must come out in our music, both in technical and emotional ways.

Wytham Wood in 2013
We’ve been busy learning how to use Protools and record a demo of original songs, again in the nice warm of a living room with cups of tea. It’s been hard work, but we’re nearly there! So 2013 should see us out and about performing more, writing as much as we can to hone our sound, and sharing music experiences with other people. It’s a huge privilege to have a chance to perform, and we hope other folkies will enjoy these sounds, too.

You can check out Wytham Wood in cyberspace:


Surely no blog about Oxford would be complete without a photo of
the Radcliffe Camera! #memories
Thank you for viewing this photoblog
Samantha x

Beside the See Side

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: