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Jenny Wood Returns To The Stage With 'Phoenix: Strength Of The Songbird'

Cesar Aguiniga, CZV Photography

The Wichita Orpheum Theatre reopens its doors this evening with a special performance from Wichita musician Jenny Wood.

Dubbed Phoenix: Strength of the Songbird, the show includes new songs and past favorites from Wood's career with one-act plays between the material, inviting listeners to experience the inspiration for the work.

Joining her on the stage will be a full band, including Kansas City musicians Katy Guillen, Stephanie Williams, and Michelle Bacon, with other special guests.

Wood, who was seriously injured in a 2019 car accident in which her niece and mother were killed, began her own kind of quarantine in late 2019, focusing on her recovery and finding time to make music in solitude.

She says that the time between her last performance and the one on Friday night has given her a newfound strength.

Interview Highlights

It's been interesting to talk to artists over the last year and talk about creativity because I've seen everything. Some people say, "Oh man, I've never been so prolific in my life." Other people have said, "It comes in waves like it always does," and other people haven't felt inspired to write at all. So what's been going on with you for the last year?

I like to joke to myself that I've been quarantining since October of 2019. So I again … same thing with the fanny packs, then Urban Outfitters started selling them, I was wearing those in 2004. That's my joke to myself, that I've been quarantining for a long time.

For me, I was kind of taken back to my mid-twenties, when I was alone a lot. I did solo tours, and I was kind of hearing myself and hearing my thoughts; it facilitated songwriting better, to be able to really hear your intuition and hear your thoughts and be able to write a song from a very fresh, untouched place. I'm grateful to be there again.

I think one thing that's happened over the last year, being home, is that I've sort of discovered that there are certain things that I was really putting a lot of time and energy into that ultimately don't matter.

Oh my God, exactly. And you feel inclined to … and I think I was what I like to call … I was in a social hamster wheel, it was constantly [makes frantic breathing noises] and, "Got to make sure I keep up with people, those people and let people know [what's going on]."

I did not realize how much it was compromising my art and compromising my sanity. So to be more selective now and having boundaries, to protect my art, and to prioritize it, it's you know, quote, unquote, lonely, but it's building my personal strength, which I think is more important.

I'm going to be a badass 60-year-old, I'll tell you that right now, a badass 60-year-old. And something about the masks that I'm really grateful for is you can wear masks in public, and nobody can tell that you're talking to yourself. You know, got a look at the bright side.

[Laughs.] You've talked about the experience that you've had, over the last couple of years, quite a bit. But you did say something that this sort of struck me. Along the way, you said something about a beautiful experience. And I'm just curious if you can talk a little bit more about what that means for you.

It was really relieving to learn about other people's near-death experiences. That's been very refreshing for me to hear about. And it's very comforting to hear about because things look different to me now. I have a new life now. And it can be overwhelming.

Everything is … for example, I'll be at the store and I'll see something happen or I'll see people … especially driving … I'll see people being anonymously hateful to each other. And I watch them and I just … and I was able to relate with another NDE, near-death experience person about this, who had a traumatic brain injury (TBI).

And I was like, "Do you ever have this feeling where you see anonymous hate and anger and it's just people being shoved down to the point where the anger is spilling out of them? They take it out, anonymously on other people. Do you ever have this experience when you see that happen? And you think, man, you haven't died? You don't get it!" [Laughs.]


Me and this other TBI guy were, like, "Yeah!"

I definitely have a different vision now and a different appreciation for things now and nature was always important to me. But nature is more important. The sky is more important. Sound is more important, and things that that I engaged with that weren't really that important before, I see now how unimportant they are.

Jedd Beaudoin is host/producer of the nationally syndicated program Strange Currency. He has also served as an arts reporter, a producer of A Musical Life and a founding member of the KMUW Movie Club. As a music journalist, his work has appeared in Pop Matters, Vox, No Depression and Keyboard Magazine.