Billing itself as “soul grass from the Yampa Valley,” Buffalo Commons, formed in 2017, is a Steamboat-grown project that moves the souls of everyone in the room (or on the lawn). Leading the charge: frontman singer/songwriter/guitarist Tyree Woods, whose songwriting and booming voice make the sound far from common. Add band members Eric Baker on mandolin, Randy Kelley on fiddle, Gabe Riding on Banjo and Denton Turner on upright bass augmenting Woods’ powerful vocals and you have a band that will tug at your heartstrings every time you hear them play theirs, whether it’s by the river or inside on a stage. We caught up with Woods after he got off an eight-day river trip with the band this spring (the San Juan, if you must know) for a sneak peak behind their soulful sound.
Swillin’: Where’d you grow up and what’s your music background?
Woods: I am from Muskegon Heights, Michigan. I came up in a very musical household, but my earliest memories about music all stem back to Friendship Baptist Church.
Swillin’: How’d the band come together?
Woods: I realized I wanted to start a band when I retired from the Army in 2014. I was very involved in music before joining the service, and I felt like the best way to get back in touch with who I was at my core was to start writing music. I started writing songs and I had a band name picked out before I had any bandmates. I started going to local open mics and everything started falling into place from there.
Swillin’: What makes your sound so unique and what’s the common thread between all your songs?
Woods: If I had to pick something that makes Buffalo Commons unique it would have to be our original music, and our diverse backgrounds individually within the band. The common thread in the music I write would have to be my observation of the human experience, and this ride we’re all on. None of the feelings we all have are exclusive to us individually; we’re all going through it together, whether we realize it or not. So, when you can write about these emotions, and make them rhyme, you can connect with the listener on a pretty deep level.
Swillin’: How hard is it to write a new song, and how does one come together?
Woods: It can be overwhelming making myself write a new song; the times when it works the best for me are those when it just comes out, like I’m grabbing the words out of thin air. It’s an ability that I don’t think I own by any means; I can just tap into it from time to time.
Swillin’: What’s your favorite song you guys play?
Woods: Picking a favorite is tough but if I had to just choose one, it would have to be “Cannon Ball Jones.” It’s a song that was inspired by slave hymns, or “field hollars,” about an urban Robinhood-type character who would steal from the rich and give to the poor. There is a phrase that always sticks out to me, “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.” I really enjoy the truth in those words.
Swillin’: How hard was this past year not being able to play live in front of people? Did you guys still get together much?
Woods: This past year was tough on the band, as it was for everyone in all walks of life. As a band, and as friends, we continued to get together as much as we could. Looking back on it now, I don’t let myself dwell on the negative aspects of that time; instead, I’m appreciative of the quality time I got to spend with my family.
Swillin’: How are live gigs looking for this summer?
Woods: I’m thoroughly pumped for this summer, people are parched for live music and social interaction, and we are excited to share our music with people and provide a safe and fun environment for good times. Our calendar is just about full for the summer, and I truly feel blessed for it.
Swillin’: What do you love about Steamboat?
Woods: Steamboat is an incredible place, filled with great folks that enjoy having fun outside. I honestly couldn’t imagine living anywhere else. It’s an awesome place to raise a family, and a band. I thank my lucky stars for where I’ve landed.
Swillin’: What do you do when not making music?
Woods: When not making music I enjoy fishing, rafting, hiking, hunting and hanging with my family doing all of these things and more.
Swillin’: Have a favorite river (besides the Yampa, of course)?
Woods: My favorite river would have to be the Colorado. It’s where my wife, Lyndsay, first introduced me to rafting, and it will always have a special place in my heart.
Swillin’: How about a favorite bar and deck in town?
Woods: My favorite bar would have to be The Old Town Pub. It’s the first place I ever played in this town, and it’s remained my favorite to this day. That said, I love them all, and I also want to say a quick thank you to the good people of Routt County for supporting the band and that we are proud to represent where we are from everywhere we go. The best has yet to come.