Drive By Truckers
Drive-By Truckers’ Patterson Hood has garnered a well-earned reputation for his songwriting by telling detail-rich accounts of southern rock, methamphetamine addiction and George Wallace's final damnation, among other things. So when the Reader was offered a chance to send Hood some questions, we jumped at the chance to crawl into one of rock ‘n’ roll’s most literate minds. Here's Hood’s responses. First of all, the Truckers have a new album, Go-Go Boots . Could you tell us about how it came about? When we went in to record The Big To-Do , we had a very clear idea of what we wanted to do and how we wanted the album to sound, etc. However we had all of these “other” songs that absolutely didn’t fit that mold but that we felt just as strongly about as the album we were making, so we decided to just record everything and sort it out later. After we finished TBTD , we would go in whenever we had a little time and work on it until we had the album we wanted and I think I like it the better of the two. There’s some cuts on the record that dabble more in soul than southern rock on this record. How did that come about? That's something we’ve always wanted to do; it’s just taken a long time. It’s a much harder type of music to play properly than the big rock stuff and we didn’t want to massacre something we love as much as soul/r&b so we took our time. Having Johnny (Neff) and Jay (Gonzalez) in the band really helped us do this as well as the things we learned working with Bettye LaVette and Booker T. Jones. Did the inclusion of the two Eddie Hinton covers guide the sound and songs of the record? It did dramatically. I had to literally relearn how to sing in order to pull the vocal off for “Everybody Needs Love” and in doing so, it opened up a whole host of new doors to us. It seems like there’s been a high level of productivity from both the Drive-By Truckers and you personally over the last few years. Is there any particular catalyst for your recent output? I've always been very prolific and I had a particularly nice burst of new songs coming into these two albums. Having three songwriters in the band helps on that end also. What’s the dynamic like with three people contributing songs to the band? It’s great. It only works because we all really love and respect each other’s writing. I think Shonna (Tucker) is becoming a great writer and the things she writes are cool to play but things we could never do otherwise. I love having a female perspective in our songs. I have always rebelled against the cliché of rock ‘n’ roll as a “boys club.” (Mike) Cooley writes my favorite songs in the band. He’s not particularly prolific, but his two to three a year usually are my favorite things of all. You’re known for your narrative songwriting. Whether it’s a song or a story, what elements make for a good tale? I don’t know. I just have to have a strong reaction to it. I don’t go looking for those stories, they seem to seek me out. I have to empathize (not necessarily agree) with some aspect of the story or the person involved. A song like “The Wig He Made Her Wear” or the two murder songs on Go-Go Boots (the title cut and “The Fireplace Poker”) were written as a reaction to growing up where we did, where religion was such a huge part of our local culture and sometimes a very oppressing force in our town socially, politically and culturally. It was a dry county, you couldn’t buy a cold beer after work or go see a band play, yet there was this preacher carrying on like that. I’ve always reacted strongly to people of authority acting terribly. That inspired “Used To Be A Cop” also. Have you changed how you approach songwriting after you recorded a solo record? Hopefully I'm still learning to be a better writer, singer and performer. It's all a learning curve. When I quit learning, it's time to retire. Having a family has made me a much better writer, although it's made writing much harder. When writing songs, do you just write or do you have to set in your mind that you're working specifically on a “Drive-By Truckers song” or a “solo song” to guide you? I just write. I sort all of that out later. There was a time when I had to think of what made for a DBT song due to the way the band played, but honestly, the lineup we have now can play anything I can dream up better than I can imagine it. It’s really a stellar lineup these days. Drive-By Truckers w/ the Heartless Bastards play the Slowdown, 729 N. 14th St., Sunday, Feb. 27 at 9 p.m. Tickets are $20 in advance and $23 day-of-show. For more information, visit onepercentproductions.com.