MUSIC BOX: Patterson Hood goes it alone
JACKSON HOLE, WYO – A standout among contemporary story-songwriters, Southerner Patterson Hood is the frontman/guitarist for Drive-By Truckers. In this candid interview, you get a snapshot into the touring life, inspirations, and terrifying moments on Teton Pass.
Planet Jackson Hole: How do your upcoming solo shows deviate from previous performances with a band?
Patterson Hood: For these Northwest shows, I’m not touring behind any specific record, so I’ll be pulling songs from all three solo records, plus songs from all the Drive-by Truckers’ albums, including a few new ones from the upcoming DBT release, English Oceans.
When I’m touring with any of the bands, the show is sort of built around what that particular band does. Solo, it veers all over the map, song-wise, and I indulge in more storytelling and banter. I’ve played a lot of solo shows in the past few months and it has been a really fun show most nights.
PJH: You’ve played in the Tetons a couple of times, with DBT in 2006 with the Black Crowes, and then Targhee Fest in 2012. Anything stick out in your mind about either shows, or your time in this area?
Hood: The first time stood out, because we drove down Teton Pass in the ice and snow. It was terrifying. DBT was opening for Jerry Joseph and The Jackmormons in January 2002. We had been on the road for about six straight months at that time and were all very burned out, touring in an ‘88 Dodge Ram. Cooley drove us down the pass (he was our money driver) and we all agreed it was the most terrifying drive we’ve ever been on, still to this day.
We all had a really great time at Targhee Fest in 2012.
PJH: Your writing style really stands out among contemporary songwriters. Who are some of the songwriters that you looked up to when getting your career started?
Hood: I was highly influenced by Curtis Mayfield and Todd Rundgren as well as Paul Westerburg and Neil Young and Bruce Springsteen.
Later, Tom T. Hall was a big influence as well as Randy Newman. Alex Chilton [Big Star] and Joni Mitchell all also figured into it at various points.
PJH: Has your approach to writing changed over the years?
Hood: I like to think that it is still developing and growing. I probably work harder at it than I used to, more detail oriented with it than I used to be. Also, since I’ve been writing since I was 8 years old and have written so many songs, it’s a big challenge now to write something I’ve never written about before. Or if I do, I at least write it in a brand new way. I’m always pushing myself really hard to keep getting better.
PJH: You mentioned in a blog post that you are constantly writing on the road. Some people have visions of the rock star lifestyle, not the vision of a rock star writing everyday in the tour bus. Has it always been this way for you?
Hood: The so-called rock and roll lifestyle only exists on bad TV shows or books about bands in the 70s. It can be a lot of fun, but it’s usually a lot of waiting around interspersed with a lot of very hard work. You get sick, the show must go on, so you spend a lot of time trying not to get sick. I try to eat healthy out there. None of us really drink nearly as much as we used to. For this upcoming run, I have to be at the airport most mornings around 6 or 7 to fly somewhere for a long layover and finally will get into Jackson Hole late afternoon.
When we tour on the bus, I do like to try to write, as it makes the downtime more productive. I often can’t write songs on the bus because there’s so much music and noise there, but I can often write prose or chapters for books or essays. I read a lot also.
PJH: Were there times in your career that you questioned what you were doing, or weren’t motivated to push the creative envelope?
Hood: There have been times when something was going wrong in the band, personnel wise, or financially, or whatever, and I have at times questioned continuing that. In the end, I LOVE playing with Cooley, I love playing with Brad. I love playing with Matt Patton [DBT’s new bass player]. Jay Gonzalez is phenomenal and he plays with me a lot when the band is off as well as being in DBT. The band is in a really great place right now. There’s nothing I’d rather be doing than playing in Drive-By Truckers right now. I’ve also been really enjoying going out and playing these solo shows.
PJH: What profession would you pursue if you were not a musician/songwriter?
Hood: I always wanted to direct a film or write a book. Leave it to me, the two other jobs I would want are as difficult to survive as the one I have. I guess I was destined for turbulence.
Patterson Hood solo performance, 7 p.m., Sunday, at the Center Theater. $25. jhcenterforthearts.org.