A man of many things: Patterson Hood hits the road

by Jared Curtis

Musician. Songwriter. Father. Wordsmith. Patterson Hood is a man of many things, which makes it easy for him to be the driving force behind the Drive-By Truckers (DBT). But DBT isn’t the only tune Hood is playing, he also spends plenty of time writing and working on other projects including his solo work, which is what brings him to the Wild Buffalo on Friday, Jan. 17.
“Playing solo is a very different thing than playing with a band, but I enjoy both experiences.  The solo shows are in some ways harder because it’s just me. If I’m not totally ON, there’s no one to cover for me,” Hood said during an interview. “But they can be very rewarding and on a great night it can even be transcendent. I love the challenge of it.”
Hood has an eight-gig solo run playing shows from Portland to Vancouver during the month of January. And although he is a southern man (DBT is based in Georgia), he enjoys his time spent in the region.
“The Pacific Northwest is truly one of my favorite regions in the world. I love it up there,” he said. “I would love to live up there if it wasn’t so far away from the rest of my family.”
Hood released his most recent solo disc, Heat Lighting Rumbles in the Distance, in 2012. The album originally began as a book, but quickly morphed into something different.
“It was a great experience. I was in the thick of touring with DBT. We had recorded two albums and were finishing touring behind the first one and about to spend a year touring with the second,” Hood said. “I’ve found that I can write on the bus, but not necessarily songs. So I had this idea for a book I had been tossing around and began writing it. The main character was a singer/songwriter inspired by me at a very different time in my life (27-29 years old) and I was going to put a song between each chapter that was either written at that time or written from the point of view of me at that time.”
Hood abandoned the book idea (for personal reasons), but moved forward with the songwriting.
“I was writing some songs about some very personal situations I was in, involving my kids, wife and saying goodbye to some of my older family members who were reaching that point. The better of those two groups of songs became my Heat Lightning Rumbles in the Distance album,” Hood said. “It’s still one of my favorite things I’ve ever done.”
Hood is a workhorse (DBT has an album coming out in March) no matter if he’s just strumming a six-string for his own amusement or writing with a purpose for an upcoming album.
“I do tend to write a lot more when I have a specific thing I’m writing for. The songs that became the Heat Lightning album came from two specific things and I knew, timing and scheduling wise that there wasn’t going to be a new DBT album any time soon at that point, so it sort of had to become a solo record. The more stripped down and personal approach really worked for those songs anyway,” he said. “When I was writing for the new DBT album, I knew we would be recording in the near future so I was writing with that in mind. I can sort of hear that band in my head, or a reasonable proximity. I also purposefully leave certain things more open ended when I’m writing for DBT to allow them the freedom to do what they please with it when they get it. It works better that way and keeps everyone happier.”
You’d think playing in various bands would satisfy his musical urges, but Hood also spends plenty of time working with and producing other acts, but he admits he wished he had more time for that passion.
“I love outside producing, I just don’t get to do nearly enough of it because I stay so busy as it is. If I ever produced something that actually sold, maybe I could get paid enough for it to schedule some down time to produce in, but I don’t think I could support my family for two months on all of my production money earned so far,” he laughs. “I do have a project called The Taxicab Verses, and it’s a band built around my friend Jim Wilson and a bunch of really great musicians from Athens, GA, playing in conjunction with some really great players from Ghana. It’s a project Jim has worked on for five or six years, traveling back and forth and making field recordings and then having Athens players join in and adapt. It’s a really cool idea so I hope people get to hear it.”
Catch Hood solo while you can because in 2014 Drive-By Truckers is back with a new album (English Oceans) and fans can expect the band to hit the road for many months ahead. It’s a rare chance to hear Hood’s whiskey soaked vocals in an intimate setting and fans of DBT and his solo work will get a show they won’t soon forget.
“I’ll be doing a big mix of it all from my solo stuff to Drive-By Truckers tunes,” he said. “New and old, anything goes during these shows.”