The Drive-By Truckers’ "Country Soul": A Conversation with Patterson Hood
BR: Eddie and your dad (legendary Muscle Shoals bassist David Hood) not only played music together, but were friends as well, right?
PH: Oh, yeah – my dad was a pallbearer at his funeral. Eddie’s always been like a distant part of the family and such an influence on our band that it just felt right to record that song and have it be part of the album.
It would make me about as happy to have a hit single or a song on the radio with “Everybody Needs Love” as if Cooley or me had written it ourselves. It’s the same soul – it feels right.
BR: And it sounds right. The first time I put an ear to the album, I wondered why “Everybody Needs Love” wasn’t the closer – then I heard “Mercy Buckets.” That’s the perfect ending, man. That’s your “Moonlight Mile”, right there.
PH: Well, thank you. “Mercy Buckets” would never have ended up on Go-Go Boots if it hadn’t been for “Everybody Needs Love”. One opened up the door for the other – along with “I Do Believe”.
You know how things get interrelated when you’re working on a project or a record? That was definitely the process – successfully getting “Everybody Needs Love” like we did led us to saying, “What else can we do along those lines?”
I remembered “Mercy Buckets” – I had written it years earlier but had never liked the lyrics. I liked the chorus, the melody, and the structure of it, but I didn’t like the verses. I pulled it out after all these years because of “Everybody Needs Love” and rewrote the verses and we recorded it. It all interrelates.
BR: You mentioned “I Do Believe” – if “Mercy Buckets” is the ideal closer, “I Do Believe” is the perfect opener. Again, I remember being impressed right from the first listen: the a capella intro and then that big, big “Truckers go surfing” sound. There’s a neat atmosphere throughout the whole album.
PH: Well, thank you – thank you very much. We just love working with David Barbe. He’s got a great-sounding studio and he’s just such an amazing engineer and producer. David’s definitely part of the band.
BR: In writing about David, I’ve compared him to Tom Dowd.
PH: The philosophy David has in the studio is very much akin to that Tom Dowd-style of producing. There are some producers who have a set sound that they go for – like Jeff Lynne or someone like that – and then there are others who don’t have a trademark sound as much as they records always sound good, you know? They take what the band does and make the most of it.
In David’s case, I think when he produces a record, the band comes out of the studio as a better band than when they went in – he literally improves the band. I’ve seen it over and over living here in Athens; I’ve watched David produce dozens of bands in this town. It might be a band who has some cool songs, but they don’t quite have their shit together and they go in to David’s studio and come out two weeks later as a much more kickass band. David refines what they’re good at and accentuates the positives. I watched that happen for years before we ever worked with him. I’m such a huge fan of his.
BR: You know, I haven’t done the math to add up the minutes, but there must be close to a compilation album’s worth of stories about men of the cloth who have gone wrong, counting “The Fireplace Poker” and “Go-Go Boots” on this album.
PH: (laughs) Yeah … I’m gonna need to find something different to write about now.
BR: Oh, they’re all good stories …
PH: Yeah, well … I think I’m through with that. (laughs) I think I’ve picked on The Church of Christ long enough.
BR: Well, they’ve got to get their act together, right? (laughter) If all the twisted preachers disappeared, there wouldn’t be any more to write about, but the world will be a better place, right?
PH: Maybe so, maybe so … (laughter)
BR: There are some lovely acoustic-based numbers on Go-Go Boots. Are you planning on more acoustic stuff in your live shows with the full band?
PH: Yeah, we’ve been working on that, actually. It’s a little daunting to think about in the live setting. All of us having to change instruments would kind of beak up our momentum a little, but we’ve been making it a point to do it every day – even if it’s just for two songs about a third of the way in, you know? So many of Cooley’s new songs are acoustic-based and they’ve become the carrot to make us want to do that. “Cartoon Gold” is really, really sounding good live.
BR: Oh, man – I love that frigging song.
PH: Aw, it’s such a great lyric.
BR: Now, see – that would be a chance to show off those cool Baxendale acoustic guitars you guys have.
PH: Right – aren’t they amazing?
BR: They’re beautiful. And, you could play some more mando …
PH: I’ll work on that. (laughter)
BR: Patterson, I really do appreciate you taking the time for this – thank you.
PH: Thank you, man. Thank you so much.
BR: Take care out there – and let’s not have Cooley hitting the wall any more.
PH: Nooo – no more of that.
BR: Remember – 50 years, right?
PH: That sounds like a good plan. (laughter)