Editor’s note: In anticipation of Patterson Hood’s upcoming concert at Vashon Center for the Arts, Vashon’s own well-traveled and nationally-celebrated musician, Ian Moore, sat down for a talk with Hood.
Hood is best known as the frontman for the critically acclaimed rock and roll band Drive-By Truckers. The Truckers — which Hood founded with bandmate Mike Cooley in 1996 — has released 13 studio albums and played over 2,500 shows in the past 25 years.
Get tickets to the concert, presented at 7:30 p.m. Monday, Dec. 19 by Debra Heesch and Vashon Center for the Art, at vashoncenterforthearts.org. Singer and songwriter Alessandra Rose will open the show.
Patterson Hood is an artist’s artist. His father, bassist David Hood, was in the legendary Swampers, and Patterson deftly merges that history and soul with a defiant voice that is unique yet familiar.
His songs, both solo and with his band the ‘Drive By Truckers’ are raw and unapologetic — jagged-edged southern prose, with narratives that speak to deeper and often darker truths.
I had the chance to speak to Patterson recently while he was on tour in the Northeast.
You come from a deep musical background. What was the first music that you felt was yours?
I was collecting records as a kid — Elton John, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd …The first music that separated me from my dad was punk rock. He didn’t dig it. REM, Replacements, etc. REM really spoke to me. I loved the way they deconstructed their songs, but with great solid songwriting. The Replacements — what I do on the surface probably has more to do with them than anything else.
What was the music scene like when you were first coming up?
Not much going on. I worked at a record store. The owners were huge influences on my taste, turning me on to a lot of really interesting music. [Mike] Cooley and I started playing in ’85. Our band, ‘Adam’s Housecat’ was based in Muscle Shoals. We were the only band in town playing original music. It was tough. It wasn’t until I moved to Athens, Georgia, and started the Truckers with Cooley, that we started to build a following. Athens in the ’90s was one of the coolest places ever. The Truckers wouldn’t have happened without Athens’ support.
How did touring, the cities, the sounds, the people, the food, change you?
Greatly. I was very wide-eyed about it. I tried to enjoy and revel in it. The road can be hard and tough, but I enjoyed the danger and all of that. When the Truckers first started touring, we were older than a lot of bands that were out. We all had that “this is our last chance” mentality and I think that served us well.
You have a writing style that often ties to a physical space (Alabama) and now are living in Portland. How does this dynamic affect your writing and music?
When I first moved to Portland, it really influenced my music a lot. I was going through a period where I felt like I’d written enough about where I was from. I had gotten to where I couldn’t see the beauty anymore. I was pissed off about too much. Moving out of the South allowed me to fall back in love with it again. There is plenty to love, and it took me having some distance to see it.
You’ve got all kinds of different fans. In such a divided time, how do you approach performing?
A few years ago, there was still this ability to coexist. I worry that those days may be over. I consider myself an “all-inclusive” person and love the diversity of our crowds, but we don’t tolerate hate. Those folks are not welcome. There is a polarization that is unprecedented in our lifetime. I’m hoping we are taking a turn away from the edge. We came perilously close to our democracy failing.
How would you define success right now?
If you can stay afloat right now are successful! Everything is so expensive and the profit margin is slim. It’s extra tough right now. I consider us a lucky band that we can survive, but it’s been a tough couple of years.
How do you define authenticity? Is David Bowie less authentic than Merle Haggard, for instance?
I don’t buy into that. Springsteen comes off as the most authentic, but he made it all up. He’d be the first to tell you. I think it’s fine. Doesn’t matter if you wear a flannel shirt or high heels. If you make good art, it’s good art, regardless of how it’s presented.
If you could be in one moment in history, what would it be?
I hate that I never saw Bowie. I wish I had gotten to see the Clash and Zeppelin. That said, I got to see a lot of really cool stuff. Springsteen on “The River” tour! Merle Haggard! The Glands! Got to see REM early on!
What’s the difference between your Patterson show and the Truckers show?
The band show is big, loud — lots of firepower. This is more of an intimate, storytelling thing. Lots of stage banter. I’m proud of it. Vashon will be the last show of the tour and we are really looking forward to ending our tour here.