Patterson Hood doesn't hesitate to acknowledge that his band, Southern rock veterans Drive-By Truckers, almost called it quits last year. He doesn't elaborate on details but concedes that "personal [stuff]" was eroding the band from the inside.
"I spent a lot of last year soul-searching whether it was time to pack it up and call it a day. I truly did," Hood said. "I spent two years with that in the back of my mind, a nagging thing. I didn't like where the band was at."
Hood laughs at the idea now. With the recent departures of bassist Shonna Tucker and guitarist John Neff, Hood says, Drive-By Truckers is rejuvenated. After the band's Rams Head Live concert on Sunday, the group will head into the studio with longtime producer David Barbe to begin work on the group's 10th album, tentatively due early next year.
Calling from his adopted home, the road, Hood discussed his solo work, gaining his father's respect and other topics.
Your solo tours have allowed you to strip things down. Are you exhausted from the expectation to consistently blow the crowd's hair back with Drive-By Truckers?
Probably a little bit at times. I love the big, loud, kind of explosive aspect of the Truckers' show. But it's definitely nice to have an alternative medium to delve into. Particularly, this has been good for me as a singer. There's only so much you can develop when you're singing over a loud band.
Ironically, the Truckers have been in the process of stripping it down anyway. We're still a big, loud show but we've gone from a six-piece to a five-piece, and rearranged some things. It's been real good.
It's been more than two years since "Go-Go Boots." What details can you give about the next album?
I'm real happy with the songs we've got and where the band is at. We haven't started yet; this will be the beginning of it. I like the songs I'm bringing in. The stuff I've heard from [guitarist Mike] Cooley has sounded great. I'm just excited about the idea of this and the place we're at right now. There has been a period in the band with tension and problems that led to personnel changes.
When that all went down, it was kind of like being free from the negativity. Hopefully, they're in a good place, too. I wish them well. Sometimes, when you spend years on the road, it can bring out the best and worst in people and their relationships.
You shelved the novel you were working on ("Slam Dancing in the Pews"). Is it important for you to finish it?
It's important that if I finish it, it be good. The last thing I want to do is put out a book and it suck, and people go, "He should stick to writing songs." ... That particular book, so much of it was semi-autobiographical, and there were certain issues that I haven't figured out whether I'm willing to fictionalize or adhere closer to what happened. I got tired of spending time in that middle space.
Your dad, David Hood, is a legendary bassist in the South. What's the best advice he gave you?
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Surprisingly, not a lot. We're super-close, particularly now at this point in our lives. But his advice to me growing up was not to do it. To be brutally honest, for a long time, I don't think he thought I was musically talented enough or really thought I had the personal gumption to pursue this to the degree it takes to make it. He was adamant about me going to college and finding something to do. Earning his respect was one of the hardest things ever, but there's a lot to be said for that, particularly when you're on the other side of it. It was priceless, and he couldn't be more supportive or really into what I do.
Drive-By Truckers has had a history of members leaving, but the band has always pressed on. Why?
I feel right playing with Cooley. I love playing guitar on his songs, and for now, he continues to want me there. It would be a shame not to. We've been together for 28 years. If we want to stay together and make another record, we might as well call it Drive-By Truckers. It already has a name and a certain cachet to it. I'm not in love with that name, but I don't have to worry about people Google-searching it, and four other bands with the same name pop up.
Drive-By Truckers perform March 17 at Rams Head Live, 20 Market Place in Power Plant Live. The Old 97s will also perform. Doors open at 7 p.m. Tickets are $30. Call 410-244-1131 or go to ramsheadlive.com.