Alt country-rock band Drive-By Truckers will be performing at 6:15 on the West Stage at the Forecastle Festival 2010 on Friday July 9. The collective from Alabama and Georgia, fronted by Patterson Hood and Mile Cooley, have been making a ruckus for the thinking man for nearly a decade and a half now. Led by a three guitar punch, the band is arguably as hard a working group as any on the road today. Recently, Hood was nice enough to answer some questions for Louisville.com.
Louisville.com: You and Mike Cooley have been with the band from the start. Besides the obvious - success both critically and commercially and line-up changes - in what other ways has the band changed in the past fourteen years?
Patterson Hood: We morph and hopefully grow with each recording / writing cycle. Our first two albums were heavily influenced by old timey country, the third one by punk rock; Southern Rock Opera was obviously heavily influenced by 70's arena rock and so forth. The Dirty South was our attempt to blend a hip hop subject matter to the heavy rock sound our band was pursuing... We wanted The Big To-Do to be immediately approachable and try to capture some of the fun and excitement of our live show. Our next album (Go-Go Boots) has a bunch of R&B based murder ballads.
Louisville.com: You write songs that are often funny yet sincere; the stories can be strange and dark yet somehow endearing. (Off your latest The Big To-Do, Drag The Lake Charlie and The Wig He Made Her Wear come to mind and going back to your solo Killers and Stars CD Phil's Transplant). Is the genesis of most of your songs from your observation of real people, personal experiences, good fiction storytelling (like on The Great Car Dealer War off The Fine Print), or a combination?
Patterson: A combination. I feel like I know all these people, even the ones we made up. Sometimes it's a composite of several folks we might know or know of. It's just based on whatever interests me and what makes for a good story/song.
Louisville.com: Speaking of stories ... There have been many great live albums in the history of rock and roll - Bruce Springsteen's Live 75-85 and The Who's Live at Leeds to name just a couple. However, last year's Live From Austin, Texas has arguably one of the all-time best recordings off any live album, and that's 18 Wheels of Love. The back story is really fascinating, inspiring, and funny. You said it was all true. Very sorry to hear about Chester's recent passing. How is your mom holding up?
Patterson: She's hanging in there. It's pretty rough around there right now because she is the primary caregiver for my 90 year old Great Uncle and she's got MS so things are very hard for her right now.
Louisville.com: Obviously you and the band have great respect for Lynyyrd Skynyrd (fans just need to recall Southern Rock Opera), but you all are much more than, say, simply a cerebral Molly Hatchet. Who were your biggest musical influences growing up, and what current bands do you respect today?
Patterson: I was never much of a fan of most of what is referred to as southern rock. I grew to appreciate the early Skynyrd albums when we were researching that album. Ronnie was a very good songwriter, but my tasted always leaned more towards punk rock, R&B, southern soul music and country. I also love rap and arena rock and power pop. Todd Rundgren, Curtis Mayfield, Big Star and The Clash were all HUGE influences on my songwriting and musical taste. I like the classic era Elton John a lot too.
Louisville.com: The new album The Big To-Do, has certainly got its signature DBT sound, but there seems to be some stylistically different paths you go down as well. (It's Gonna Be) I Told You So has an R&B feel; Get Downtown is foot stomping country, You Got Another is a piano-based ballad, and Eyes Like Glue is acoustic and stripped down. Even your vocal delivery at times seems a little different. Was there any effort to mix things up, or did the songs dictate the rest like any other record?
Patterson: The songs always dictate, but have been working really hard at growing as a singer and guitar player. The rest of the band is so good, I have to work overtime just to keep up with them.
Louisville.com: You all seem to always be touring and are one of the hardest working bands around. What's the best and the worst parts of being on the road so much? And is it true you already have another DBT album set to be released later this year?
Patterson: I love playing shows and look forward to it each and every night but I do get tired of the constant traveling and being homesick and away from my wife and children take its toll. We do have another album about 90% finished, hopefully coming out this winter. It's VERY different from The Big To-Do.
Louisville.com: Although you have been to Louisville and surrounding cities quite a bit over the last few years, what can fans expect at the show? Since this is a festival, do you have to do anything differently with your show, or - other than brevity - it's pretty much the same as any DBT-only concert?
Patterson: Every show is different. We don't use a set list, we make it up as we go along, based on what feedback we get from the audience.
Louisville.com: Thanks for taking the time out to answer these questions. Oh and as an Alabama native, do you consider Louisville the North or the South? Some of us around here like to think we eschew geographic classifications.
Patterson: I have no idea about all of that. I really love Louisville, it's a hip city, especially for its size. Great restaurants and we love ear X-tacy. It's one of my favorite record stores in America (and I LOVE record stores).
Watch Drive-By Truckers' Drag The Lake, Charlie.