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Byron Shire
June 16, 2024

Interview with Patterson Hood from the Drive-By Truckers

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On the map with Drive-By Truckers

University of North Alabama roomies Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley began playing music together in 1985 but it wasn’t until 1996 that they became the foundation of the Drive-By Truckers.

The band’s current line-up is Patterson Hood (lead vocals, guitar), Mike Cooley (lead vocals, guitar, banjo), Brad Morgan (drums), Jay Gonzalez (keys, guitar, accordion, backing vocals), and Matt Patton (bass guitar, backing vocals). The line-up has undergone multiple changes since the band’s formation – they love to collaborate – with Hood and Cooley serving as the sole constants throughout.

Seven spoke to Patterson Hood to find out just what the Truckers are all about.

My impression of Drive-By Truckers is southern-country rock-soul-blues-emo. Is that right?

I think you could probably throw all that in the blender and maybe add punk rock – don’t forget punk rock. I think we’re a punk rock band even though we don’t sound like a punk rock band – but, there’s like a storytelling kind of thing involved somewhere too. Almost like a Texas style of storytelling, even though we’re not from Texas. You know, an Alabama style of storytelling. 

We’re pretty eclectic, our taste is all over the map. We’re probably more eclectic as people than our music itself. 

I think my voice, and Cooley’s voice, kind of anchor us to a certain sound even though the band’s kind of all over the map. 

Our songs are probably more all over the map than our voices are able to express.

Not a lot of bands have two lead vocalists. Do you guys ever have a punch-up over who gets to sing?

No, no, not at all. As far as records go, it’s kind of whoever wrote it sings it. There’s one song I wrote that Cooley sings, although we never play it, I wish we did because I love what he does with it. As far as live shows, we generally take turns. 

I mean, honestly, whoever plays the first song, the other one does a second. We don’t do a setlist, we decide on the first song right before we go on stage and then it just goes back and forth and sometimes trying to stump each other. You know, it’s fun. There’s really very little of the ego kind of thing with our band, as far as with each other at least. We’ve always kind of felt like that. If someone plays better than me in the band that just makes it a better band that I get to be in – I’m just trying not to be the weak link (laughs). I need to be good enough so they want to keep playing with me.

One of the things I love most about your music is the activism. I feel that artists have some modicum of responsibility to do that – what’s your feeling on that?

I agree! We’ve always had a political aspect to our band, although it kind of got pushed to the forefront in the last decade or so, because of the rise of Trumpism and the racial situation in our country, but it’s always been there. It’s always been part of what we do. We all grew up loving punk rock and that’s very socially conscious. I always feel like it’s kind of part of the job – to me, that’s kind of part of the duty of art.

You and I are both going to turn 60 I think in the next six months. How are you going? Are you still finding fresh things to write about or do musically?

I hope so. I mean, I still buy a ton of records – as many as I did as a teenager. I’ve never stopped being passionate about music. I do spend a pretty lopsided amount of my income buying music. I am still excited about it. I’m excited about coming back to Australia. I’m not gonna say ‘music keeps me young’ because nothing’s gonna make me young again. But it keeps me alive.

What inspires you?

Meeting people and going to new places and returning to old places. I love travelling, I love playing, and the kids you know, the teenagers I get to hang out with because of my kids. I love that. I just want to be a little part of the conversation for as long as I can.

You can catch the Drive-By Truckers on Thursday, March 28 and Friday, March 29 at Bluesfest 2024.

Information and tickets: www.bluesfest.com.au

On the map with Drive-By Truckers

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