Drive-By Truckers Is "Ideologically a Punk Rock Band"

For those out there that wish Bob Dylan were wordier, Drive-By Truckers might be the band for you. The Athens, GA, quintet combine rock, country, folk, and punk to chronicle the American dream from the bottom of a bottle.

Ten albums into a career that spans almost two decades, their latest, English Oceans, has been their most commercially successful reaching number 16 on the Billboard album charts.

Drive-By Truckers are making a stop at Culture Room on June 4, but first road weary singer guitarist Patterson Hood spoke with New Times about his songwriting influences, what differentiates his solo albums from Drive-By Truckers', and being the son of a session musician (his dad, David Hood, played bass for, among others, Cat Stevens, Paul Simon, and Frank Black).

New Times: How did growing up the son of a prominent musician shape you becoming a musician yourself?

Patterson Hood: I knew pretty early on I didn't want to play bass guitar or be a session guy. What I do is a pretty different end of the music industry. I do think I inherited a lot of his work ethic which has certainly served me well. He is a pretty fanatical show-up-on-time type of guy.

In an interview you said you've been writing music since you were 11. Did anyone give you significant pointers along the way?

I was actually eight. I started so young that it didn't occur to me to be self-conscious about any aspect of it. I think that has served me well. Also, as they say, with the 10,000 hours formula, anything you put that much time into you're going to get pretty good at. Writing 1,000 bad songs can teach you a lot about how to write a good one, if you always try to learn from your mistakes.

You and bandmate Mike Cooley started in a punk band. Can you explain the transition from punk to the Americana of Drive-By Truckers?

I still think of us as philosophically and ideologically a punk rock band. Regardless of what genre or sub-genre any specific song is. We've always played in rock and roll bands.

You've interspersed solo albums with Drive-By Truckers is there a rationale behind which of your songs stick with you and what goes to the group?

The solo albums have been specific projects I did to have an outlet artistically at times when the band wasn't able to do something for various reasons. The first one (Killers and Stars) was just some songs I recorded by myself during a divorce and a low point of my life. It just took on a life of its own and so I released it.

The second one (Murdering Oscar) was built around a group of songs that pre-dated Drive-By Truckers by a year or two. I fleshed it out with some new songs that counterpointed the old ones in ways I thought were valid for the changes I'd made in the intervening 12 years. Finally, the last one (Heat Lightning Rumbles in the Distance) started out as a book and kind of morphed into being an album. That's actually one of my favorite projects I've ever done.

What life experiences inspired the songs you wrote for the new album English Ocean?

I'm not sure specifically. I know we went through a lot as a band and as individuals in the last few years. I'm sure it affected the writing in ways I'm not even aware of although for the most part not in literal ways.

Your lyrics tell stories. Are there writers (whether of song or prose) that influence you?

It's a very long list. Randy Newman, Tom T. Hall, Tom Waits, Todd Rundgren, Joe Strummer, Neil Young, Raymond Carver, Curtis Mayfield. It goes on and on.

Drive-By Truckers, 7:30 p.m., June 4, at Culture Room, 3045 N. Federal Hwy., Fort Lauderdale. Visit

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David Rolland is a freelance writer for New Times Broward-Palm Beach and Miami New Times. His novel, The End of the Century, published by Jitney Books, is available at many fine booksellers.
Contact: David Rolland