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art theplacePatterson Hood is a sponge.

The defacto front man for the Drive-By Truckers, a bastion of nitty-gritty rock-n-roll, Hood soaks in the essence of the world around him. He sees the good, the bad, the ugly, and filters it through a prism of blood, sweat and tears. It’s a creative lens of performance and songwriting that conjures comparisons to the likes of The Rolling Stones, The Band, MC5 and Big Star.

Raised in Muscle Shoals, Ala., he was surrounded by music. His father, David, was the legendary bassist in The Swampers, an iconic group of studio musicians whose fingerprints were found all over 1960s and 70s AM radio hits. And as he grew up, Hood reached for every record in sight, threw it on the player, sat back and let the melodies radiate into the air. 

Throughout his life, Hood has remained full of wonder, always curious to see what new group is playing at the bar around the corner, what sound is attached to that band name, what treasures could be discovered from a quick browse at a record store? And it’s the never-ending quest for the perfect song that keeps the listener captivated by his presence, onstage and in the studio.

At 50, Hood is hitting an ideal stride of success and stability. With the Truckers celebrating 18 years of a hard-earned reputation as one of the finest rock acts of this era, he has also cultivated a bountiful solo career. His albums are books, with each song a chapter, each character standing on their own, facing situations of everyday life, filled with dire consequence or utter joy amid the chaos of it all.

Smoky Mountain News: Why is it important to have a solo outlet?

Patterson Hood: I feel I’d be lacking if I couldn’t have both. I have found a good balance. This particular run of solo shows will be coming after 10 months of touring with the Truckers. It’s fun to have this outlet, say things I’ve thought about, try new things, experiment more, see what works, hone in on the craft of the storytelling aspect. And it’s much easier when I don’t have four other people onstage I’m responsible for, so if I mess up by myself, I can recover it by myself. [Laughs]. 

SMN: You turned 50 this year. How are you feeling these days?

PH: I’m happy. I feel good. I can still do anything I want to do. I definitely play and sing better than when I was 40. I’m definitely a lot healthier than when I was 40, on a lot of levels. I don’t live nearly as hard as I did then, by choice. It’s a good thing because I wouldn’t be as healthy now at 50. This is a tough age for people in my business. It’s a hard one. Weird dynamic. But, what do you do? You either die or you keep living. I’ve moved on. I’d rather keep living. I’ve got small kids, a lot of things going on, and I’ve got a lot left I still want to do. I’m not up there onstage trying to act like a teenager, because I’m not. I’ve always been an old soul. There’s this Grandpa Jones and Tom Waits thing in my persona that I’ve grown into. Now that I’m older, it creatively fits me more in my life.

SMN: Was there a moment when you realized a song could be anything you wanted it to be?

PH: I don’t really know how to write for anyone but me, which is probably why I’ve never written a hit song. I don’t really know how to. All I can do is write what’s in my head, what I’m feeling. I don’t want to control it as much as it controls me. I know craft, I know the technical lens of writing, but I’ve never sat down and tried to craft a song. I can apply the things I know to help make my writing better or articulate better. I don’t know how to do it by the numbers. I don’t like things to be too perfect. You look at my desk and can see that, I don’t like neatness. I like clean lines musically, but lyrically I like it to be a little bit of a ramble, and sometimes a little bit of a dead end because life is like that. I like it to be a little bit conversational. I like it to reflect life. 

SMN: What do think when people say rock-n-roll is dead?

PH: I can’t pretend that rock-n-roll is the defining element of the zeitgeist, of our culture like it was in the 1960s, as far as having the massive counterweight effect on our culture like it did back then. Who knows? Maybe the addition of the iPhone was The Beatles of this decade or this era. That said, I think there will always be listening and responding to it, there will always be some kid somewhere doing something really noisy and loud and rude that someone else will hear, and sooner or later enough people will respond positively to it to where it will become a big deal. 

SMN: What has playing music taught you about what it means to be human?

PH: What’s more human than music? That, and literature and art are the three things the human race got right.

 

 

Want to go?

Patterson Hood will be performing at 9 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 5 at The Grey Eagle in Asheville. Lydia Loveless opens. Tickets are $17 in advance, $20 day-of-show. www.thegreyeagle.com or 828.232.5800.

 

Hot picks

1 A dinner and performance by Peter Rowan (bluegrass/Americana) will be at 5:30 p.m. Dec. 7 at Cataloochee Guest Ranch in Maggie Valley.

2 Pierce Eden (Americana/country) will perform at 8 p.m. Dec. 5 at BearWaters Brewing in Waynesville.

3 The Festival of Lights & Luminaries will be held from 5 to 9 p.m. Dec. 6-7 and 13-14 in downtown Dillsboro.

4 The Nanta Claus Christmas Children’s Benefit will be from 6 to 10 p.m. Dec. 13 at Nantahala Brewing in Bryson City. 

5 The Toys for Tots with Darren Nicholson Band (bluegrass) will be at 8 p.m. Dec. 12 at Frog Level Brewing in Waynesville.

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