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Patterson Hood on how Drive-By Truckers  delivered nostalgic album in the worst year of his life

Patterson Hood tells Goldmine that Drive-By Truckers' more personal album 'Welcome 2 Club VIII' delivered the goods in 2022, even though it was "the worst year of my life."
Welcome 2 Club VIII album cover

Welcome 2 Club VIII album cover

By Ray Chelstowski

Patterson Hood, founding member of Drive-By Truckers, will be the first to tell you that he isn’t nostalgic. But the band’s new album Welcome 2 Club XIII, is a musical nod to the band’s origins and to the Muscle Shoals honky-tonk where they cut their teeth. It’s the band’s (whose lineup also includes Mike Cooley, keyboardist/guitarist Jay Gonzalez, bassist Matt Patton and drummer Brad Morgan) 14th studio album and like those that precede it, Club XIII tackles topics with wit and irony. Absent here, however, is the presence of a political end. This record, instead, is a rightly timed walk down memory lane.

Get the Drive-By Truckers album Welcome 2 Club XIII in the Goldmine store 

Produced by longtime Drive-By Truckers collaborator David Barbe and mainly recorded at his studio in Athens, Georgia, Welcome 2 Club XIII took shape over the course of three summer days in 2021. This tight schedule somehow allowed room for contributions from folks like Margo Price, R.E.M.’s Mike Mills, and Mississippi-bred singer/songwriter Schaefer Llana on background vocals. They add a flavor that feeds the kind of freewheeling energy that Truckers has always favored.

As the band enters their 26th year together, Welcome 2 Club XIII reflects the remarkable connection these five men of song still share. Hood is currently on the road with his highly acclaimed solo acoustic show and Goldmine had the opportunity to speak with him as he made his way through town. Together we explored the unlikely path the band has taken since repeated spins of The Replacements' 1985 album Tim convinced him to leave college and make music his life’s mission. It’s a road that has never been straight, smooth, or steady. But the journey the Drive-By Truckers have taken has always been informed by the spirit that can quickly be found in their new look-back record, and it can be sensed in the hope that emerges from Patterson’s current tour. In that way, Club VIII may become a pivotal moment for a band that has been determined to make a difference, and it just might allow them to have the kind of well-earned moment of fun that can come from friendships forged over time.

Drive-By Truckers (L-R): Patterson Hood, Brad Morgan, Matt Patton, Mike Cooley, Jay Gonzalez. 

Drive-By Truckers (L-R): Patterson Hood, Brad Morgan, Matt Patton, Mike Cooley, Jay Gonzalez. 

Goldmine: Your former bandmate Jason Isbell did an interview with saying he has considered running for public office. So I have to ask, have you?

Patterson Hood: My wife would divorce me, flat out. She puts up with a lot but there’s no way I would run. I do have a really good understanding about politics and policy, but I’m not a politician. For example, I keep getting in trouble with Twitter because I can’t leave the “F-Word” off of my tweets. But I did see Jason’s posts and I thought that was interesting. He would be great. Why not? He’d be the best governor Alabama’s ever had.

GM: The new record is decidedly less political.

PH: This is a record that I had wanted to do even before American Band (2016) came out. In 2018 we went back and found the missing tapes for (former band) the Adam's House Cat album that we made in 1990. The tapes had been missing for a long time. We found the tracking tracks. The mixes were lost, but finding the actual tracks is better anyways. There was 24-track, reel to reel encoded with a Dolby that no longer exists, so we had to find a company in New Jersey that could decode it. Then we went and mixed it. That got us to reconnect with our old drummer and the three of us spent time together getting it ready to be released. It was really fantastic.

GM: This is kind of like a musical walk down memory lane.

PH: I’ve never been nostalgic. But the last three years have been so horrific that I can’t help but be nostalgic for like, 2015. There were a few times when people would refer to the “Club Album” as this nostalgic walk down memory lane and I hadn’t thought of it that way at all. Nor did I necessarily think of it as an abandoning of the political stuff we’ve become known for. There have at least been political aspects to every record we’ve made even if they weren’t “political.” So I don’t know where I stand on any of this because I’m all wiped out from 2022. This year has been by far the worst year of my life and I at this point just hoping for a better 2023.

GM: But you are nostalgic in the sense that you hold the music that helped shape your sound in high regard.

PH: I can tell you where I first heard my favorite songs, or at least where I was when I “got” what they were about. And that’s something that’s addressed on this record, too. In particular, the reference to the Replacements album Tim, which is the album that directly inspired me to drop out of college and throw myself into what became Adam’s House Cat full time in 1985. I was writing record reviews for the college paper and Tim was the album I had to review one particular week. I got obsessed with it. One night I was driving around and had this moment of total clarity listening to the song “Here Comes a Regular.” That’s when I knew that I needed to be doing this for the rest of my life. It was as vivid as any religious experience that anyone could ever have. It put me on the course that led me to here right now. That’s the essential thing I was trying to capture with this record. This is probably the most personal record that Truckers has ever made.

GM: Has this all gotten easier given how long you’ve been together as a band?

PH: We continue to do this because we still believe in it. At this point in our lives we get along better and have more fun together than we ever have; which is all so amazing to me. Most bands our age, if they are still together it’s because of the money they make to put up with each other. They have separate dressing rooms and get together on stage pretending that they get along. That’s why it’s so amazing how much we all like each other.

GM: You just made a record with long-time friend Jerry Joseph & The Stiffs, Tick. When you collaborate with folks like this does it ever leave you with something that impacts your own creative process?

PH: Oh absolutely. Especially with “The Jerry record.” It was a labor of love. He’s amazing. The first times we ever toured together were on the west coast where the Truckers opened for him and his band. He writes these incredible songs and is prolific as hell. When I moved to Portland we started going to lunch regularly. Over the course of one of those lunches he asked me if I’d produce him. It was actually something I’d wanted to do all along, but I knew that if I brought it up it would be a nightmare. The only way it would work is if it was his idea, because if it was going to work he had to go along with my vision. In my opinion no one had ever taken him outside of his comfort zone. Instead of showcasing everyone’s chops and talents, I wanted to make a record that completely put the spotlight on his songwriting. That’s what I fell in love with. He’s a “next level writer” and someone that I’ve always looked up to. I wanted to make a record that showcased that and stripped away everything else, only using the other elements when they serviced the songs. I came out of the experience a better player and a better songwriter.

GM: Growing up the son of Muscle Shoals FAME studios house bassist David Hood, is there something about how he and his band approached recording that can be found in your records?

PH: I’m sure it’s there. I’m so proud of what my Dad and those guys did. The body of work they made is incredible. I grew up around it, but I was a kid and they didn’t want kids around the studio. But all of those records they made were in his collection and I grew up playing them. I’d put the headphones on when he wasn’t in the house and listen to all of them, the good and the bad and the ugly. So it’s definitely part of how I hear music.

Drive-By Truckers. L-R: Jay Gonzalez, Brad Morgan, Patterson Hood, Mike Cooley, Matt Patton. 

Drive-By Truckers. L-R: Jay Gonzalez, Brad Morgan, Patterson Hood, Mike Cooley, Matt Patton. 

GM: Like your father, you guys have backed so many big acts. With a sound that is so singular, I’d imagine that that you guys could operate like The Heartbreakers and do much more session work.

PH: I’d love that. It’s still my dream for someone to get that idea and use us like that. I thought that when we did the Bettye LaVette record that that was going to open the doors for that to happen more. We love doing that and I keep wishing and hoping it happens.

GM: How does a solo tour compare to what you do with Truckers?

PH: There’s a lot more banter and storytelling. It’s there to help immerse you into the world that these songs are about. With the band there’s a sort of bravado with the five of us on stage. It’s big and it’s loud. This is way more intimate and is almost like a conversation; only I’m the one doing all of the talking.