Drive-By Truckers’ Patterson Hood Talks New Lineup, New Album

If you’re following his output closely, you might get the impression that Patterson Hood from Drive-By Truckers will sleep when he’s dead. In addition to writing reflective essays about how growing up in the South influenced the band’s Southern Rock Opera, playing solo shows around the country, writing songs to protect downtown Athens from a Walmart eye-sore, and blazing through recording sessions with fellow Athenian David Barbe at the helm, Hood stays awfully busy.

Hood might not have a lot of free time on his hands, but he and his band have managed to squeeze in their annual August appearances at the Georgia Theatre this weekend. They’ll be joined Friday by Tuscaloosa-based rockers the Dexateens and on Saturday by Fly Golden Eagle, stationed out of Nashville.

Although Hood is perhaps the most public and vocal member of the band, DBT has long functioned as a unit that extends beyond those who hold instruments during recording sessions and on tour. Hood is grateful for the contributions that have made the band a success, both in Athens and around the globe. 

“Working with Dave [Barbe] and working with [artist] Wes [Freed] have been two of the constants with this band,” Hood said. Both Barbe and Freed have been involved with the band in some capacity since 1999 or before.

When the Truckers played in town this past January, it was a somber affair for the band and its many devoted fans. The day after their three-night homecoming run at the 40 Watt in January began, the band’s longtime merchandise manager, Craig Lieske, died suddenly of an aneurysm. DBT and its crew gathered at Hood’s place the next day to remember Craig and, as difficult as it was for the band, the show went on. Although Hood says that he can’t even recall the show at the 40 Watt the night following Lieske’s passing, he thought the Saturday show brought out the best in the band.

Although Lieske is missed by everyone in the DBT family, Hood seems in good spirits when talking about the band’s upcoming shows in his hometown of Athens. “We’re so lucky to live in a town this size with two venues—really three venues that great,” says Hood. In addition to the Theatre and the 40 Watt, Hood counts the Caledonia as another venue that’s near and dear to the band’s heart. In fact, if you read the liner notes to the band’s live album, Alabama Ass Whuppin’ (slated to be re-released through ATO Records on September 10), you’ll learn that about half of the tracks on the album were recorded live in that tiny room. Hood admits that there would be “logistical issues” getting the band to play the Caledonia, but says he’d like to make that happen again sometime in the future.

While the band has all but finished up its 12th studio album with Barbe at Chase Park Transduction, Hood hints that the band might save the songs until closer to the release date. He belts out a laugh when asked about the sound of the new record.

“The fans were going wild over [pictures of a saxophone in the studio]. I started leaking rumors: ‘The string section will be here any minute!’,” Hood says, chuckling.

The band has had its fair share of lineup changes (with Jason Isbell, Shonna Tucker and John Neff all leaving at various points), but Hood says DBT has found its stride since bringing in Matt Patton on bass and Jay Gonzalez on almost any instrument you can imagine. As always, the band will be rounded out by a few other usual suspects: Mike Cooley on guitar and Brad Morgan on drums.

When the Truckers play the Theatre this Friday night, they’ll have Patton’s other band open up for them. “Having Matt Patton on bass has been really fun. He brings a good spirit to it all,” says Hood. And just to quell any rumors that the Truckers stole Patton from The Dexateens, Hood says it wasn’t his idea to bring the bassist in for the job. In fact, the other members of The Dexateens recommended that Hood give Patton a call.

He stays unbelievably busy, and the band has endured its share of hardships and changes, but it’s clear that Hood remains enthralled by his job. “I love doing this,” Hood says with a grin. And it’s hard not to believe him.

The Drive-By Truckers play the Georgia Theatre Friday, Aug. 23 and Saturday, Aug. 24.