Drive- By Truckers: "I think there are certainly perfect songs and many many great songs that come close."

  • Spanish version.

  • In the middle of an intense tour Patterson Hood, co-founder of Drive-By Truckers, answers some questions.
    First of all, thank you very much for your time. We feel very lucky for this interview.
    Drive-By Truckers, currently on tour in the US sharing some dates with Tom Petty, then, in the fall, you'll be heading to Europe. How is it going so far?
    It's been a great year of touring. I haven't counted how many shows we've played, but we've been on the road since January and the shows have been really high energy and fun. This has been by far my favorite year of touring ever.

    Is touring the best part of the job? What do you enjoy best, studio work, live shows, the odd collaboration?
    I enjoy a balance of all of it, although when it's all at the same time it gets very stressful and I don't enjoy it as much.

    DBT started thirteen years ago, is the enthusiasm still the same? Is it very different today than a decade ago?
    I'm as enthusiastic as ever about the show, recording, writing, performing, collaborating. I get really tired of being on the road all the time and being away from my family. Being older and with small children at home, it is really hard to strike a balance that works and it is a full time job just keeping all of that correct, but I still Love the Rock Show.

    Let's talk about your new album, "The Big To-Do", a great album, again. As in the previous ones, it blends beautiful melodies, strong guitars and riffs, stunning drums and very cinematic lyrics with great ease. You make it look like it is simple!
    That probably IS the easiest part of my job. I've been writing since I was 8 and sometimes it just flows out and sometimes it don't. I was lucky this time around, as I had a lot of songs I felt strongly about and the band has never been better (live and in the studio) so recording the record was a joy. We recorded 40 songs and made two albums at the same time. We split them up very early and concentrated on finishing The Big To-Do first, then we've been working steadily on finishing the second one this year. We just finished it last month and it will be out in early 2011.

    Talking about cinematic songs. Your video "This fucking Job" has been directed by Scott Teems who also directed "That Evening Sun" based on one of Patterson Hood's songs. Obviously you have a great understanding with him, Tell us a bit about it, please.
    I got turned on to Scott's work by my friend, the actor, writer, director Ray McKinnon. Ray had fallen in love with Scott's screenplay based on William Gay's short story "I Hate To See The Evening Sun Go Down" and was going to produce the film of it (and act in it). They approached me about writing a song and performing the Jimmy Rodgers song that gave it it's title for the film. I fell in love with the screenplay and wrote the song "Depression Era" while on tour in Norway in 08. Scott and I hit it off and he offered to direct a video for our album. "This Fucking Job" was the result and it stars Ray as an out of work family man, desperate and becoming dangerous. I was really happy with what they did and hope we can all work together again in the future.

    Would say that one of the main additions in this album is Jay González's keyboards. How did it feel to have him on board? (or How did Jay feel being on board? in case it's him who answers)
    Finding Jay has been a fantastic thing for our band. We're actually old friends and he used to be in one of my favorite bands (The Possibilities). He fit effortlessly into our band musically and personally. He is a blast to play with and brings so much creativity to the table. I have always wanted to work with a keyboard player but it took a long time to find the right person. We first brought in a keyboard player when we invited Spooner Oldham to play on the Bettye LaVette album. He was a joy to work with and we ended up recording "Brighter Than Creation's Dark" together and touring for a year, but he wasn't available to be a full time member. We also got to work with Booker T. but he wasn't available to become an actual member of the band either. I suspect that Jay and I will be working together forever. I also love his singing and sense of melody.

    Is it hard for a band to work when there are three people who do the songwriting and the singing?
    No. I love playing Cooley's and Shonna's songs. I love how their songs fit with mine. It is a great collaboration.

    Would you say that the perfect song exists?
    I think there are certainly perfect songs and many many great songs that come close.

    Would it be a country song?
    It could be any genre. I don't get really very caught up in genres or sub-genres. I think whatever fits the subject matter is good stylistically. It certainly could be a country song. Tom T. Hall has written several perfect songs. A great song is a great song and some great songs can be moved into numerous genres and still be great. (Some obviously can't). I love writing and am always chasing after a perfect song. I have a couple that are pretty good.

    You were one of the first bands in having a website back in the nineties. How do you regard the explosion of the internet and social pages, etc?
    We had a website back in 1997. (Thanks Jenn). I feel like we owe a great debt to the opening up of resources that the internet provided. It also can become creepy and destructive. I guess there is good and bad in everything that brings about a drastic change, but once the genie is out of the bottle, there's no turning back. You can be like Metalica and sue your fans, but it won't stop the changes. Or you can be like Wilco and find ways to exploit the new medium and turn it into an advantage. I'm much more of a believer in the Wilco model.

    And on the other hand you have always released your albums in vinyl as well as CD, which is a great policy, This determination has caused you problems with labels and company records, Is that right? How did you manage to keep on doing it?
    I love my iPod. As a touring musician, it has allowed me to travel with an extensive music collection and I think that is great. BUT, when I'm at home I listen to vinyl because that's my favorite way for music to sound and I love the artwork and packaging that accompanies a vinyl release. The smart move is to offer a free download or CD with the album. Our new label does it that way and that makes me very happy. Our former American label was very hesitant to release our music on vinyl and we did fight about that a lot. Once they did release on vinyl, I think it was actually very profitable for them, so go figure.

    What about the new music, rock music? What do you listen to these days?
    I buy a lot of new (and old) albums every year. I love the old classics, but also love many new classics. I love Wilco, Neko Case, The Hold Steady, Centro-matic, Black Keys, Black Mountain, Spoon and Broken Bells. The new Roky Erikson (w/ Okkervil River) and Deerhunter albums are vying for my favorite of the year so far.

    Do you reckon the salvation of music industry relies on live music?
    The old model is dead and won't be coming back. Music, however, is alive and well so it's just a matter of figuring out how to now make a living at it. Our model has always involved lots of touring and with the economy in America in such rough shape, that too has gotten really hard, but we all do the best we can to try to keep our heads above water.

    Did you know that if you look for DBT in the Wikipedia, under the Genres section says: "alternative country", "alternative rock", "cowpunk", "Southern rock". How about that!? Cowpunk!!?
    God, I hate all of the crappy sub-genre names. That's why I always say we're a Rock and Roll Band. i don't want to limited or isolated by some crappy sub-title or genre. I will allow that our next album (Go-Go Boots, coming in February) is a country-soul album, but honestly I'd just as well like to call that Rock and Roll also. I don't know what the fuck cowpunk is. We don't have any cows in our band as far as I know.

    We can't wait until November when you'll be touring Spain, we hope we can enjoy your music with a nice glass of wine, we know you like Spanish wine, any message for our readers?
    We do love Spain (and your delicious wine) very much and can't wait to bring our Big Rock Show over to you all next month. See you there!

    Thank you very much and see you in November!

    Texto: Arancha R.