As Drive-By Truckers conclude their 2014, Patterson Hood returns to his hometown for two solo dates at John Paul White’s new venue, 116 E. Mobile St. Hood spoke to Weld about a year of extensive touring that included a reunion show at the Shoals Theatre with Jason Isbell, the things he loves about Florence, and reflection on an appearance at the 40 Watt in Athens, Georgia a year ago with three-fourths of R.E.M.
Weld: How was the reunion show that you did for Terry Pace at the Shoals Theatre with Jason Isbell in June?
Patterson Hood: That was a lot of fun. It has been a long time; it was a lot of fun, fun to play with him. It was amazing. It was kind of weird because we were coming off of a really long tour, so we were all kind of exhausted. I think he was coming off a bit of tour himself. Mike and I had literally just come off a tour that started in Spain – it went from Barcelona to Houston down to Florida up to Virginia and ended at Bonnaroo. And the next day, I had to hitch a ride from Bonnaroo into Florence to do that show. [Laughs] So we were bleary-eyed by the time we got there. But it was a lot of fun. It was good to hang out with him.
We had gotten to hang out in London about a month earlier. He was in London – I don’t think he was playing, I think Amanda was playing the next night after we had our show in London, so he had a day off and they came out to our show. So that was really the first time we had all hung out – I think the first time that he and Cooley had hung out since he left the band. So it had been a long time. It was good, good to see him. I’m really proud of how great he’s doing.
Weld: The shows that you are doing in Florence are at 116 E. Mobile, the new space that John Paul White has helped create. I know that you guys had very different paths to get here, but what do you think of the things he is creating in Florence and what is your relationship like with him?
PH: I think he’s doing great things there. I’m really happy for him. I don’t know him personally – we’ve talked on the phone and we’ve emailed. A few years ago, some tornadoes had hit and he put together a big package, a donation auction, which was awesome. We participated in that and donated lots of stuff to his auction. We had met through that. We have a lot of mutual friends. Ben [Tanner] who is a co-owner of the club up there is a friend of ours – he plays with Alabama Shakes. John’s also friends with my dad. We have a bunch of mutual friends, but we’ve never actually hung out. Hopefully, that’ll change soon.
Weld: Will these shows be completely solo acoustic? Anyone backing you up?
PH: No, they’re totally solo acoustic.
Weld: Any chance you pull out any of the old solo material?
PH: I plan on pulling out all kinds of stuff. Pretty much anything I’ve ever sang in the band or solo is up for consideration. I’m going to make up a 150-song list and just kind of pull from that. I don’t know if I’ll necessarily have a set list, just a big list of songs to pull from. It ought to be pretty wide open. Hopefully, the two nights will be different from each other.
Weld: Is this homecoming thing something we may be able to expect from you with some regularity from now on?
PH: I don’t know. I would love to! Whenever I come through. It seems like I’m getting home less and less, which is kind of a shame. I think that’s just by the nature of how old my kids are and how crazy my schedule is. But my dad’s still there and I still have cousins and close friends there, so I try to get home as often as I can, but it’s getting harder and harder right now.
Weld: The band doesn’t seem to have much planned for 2015. I don’t think you’ve even announced an Athens homecoming run. What are the plans for the Truckers in 2015?
PH: We’ll definitely be doing some stuff, but we’re going to do some different stuff. We’ve been touring all year behind English Oceans, and there’s still about a leg’s worth of tour that we never got to – parts of the country that we just didn’t get to that we’re going to try to hit in early spring. And we’re talking about doing – about eight years ago we did a thing called “The Dirt Underneath,” where we did a bunch more acoustic type dates. So there’s some talk of doing something along those lines at some point, maybe after the first of the year. Next year is kind of in the planning stages right now.
Weld: I was at the show you did about this time last year at 40 Watt – Kevin Kinney and Peter Buck were on the bill, and Mike Mills and Bill Berry showed up…
PH: Oh, yeah! I was sick as a dog! That was an amazing show. I almost didn’t even make it to it, I was so sick. But I knew Peter was counting on me to do that song with him, and I really wanted to see the show. It was a great show. Great show. I was a little under the weather.
Weld: I know how much of an impact that band had on you, and there was a moment that you were essentially replacing Michael Stipe, fronting R.E.M. What was that like?
PH: Oh there’s no replacing him. [Laughs]
Weld: You were backed by the other three guys!
PH: Yeah, I had my trusty music stand, too, just as an extra homage. [Laughs] It’s funny. The song that I did on his record that I performed live with him, Peter wrote that. He said it was written kind of as an homage to “The Three Great Alabama Icons.” And, in a way, that song was an homage to an R.E.M. song – to “Belong” off of Out of Time, which is a spoken word piece that Stipe does with the band playing behind it, and I actually have another song that’s more of an homage to that on the Heat Lightning [Rumbles in the Distance] record – “Untold Pretties” is, like, a tribute to that song it’s so similar to it. With the Beach Boys-esque harmonies in the background and the spoken word thing. So it’s funny how that kind of thing can go back and forth. He was paying tribute to something I was paying tribute to something he did. [Laughs]
Weld: In no order, what are the top five spots in Florence and Muscle Shoals that you have to visit when you come home?
PH: Well, my dad’s is pretty cool. [Laughs] But I guess you mean more like public spots. I definitely want to see the statue they just put up of my dad. They did a statue of my dad in aluminum – it’s like 14 feet tall, sitting on a stool playing bass.
Weld: Where is that?
PH: It’s in Muscle Shoals on Avalon, about a block or two from FAME Studios. It’s right by the Muscle Shoals library. It just went up about three weeks ago and I haven’t seen it yet, other than in pictures. I definitely want to go see that.
Downtown Florence is so revitalized – it’s pretty amazing. When I was there, there was really no activity there. The storefronts were empty. There was no where really to eat, except Trowbridge’s and maybe a couple of other places. Now, it’s booming. Billy Reid’s store is there and the club I’m playing, the 116 is right there. The Shoals Theatre has reopened and it’s doing stuff.
Of course, I always have to go to Bunyan’s Bar-B-Que. It’s crazy up there, how it’s all come to life. On a Saturday night, you can walk down a street downtown and it’s filled with people. That’s a very new concept. It certainly wasn’t that way when I lived there.
Patterson Hood performs two solo shows at 116 E. Mobile St. in Florence, Alabama on Dec. 12 and 13. Tickets are $25, and Andrew Bryant of Water Liars will support on Friday, while Max Russell will support on Saturday. Tickets can be purchased in person at Pegasus Records in Florence or online here.