Interview: Key to the Highway: Patterson Hood

Interviews Key to the Highway Series

Americana HighwaysKey to the Highway series photo by David Nowels 

Fans always clamor to learn more about their favorite, most beloved musicians and those who travel with them. There’s such an allure to the road, with its serendipity, inevitable surprises, and sometimes unexpected discomforts. This interview series is a set of questions we are asking some of our favorite roots rock Americana artists to get to know more about them and what they’ve learned and experienced on the road. We are sure they have key insights to share and stories to tell. Here’s one from Patterson Hood.

Americana Highways:  How do you like your coffee or other morning wake-up beverage?

Patterson Hood: Really good coffee. Medium or light roast. Black. I’m kinda a coffee snob. It’s literally one of the things in a day that I most look forward to. On a busy day, I might drink 32oz of it. Occasionally I love a great cappuccino, especially on European tours, but mostly Black is Beautiful.

AH:  What’s the most interesting or strangest motel/hotel or place you have stayed (while on the road?)

PH: I love nice hotels and have some faves in various towns I frequent. In our early days we slept on people’s floors and couches. We would pull into town, knowing no-one and make a call from the stage to see if anyone would put us up and inevitably someone would. I slept many a nights with my sleeping bag next to someone’s litter box. We prided ourselves on being good guests and would usually do their dishes before we left as a thank you. We hit the jackpot when we stayed with Kelly Hogan in Chicago, as her roommates were on tour and she had a killer pad with great books and she came home from her day job and cooked us a feast for dinner. Hogan is truly one of the best people on Earth.

AH: If one CD is stuck in the player in the van for the entire tour, what do you hope it is?  And why?

PH: Either The Glands’ self titled second album or something from Centro-matic because I never get tired of their music. It hits me right in every mood and I’m always thrilled to hear it.

AH: What’s one personal item you must have with you on your road trip?

PH: Music. In the old days, that meant boxes of cassettes. Our van got broken into in Chattanooga once (spring 2000) and they stole all our tapes. Fans sent us mixed tapes and bootlegs from all over. Later it became my iPod and a dock. For a couple of tours we took a turntable and some vinyl, but that was too much. Now we have a dock and streaming device. (For the record, I do stream, but ALWAYS buy the record on vinyl if its something that gets repeated play, as an artist needs to get paid somehow and only the mega stars get paid from streaming. I had lunch with a friend who had over 2 million streams this year and was paid $58.)

AH:  What is your relationship with food?   How do you handle this on the road, and what’s your favorite dish on the road, (or restaurant, and what do you order there)?

PH: I surely love food a little too much for my own good. Even in the early days, we always made it a point of pride to eat well on the road. Very little fast food except for emergencies. We have favorites throughout the country / world. LaScarola in Chicago, Polvos in Austin, Husk in Nashville, Ordinary in Charleston SC, Rose VL (James Beard nominated Pho) in Portland OR. Sea Bear and National in Athens GA.

AH: If you could pause your life for a few weeks and spend some time living in a place you only have passed through, which would you choose, and why?

PH: I think I actually did that when I moved to Portland OR nearly 5 years ago. It had always been my favorite town on tour and when the opportunity came we took the leap. Something about that town always got me, from the first time we ever played there (in June 2000, opening for Jerry Joseph) to the present.

AH: What quote or piece of advice have you gotten from someone on the road that has really stuck with you?

PH: Sleep with your feet facing forward and head towards the back of the bus. Take the time and do it right. Play every show like it might be your last one ever, one night it will be. Be polite to the people who actually work for a living. Count your blessings, especially when you’re worn out and down.  The best one came from my dad, who was scoffing at all of the things we do that we don’t get paid for. “People die from exposure.”

Find all things Patterson Hood and the Drive-By Truckers, here:

See other Key to the Highway interviews here: (click here for: Rodney Crowell Todd Snider Elizabeth Cook Tommy Womack Eric Ambel, Dan Baird, Robbie Fulks, Malcolm Holcombe Jon Langford Steve Poltz, Lilly Hiatt  Sarah Shook & the Disarmers )

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