Interview: Patterson Hood of Drive-By Truckers

words by Mark Huddle | photo by Danny Clinch
| Tuesday, March 16th, 2010

Drive-By TruckersDuring my long association with Verbicide Magazine, I have unleashed a torrent of words, a tsunami of syllables, an army of independent clauses marching aimlessly in search of a point. When I consider the breadth of that writing, I can only shake my head in wonder at the patience of my editors. I’ve written about everything from Johnny Cash to anarchist punks to Joan Jett to giant flocks of seagulls attacking the White House Press Corps. For some reason they keep publishing me.

I mention this as a way of prefacing the fact that this short introduction was by far the most difficult thing I have tried to write in years. It never fails that it is the bands you love the most that are the toughest to write about. On the one hand, you want to communicate your passions to your readers. You want to explain to them why your band is so bloody freakin’ relevant. You want them to know that when rock and roll seemed to have been reduced to little more than formulaic corporate pablum, your guys threw a sonic haymaker that clipped you smack on the chin and reminded you why you worship at the Church of the Sonic Guitar in the first place.

On the other hand, you don’t want to come off as some blathering fanboy, sitting around in your parents’ basement in a Drive-By Truckers baseball cap and a t-shirt that reads “Shonna Tucker Is My Rock and Roll Girlfriend!” Next thing you know, you and your life-sized cut-out of Steve McQueen are debating whether or not that rat bastard George Corley Wallace really is roasting marshmallows with Satan in that place we might call the “Deepest South.” You’re the guy on eBay hawking the shards from Buford Pusser’s “walking stick” as sacred religious relics and cursing the Dixie Mafia. Trust me — you don’t want to be that guy. Been there, done that.

But perhaps I digress…

So for lack of a better segue, why don’t we begin with a workmanlike primer and work our way toward the ecstatic. The Drive-By Truckers have been making great rock and roll since 1996. Formed by longtime pals Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley, it was the band’s 2001 release, Southern Rock Opera, that earned them critical acclaim and national notoriety. An extended song-cycle built around the rise and fall of Lynyrd Skynrd, SRO was the first of three remarkable concept albums that in essence rethought post-World War II Southern history in all of its mythic grandeur. Both Decoration Day (2003) and The Dirty South (2004) spotlighted the songwriting skills of Hood, Cooley, and guitarist Jason Isbell. When Isbell left the group, he was replaced by pedal-steel player John Neff, and soon after bass player Shonna Tucker joined the band. Along with keyboard player Jay Gonzalez, they comprise the DBT’s current configuration. A Blessing and a Curse in 2006 and Brighter Than Creation’s Dark in 2008 continued the band’s critical run, and also witnessed the group exploring different sounds and shattering once and for all the stereotype that these guys were Molly Hatchet wannabes locked into some sort of mid-’70s death trip.

But if there were any questions about the diversity of the Truckers’ sound, those were put to rest in 2007 when the group went to Muscle Shoals to back soul singer Bettye Lavette on her comeback album, The Scene of the Crime. Lavette was a soul legend whose career was derailed in 1972 when her first album with Atlantic Records was shelved without explanation. Thirty-five years later, Lavette and the Truckers cut an album that was nominated for a Grammy and thrust the singer right back into the limelight. For Patterson Hood it was like going home again. His father David Hood was a member of the world-class Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, and Patterson had spent his youth witnessing the rise and fall of that sweet southern soul. The band’s soul turn surprised longtime fans and critics alike, and it also paved the way for their next R&B intervention as the backing band on Booker T. Jones’s Potato Hole (2009). That record — which won the Grammy — and subsequent tour cemented the DBTs’ burgeoning reputation as a band with the chops to play just about anything at the highest level.

I saw the Truckers for the first time in the fall of 2001. I’d run across a blurb in the Athens weekly, the Flagpole, that they were going to play their new Southern Rock Opera live in its entirety down at the “World Famous 40 Watt Club.” I figured, what the hell, why not check it out? To say I was unprepared for the experience was the understatement of the new century. It was a jaw-dropping performance that I am pretty certain finished off what little was left of my hearing. (Thanks a lot you guys.) It was a visceral experience — a sonic gut-punch made all the more searing because of the incredible stories they told. Their songs were rooted in a deep sense of “place,” but not in any romantic sense of the word. They confronted the tangled web of contradictions that lay at the heart of the Southern experience — and by extension at the heart of our national narrative. There is a terrible distance between the ideal of American life and the reality of it. The Drive-By Truckers seized the ground between the ideal and the real and planted their freak flag smack in the middle of it.

Since then I’ve done my best to tag along for the ride. Every new album is an event. Their new one — due out March 16th — is called The Big To-Do. I cannot wait.

I had the great pleasure of chatting with Patterson Hood about the new record. We also talked about the Athens music scene, the recent passing of the great Vic Chesnutt, the role of community in making great music, the new Drive-By Truckers documentary, and the mistake people make when they stereotype a great rock and roll band. Hell, we talked about all kinds of stuff. Check it out.

Okay man, let’s just launch into this. I was in Athens over the weekend and I got to see you guys play at the “Vic Shows” at the 40 Watt…
Oh yeah great…

It was quite an event.
What about Liz and the Silver Mt. Zion — man what about all that? [Singer/songwriter Liz Durette is Vic Chesnutt’s niece.] Good God almighty…

Funny that you mention that. You know I’ve got quite a few of their discs and I have the albums they did with Vic, along with Guy [Picciotto] from Fugazi, and nothing quite prepares you for the power of that music live. That version of “I’m So Depressed” reminded me of the choir at the little country church where my grandpa used to preach. And Liz’s voice on “This Cruel Thing”…
I had tears running down my face watching it, it was just amazing, and it was such a cathartic weekend. I think we really needed it. I think we need a few more weekends like that. There is just not any getting over losing Vic. But at least I think it kind of put everybody’s head in a little better place to start processing it all. I was honored to get to be a part of it. I actually cancelled…I was supposed to be in Europe doing a press thing for the new record. I begged and pleaded with everybody to let me out of it so I could do this. They finally gave in and I’m so glad that I did. It’s something that on a personal level I needed to be here. And I’m grateful that I got to be.

One of the things I was curious about is that, unless you’ve been there, people don’t understand that Athens, as a cultural hub — what a really tight-knit community it is. I guess one of the things that really blew me away about the Vic Shows was the incredible breadth of talent and music represented there. You don’t often think of Jack Logan and Elf Power, or Lambchop and Centro-matic in sort of the same breath.

But you should, you really should though.

That’s so much of why I’ve rebelled so strongly against any attempts to pigeonhole our band in any one sub-genre of music. If you look at my record collection, it was like the show the other night. My tastes are all over the place. I think that is what makes us a better band. It’s what makes Athens a better scene.

Athens in the ’80s [became] that super-hip scene town for that brief moment in time on the cultural radar, which pigeonholed everyone from here for awhile as a jangly guitar band playing college rock — I think a lot of people still think it’s like that, and it wasn’t true then! That was just a handful of the 50 or 60 bands that were around then. Of course, now there are like 300 bands playing around here, and the music is all over the map. And it seems like lately even more than ever before there is a really cool cross-pollination going on here. Of course, Vic reveled in collaborating with all these different types of musicians and bands. He’d make an album with Godspeed and turn around and make an album with Elf Power.

I’m so bummed that I never got to collaborate with him on a record. We definitely talked about it in recent years. And I know that he and Will Johnson [Centro-matic] talked a lot about doing a collaboration — I know Will will never get over that — you know, they did the tour with Undertow Orchestra. I know he’ll always regret not getting to take that to the next level. It will always be a bummer to him. But all that is the beauty of this town. So much creativity.

As a writer, his records were touchstones for me. They meant so much to me. His ability to sing about some harsh realities — harsh personal realities — resonated with me in untold ways. I would have loved to have written seriously about him, and I talked about that to a few people. Since his passing I’ve had this really profound sense of loss — that opportunity to know and understand him is gone.

Okay, now our goal of course is to push toward the new album, but I really want to ask you about this movie, the new documentary, The Secret to a Happy Ending, and how that project came about. Some of us out here in the hinterlands have our fingers crossed for a reasonably wide release so that we might actually get to see it. (laughter)
Yeah, I hope so, too. (laughter) You know, as fucked up as the music business is — you know now I’m going to go pursue a business that is even more fucked up.(laughter) Because at least I know, if worst comes to worst, I know how to make a record and put it out by myself. I know how to do it. But making a movie takes so much more, it takes such a larger collaboration. Of course, this isn’t my movie. It’s Barr Weissman’s movie. He made it. I’m just dancing under the microscope of it. He did such an amazing job with it. It is a really, really beautiful film. People who have seen it are really surprised — it isn’t what they expect going in.

Our band has always kind of reveled in that anyway. We don’t want to be what people expect on the surface. So it is fitting that someone made a movie about us that’s kind of that way too. (laughter) But it’s a beautiful film, and I’m glad to be involved with it. I’m pretty much in awe of Barr and his tiny little crew’s filmmaking abilities to make something like this with almost no money at all, but with a lot of perseverance and creativity.

From what I understand people are going to be really surprised by what they see here. I mean, by just about any measure, the press you guys get is remarkable. The critics have almost always rallied around you and there have been high-profile tours with some of the greatest rock bands of all time. I think people who are outside of the business think you guys are flying around in Led Zeppelin’s private jet…
(laughter) Woo hoo!

Instead they get to see just how really, really, really hard what you guys do when you’re on the road really is.

What do you think about that sort of tension, really, between the adoration that comes with being a great band, a significant band, that people love and will follow and come out to see, and then that just hardcore struggle that comes with trying to keep the whole thing moving?
Right. Well, I try not to dwell too much on how hard it is unless, well…unless I just succumb to it. I’m pretty well aware that in the grand scheme of things we’re lucky as shit. I get to do pretty much exactly what I want to do and right now — at least for the time being — I’m able to support my family on it. We’re not rich but we are comfortable. So for me, that feels rich! Since I moved out of my parents house some 20 or 25 years ago, I’ve seldom been comfortable. It has usually been some extreme of poverty or another. Working some shitty job and coming home from a tour exhausted and having to pick up shifts every waking hour until I go back out was pretty much my reality for so long that the fact that now when I come home I’m actually home makes me feel kind of rich. So I forget how hard it is, except when I get really burned out. So seeing that movie, I was like, “Goddamn, we’re crazy!” (laughter)

You know what it kind of reminds me of, talking about this, is that documentary Jem Cohen made some years ago about Fugazi called Instrument
Yeah. You know, I’m dying to see that. I’ve never seen it and I’m a huge Fugazi fan — I got to hang out with Guy [Picciotto] this weekend. I’d met him before but I’d never hung out with him. What a fantastic, amazing person, as well as artist. I’d love to see that movie because I remember reading about it when it came out but never got to see it.

Obviously, the music isn’t all that similar, but it’s the way the fans interact — I think that is sort of what resonated when I heard about your film. People get something when they go to a Truckers show and it isn’t just about entertainment. It’s not just about paying your money and going to the “rock show.” You guys have managed to really touch a nerve — and more power to you. But check that movie out. You’ll see the overlaps. Very interesting stuff.

You started talking earlier about being pigeonholed. Let’s explore that a little. I heard you guys for the first time back in 2001 when Southern Rock Opera had come out. For me, that was a jaw-dropping experience, not just because it was such a remarkable artistic achievement but also because that sound was the “Big Rock” sound that I’d grown up with — the experiences you described were experiences I had when I was in high school, growing up in a small Ohio town and driving up the highway to Columbus to see bands like AC/DC. It just hooked me and it was the hook I used to get other people listening to it. Like, “Here check this out, this is the stuff we grew up on.”

Of course, I’ve followed your music since then, and it has grown, evolved, and become more complex. But then all of a sudden here come the records you did with Bettye Lavette and Booker Jones. Talk about breaking out of the old southern rock stereotypes! Here you are moving into soul music and the Stax sound — what prompted that? The desire to give the big finger to the categories? Or was it just circumstance?
Well that was certainly part of it — but just a tiny part. It was prompted because, frankly, that was always what we wanted to do. The direct route to that wasn’t an option, so we did all these other things that finally enabled us to get there. In the last three years we’ve finally had the opportunity to grow into our own and do what we kind of always wanted to do. Of course, it just took getting the opportunity. I’ll sing Andy Kaulkin’s praises until the day I die. He’s the President of Anti Records, and he was the one who first approached me about backing up Bettye Lavette. I’ll remember that phone call until the day I die.

I was in Corpus Christi, Texas in a dirty parking lot in the dead of summer. It was about 110 degrees and my phone rang, and it was Andy — who I’d never met at that time — asking how I would feel about us backing up Bettye Lavette for a record. Getting to go in and deliver that message to the band on the bus (laughing), you know, “You’re never going to believe what just happened.” So it was like a lifelong dream.

You know, my dad was a session guy. I grew up witnessing the heyday of that era, and then the end of that era. By the time we were teenagers — I started playing in bands just as all that was ending. And it ended sadly. They had a great, long run, but nothing lasts forever and it was very heartbreaking when that run started dimming up.

Growing up and following in my dad’s footsteps was never an option. I wasn’t the right kind of player, didn’t have the right kind of discipline, I don’t think. I mean, I’m certainly disciplined, but not in the right direction it would take to be a fulltime session guy. I’d go crazy. I always wanted to be out on the road and I always wanted to play live shows. It was all about the “rock show” aspect. But I grew up around that world enough to where the idea of backing up performers in different genres that I couldn’t do on my own — being a part of an actual, authentic soul record was just beyond a dream come true.

And it gets nominated for a Grammy, too!
Hell yes! (laughter) And then we got to do Booker! And it won a Grammy! That was just a whole other… I mean, good God, you know? And both of those records have paid off in such a huge way in our own band’s work. We could never have made Brighter Than Creation’s Dark if we hadn’t gone through what we went through making Bettye’s record. We made that record — I think we had 10 days to make it and it was definitely up there with the hardest 10 days of my life. It was brutal. It was frequently awful. (laughter)

You mean the Bettye record?
Yeah, making Bettye’s record was just one of the most difficult things I’ve ever been through. But we made this beautiful record that I’ll be proud of as long as I live. It is one of the things I’m proudest of in my whole life. In the end, we all really grew to really love Bettye and all of that too, on a personal level. But some love is hard-earned, and hers was definitely hard-earned. (laughter)

I’ve read a couple of interviews with you about that record. It was her not really trusting…
Well it became an exorcism for her. You’ve seen The Exorcist — we were the priests that got thrown out the window in the process. Green soup everywhere. (laughter) We had the bright idea that the way to make that record was to take her back to Muscle Shoals — to take her to the location of the biggest heartbreak of her entire life. Let’s make a record there, where the worst thing that ever happened to you in your life took place. Which happened to be where I grew up. In retrospect, it was absolutely the right thing to do. But the reality of actually doing it…on paper it seemed like a cool idea. It was a cool idea. But the reality of taking someone who had been through the kind of ordeal up to that point her career had been and sort of reliving her darkest hour and making a record about it was…

God, it’s almost cruel…
And we were all blindsided by how fast it got so ugly. She walked in the door and there were the reminders all over the walls of her ordeal.

She didn’t know us. We were just a “bunch of damn kids,” as she put it. (laughter) So it was a cathartic, amazing thing, and it all turned out great. But it was very hard.

Now, the Booker record was the polar opposite. We had four days to make that record and we made it here in Athens. We met him on the first day and started playing and it just didn’t click. And then the second day we started to feel, “Yeah, this is going to be okay. We’re not going to make it on time, but it is going to be worth pursuing.” And then around day three it became magical. We had this breakthrough. By the end of day four we’d made the whole record.

That’s incredible.
It was, and then they took what we did and flew it to California and Neil Young put his part on there. [Then] they put it all together and made the record out of it. But our experience was a four-day thing. Booker is the most beautiful human being imaginable. He’s as great a person to be around as he is a musician to watch and listen to play. We learned so much. It was just the opposite end of the learning spectrum from what we learned making Bettye’s record, but it was just as important.

I think it has really paid off, and the record we just made — even though they might sound like two totally different records — I can go through it and pinpoint the lessons we learned on each song, where I can draw a line from the Booker experience to, just like I can draw from the Brighter Than Creation’s Dark to the Bettye record.

Honestly, if you had told me 5 or 10 years ago you guys would be making soul records with a couple of the masters of the genre I wouldn’t have believed it. But they are just extraordinary albums. And then I was so thankful that Booker’s record won the Grammy because I’m hoping that means people might go out and snag it and give it a listen.

God, I really hope so, and even more so I hope we get to do it again. You know, we made that record in four days. — what would happen now that we know each other and played together and toured a little bit? We went to Australia together and we’ve played all these shows over the last year — we actually know how to do it now. He’s definitely talked about an interest in it. Lord knows we are. I’d really like to see what we could do if we got together and tried it again. I think we could take what we did before to a whole different level. That would be just the greatest thing in the world.

You guys are suddenly the MGs of the 21st Century. How crazy is that? (laughter)
If I had to say my favorite bands of all-time, and I could only name two, it would be The Band and Booker T and the MGs. And the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section because I’m really proud of what my dad did.

And from there we could name the Beatles, and there’s a lot of bands I’m really passionate about. But none I’m more passionate about than The Band and Booker T and the MGs. I’m still amazed that I’ve gotten to do this. It is still just sinking in, even though it has been two years, that, “Wow we really did that. ” I’ve got Booker on my speed-dial! (laughter) I promised not to call and bother him too often, but it’s just knowing that it is there. Those are the kind of bands that are able to skip around — they’re not locked into one genre. You may think of them first-off for the genre they’re famous for, but when you really look at their catalogues — Booker T and the MGs backed up Neil Young on one of his greatest tours. They were just as authentic doing that as they were doing “Green Onions” when Booker T was 17 years old.

So it is just an honor — you know, we are getting to do some cool stuff now and we’re all having fun doing it. We all get along well. No drama Obama, baby. When we all get together we’re glad to see each other. It is a special time. I hope we get to do this as long as I live.

That is a perfect segue into a discussion of the new album. How did The Big To-Do come about? Was there a particular approach or theme to the work? How do you guys work? How do you choose your songs? It seems like everybody is well-represented.
Ideally, we work best when it is completely about gut-feeling and preferably not a lot of talk about it. It happens naturally. We have very few rules that we follow, but one of them is, the song is king. These last couple of records we’ve gotten into a rhythm of doing it where we go in and start the day by figuring what song we’re going to work up. Even that is based on what mood we are all in so that we can naturally tackle the right song. Then we just spend whatever time it takes. Record it and move on. If it isn’t clicking immediately then come back to it or even drop it. But we don’t force it. If it is not happening, it is not going to get any better [by] forcing it. That is not to say that sometimes there isn’t work that needs to be done. Some songs are easy. I play it through. [Producer David] Barbe rolls tape. Okay, we’ve got that one. Move on. We work really fast. We recorded 33 songs last year.

And we never broke a sweat doing it.

That’s for this record? I mean, there are 13 songs on the new record, but you recorded 33?
We’ve got another record that is in the can. We’ve got a record that is 90 percent finished to follow this one up that is the polar opposite record of this. The hardest thing for us has always been the whittling down aspect of all that. We kind of decided what we wanted this record to sound and feel like, and there were still other songs that we ended up getting great performances of which didn’t [fit] that vision. [They became] a different record. Pretty early on, we found that dividing line between which songs were The Big To-Do and which songs were for Go-Go Boots, which is our title for the other record.

It was really easy once we kind of figured out we were making two records instead of one. That would have been the hard part — having a perfectly good song and maybe one of our best performances and we’re not putting it on the record? That is how we ended up with 18 or 19 songs on Brighter Than Creation’s Dark. We didn’t have the luxury of getting to make two records. It was the end of the record deal, and we knew that if it didn’t fit on that record there was a chance it might be lost forever. That is how that record got to be so long. We figured early on that we didn’t want another record like that now. I love that record. I’m really proud of it. But I didn’t want us to follow it up with another record like it. Figuring out we were working on two records, it all became really easy — we just let the songs decide.

We aren’t an ego-driven band. We didn’t say, “Oh no, we don’t have our quota of Cooley songs yet.” To be honest, nothing would make me happier than having twice as many Cooley songs no matter how many we have. I just love his songs. Some of my favorite moments of a show or a record is when I get to be just the guitar player on one of his songs. I’m kind of the reluctant front-guy.

What? (laughter)
I know, you wouldn’t know that, would you? (laughter) As much of a ham as I am, I love those parts of the show when I can just stand back and play. And now seeing Shonna grow into what she’s becoming as a writer and performer in her own right has just been one of the joys of my life. I’ve known Shonna a long time. I knew she wrote songs. I saw her play and heard her sing way before she played in our band. But when she joined the band it was to be the bass player, and she had no desire to do anything else. It took a lot of coaxing, initially — actually, [it took] a lot of unsuccessful coaxing. We’d hear her working on songs in the next room when we were making A Blessing and a Curse and we would ask her about it and she would change the subject and wouldn’t talk about it. So when she came in on Brighter Than Creation’s Dark she said, “I’ve got a couple songs I want you all to hear, and if you like them I’m willing to do something with them, and if you don’t it won’t hurt my feelings because it’s not that kind of thing.” It was “The Purgatory Line…”

Oh, heck yeah, that was the one. One of the best songs on that album.
…and “I’m Sorry Huston.” I was like “Goddamn Shonna, those are great! Let’s do them now!”

Well, I’ve got to tell you, “The Purgatory Line” is right up there in my pantheon of greatest Truckers’ songs. It just kills me every time I listen to it.
Damn right, it is just a gorgeous, gorgeous heartbreaking song. And this time she came in — I mean, good God almighty, those songs are so great. It was sure a wonderful moment in the recording of the record because it was magical in that room that night. We record live. Most of our records are basically live records. There have been probably six or seven songs that we made in a different way. But everything on the last album and the new one — it is all of us in a room playing live. The way I figure it, when a band can play as well together as this one can, put a microphone in front of it and leave it alone. But back to the original question, with all my rambling…

Ramble away my friend.
The song is king. Follow the song. Whatever the song calls for, that is the way you’ve got to do it. If the song calls for suspending Cooley by cables from the ceiling and having him play it upside down, then we’ll try to talk him into doing it. But generally, whatever the song calls for, we go for it. If Johnny [Neff] needs the pedal-steel or a sitar we go for it. And now, [having] Jay in the band has taken it to the whole next level. He comes in with such a wide palate of sounds. In addition to being this incredible singer with these great harmonies to play off of he’s also a great keyboard player, as well as a guitar and bass player. So we’ve got all these great things to choose from.

Well, of course, I had to take note of the fact that you referenced The Band earlier. As an obsessive fan of that group myself I was really struck by how distinctive Jay Gonzalez’s organ lines are on The Big To-Do. I was thinking Garth Hudson all the way! But it also made me wonder why the heck there hasn’t been an organ in the band from the beginning? (laughter)
I didn’t know an organ player — I didn’t have access to a keyboard player! It’s a funny thing because we’ve always been known as this guitar band. As one of the guitar players I’m flattered, but at the same time that’s always been sort of out of necessity because we didn’t have a keyboard player. We didn’t really know one. I’ve known Jay a long time but he’s always been busy doing other things. It never really dawned on me to incorporate him for a long time. And, of course, when we were doing Southern Rock Opera we added a guitar player because that’s what the songs called for.

We were making this record about this moment in time — post-Martin Luther King/arena rock era, and the rise and fall of southern rock and how that all figured into the political and cultural climate of the post-civil rights South. So the appropriate way to play those songs was with three guitars. We added the guitar player. Now we’ve got all these goddamn guitars, what do we do now? We were writing to accommodate all this. (laughter) It wasn’t hard when we did Decoration Day or Dirty South. We had those songs written. But after Dirty South we were like, “What the fuck are we going to do now?” We had these songs and stuff we wanted to try, but the band we had built — it wasn’t working anymore. And then Jason [Isbell] was wanting to go and do some different things. What do we do? There was about a year of panic where we didn’t know what we were going to do or if we were going to go forward.

Then the Bettye Lavette record happened — I was co-producing it — and I knew I had to bring in a keyboard player, and the one I knew best on earth was Spooner Oldham. He was the logical person to be the go-between between Bettye and the band to make it all gel. It didn’t really turn out that way, but that was the plan. Spooner was way more one of us. (laughter) And maybe then some! But we had so much fun collaborating with him on that — we were just like, man, would you like to make another record with us? He toured with us a lot when that record came out. But he didn’t need to tour with us full-time. I mean, he’s got his own life. He’s in his mid-60s and its not really healthy for him to be living on the road. It just wasn’t an option. Then we played with Booker, and we’d gone from having never played with a keyboard player to playing with these legends! What a charmed life. We knew we needed to try and move in that direction.

So they had this benefit here in Athens for this local charity, and I put together this band to play Springsteen’s Darkness on the Edge of Town in its entirety. I needed a keyboard player. I’ve known Jay a long time. He was in The Possibilities, one of my favorite bands in town…

Oh yeah, sure.
…and I knew he would be available to play that benefit. So I asked him and he came in so prepared for our first rehearsal. He came in and was like, “Do you want me to play Roy Bittan parts or Danny Federici parts?” I told him, why don’t you just play what you think are the most essential to the song, which is what he did. He knocked me out so much that first rehearsal that I knew that night he would be playing with us. The first chance we got to break him into the show we did. It has just been really great.

Well listen man, our time is almost up here. The new album is due out in March?
That is right. March 16th, I believe.

I’ve been listening to it for the past couple of weeks. It is yet another leap forward for the band. So congratulations. And then it is back on the road?
Wow, thanks a lot, I really appreciate that. I’m really excited for everyone to hear it.

Yeah, we’re hitting the road and we’ll be criss-crossing the country for five months. It’ll be a brutal stretch but I’m really excited.

Well the best of luck to you guys. Thank you very much for taking the time to talk to Verbicide.
Oh, no problem man, that was a lot of fun.

Mark Huddle teaches African American History and Popular Culture at Georgia College and State University. He writes from a bunker at an undisclosed location somewhere in central Georgia. He can be reached at

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