Thirty Tigers Drive-By Truckers leader Patterson Hood was planning to write a…
- Posted on Feb 15th 2011 4:00PM by Kenneth Partridge
When you realized you had enough new songs for two albums, why did you split up the rockers and the weirder songs instead of making two balanced albums?
I don't know. That's just what felt right. The last time we had an overabundance of songs, we ended up putting them all on a record, and that was [2008's] 'Brighter Than Creation's Dark.' It was sprawling. It kind of went all over the place, and I personally have a little extra special place for that record, but I didn't really want to do another one. It just seemed like the way to me. They just felt like two distinctly different records. Even before we started recording, I thought of the songs that way.
We knew we wanted to put 'Big To-Do' out first and wanted to come out of the gate with a straightforward, rocking record after 'Brighter Than Creation's Dark' being all over the place, and [2006's] 'A Blessing and a Curse' being viewed as a little bit of a some-people-like-it, some-people-don't-like-it kind of record. We wanted a pretty wham-bam record to come out with, and also I figured by doing that we would pave the way for this weirder, kind of more R&B and country-based, country-soul record we were working on.
It's funny -- as it turns out, there's been more excitement about this record than maybe anything we've done since [2004's] 'The Dirty South' and 'Declaration Day.' When we were in the studio we kind of viewed this as the one that's going to be the tough sell. We were hoping to have enough momentum to get this one going OK. We've probably gotten more radio support already for a seven-and-a-half minute-minute song about a cop stalking his ex-wife than we've had for any song in our history. That's what I get for planning ahead. Not that I'm complaining -- I'm excited it turned out this way. I'm always rooting for the left-of-center record.
You've got two songs on 'Go-Go Boots' about the real-life case of a preacher paying to have his wife killed. What attracted you to that story?
I can't tell you what it was that intrigued me about that story, other than I guess that's just the way I am. I like noir movies and noir songs, and I actually before writing a song about it even worked on a first draft of a screenplay based on that story called 'The Fireplace Poker' and never got it like I liked it enough to pursue it to the next step.
At one point, we discussed doing that song for 'Declaration Day' and there's already too much stuff happening on that record, and there hasn't been another record since then it would have fit on. Over the course of the years I talked myself out of it -- "this song's too long; "I don't want to do an eight-and-a-half-minute song; it's too much information for a song" -- and second-guessing myself out of it. But I was still drawn to that story, and I wrote 'Go-Go Boots' as another attempt at writing another song about that. We knew early on it was going to be the title cut for the second album, and just as we were about to finish 'Go-Go Boots' this past summer, in August, we were going to do a few last days of recording and finish up some loose ends, 'Fireplace Poker' re-reared its head to me. If I'm ever going to do anything with the song, this is the record to do it on, and it can go with the companion piece.
On 'The Big To-Do,' the song 'The Wig He Made Her Wear' also deals with a less-than-pious preacher. Are you suspicious of clergymen?
Organized religion works for some people, and some people find what they're looking for there, and that's great, as long as they're not trying to tell me how to live. I'm totally all right with that. Whatever finds you peace and happiness in this world, if it's not hurting someone else, that's great. But it's not really my thing. I grew up in a town that was pretty much controlled by church, a very conservative church that no one in my family was a member of. Both of those murders happened within that church. There were different churches, but they were both Church of Christ preachers, and they both were not living the way their congregation would probably have wanted them to. And with both came to tragic ends, although from there it kind of veers off into the two different extremes of it. It's just there seems o be a lot of authority figures really f---ing up on this record, more than usual, even for one of our records.
On a somewhat lighter note, 'The Thanksgiving Filter' is about family squabbles around the holidays. Did you base it on your own family?
It's definitely a representation of gatherings in my family, for sure. I wrote it the night I came back into town after going and celebrating Thanksgiving with my family. It was a particularly harrowing holiday, particularly the aspect about seeing people you love as they get older and aren't doing so well. It's like that favorite aunt you haven't seen in a long time, and when you see her, she doesn't remember who you are, and dealing with that. You almost have to toughen yourself up to not be emotionally drained by that, but at the same time, you don't want to toughen yourself up too much with your family to the point of not feeling anything. Where do you set your Thanksgiving filter? Do you set it on five or ten? Or what is the something that gives you that release? With me, a lot of times it's been writing about it. Writing songs is cathartic to me.
I read a thing today where someone was talking about that song like it was this novelty song, and I was thinking on some level I'm glad they saw humor in it. I've actually kind of relieved the humor was seen as humor. But it's almost like graveyard humor -- that thing at the funeral that makes everybody laugh, because that's the release.
Have you started writing the next record?
This is the first time in the history of this band we've put out a record that I haven't been at least well into writing the next record. A lot of times, I'll write the last song or two on the album at the very last minute, as I'm finishing it, but we generally go into the recording with way more songs than we probably need, even to start with. At this point, I've got exactly one song for the next album earmarked, and it's a good one. It's one I think it's one of the better things I've ever written, but beyond that, I've got a clean slate ahead of me. I'm finding it almost comforting in a way. We've been running so hard for so long I'm kind of excited there's not another record waiting in the wings. We're going to go out and tour the hell out of this one and then maybe have a little bit of time off.
Can you say what this one new song is about?
I'm not going to jinx it. Out of superstition, I'm going to keep that a secret a little longer.