BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — Friday night would have marked the return of acclaimed, Southern rock band Drive-By Truckers to Birmingham. But the coronavirus had other plans.
The Truckers were set to play at Iron City and lead singer Patterson Hood had intended to see family during his time back in his home state.
“I was looking forward to it,” Hood said from his home in Portland, Oregon. “My sister lives in Birmingham, so we were going to spend the weekend together.”
Unfortunately, the coronavirus outbreak brought business-as-usual to a screeching halt for touring musicians like the Truckers. The Alabama band’s Iron City gig was rescheduled to September and their March and April tour dates to support their latest album, “The Unraveling,” were pushed back.
“Everything unraveled,” joked Hood, the Muscle Shoals native who has been the dominant force in the band–along with guitarist and co-writer Mike Cooley– since 1996.
Most of the band is now scattered across the country, quarantined with their families. They may no longer be on the road together, but writing and recording hasn’t taken a back seat to the coronavirus.
“That first week in quarantine, I was really productive in writing,” Hood said.
Hood decided to write a song fit for the current times, a common theme in most of the Truckers’ songs. This time was different.
The end result was “Quarantine Together,” an isolation-inspired love song about dating during stay-at-home orders. The single was released Friday and is available for download on Bandcamp.
“It captures the more joyful side of all this,” Hood said. “We have been lucky to spend time with our families a lot.”
Putting the song together remotely was somewhat of a challenge, but the members eventually–albeit virtually–added their parts to Hood’s song.
“Our drummer (Brad ‘EZB’ Morgan) basically recorded his part on the ‘Voice Memos’ app on the phone in his pocket,” Hood said. “It sounded really cool.”
Although “Quarantine Together” has a message of hope, the coronavirus pandemic has been a source of frustration for Hood. More than anything, it took away the road–where the tour-heavy band first gained attention–and their main source of income.
The Truckers are currently scheduled to tour Europe in June and the U.S. Midwest in the summer. But as far as Hood can see, the likelihood of those shows happening will depend on whether virus cases continue to rise around the world. And when concert halls and performance venues will open again is anyone’s guess.
“I love spending the time with my family, but I need to be out there to be working,” he said. “Everything I have is tied in with the livelihood of our band. Everyone has their mortgages.”
What’s clear to Hood is that having the band take time off is not an option. Even the idea of taking a year off from touring terrifies him.
“While the band, to me, is wildly successful–because it’s what I always dreamed of doing–we never hit the point where we weren’t a working-class band,” Hood said. “We’ve never been able to take a whole year off. We were very much on a month-to-month basis.”
Hood has been rethinking how he can continue to support his family. Lately, he’s been preparing to stream solo shows from his attic, where fans can watch for the price of a normal Truckers ticket.
He’s calling it the “Heathen Attic,” a reference to the song “Heathens” off their 2003 album “Decoration Day,” and the nickname for Truckers fans.
“I’ve spent the last few weeks in tech hell,” he laughed. “It’s all been frustrating and keeping me busy.”
The toll of the pandemic on Americans and the usual way of life has weighed heavily on Hood. When he sees protesters on TV demanding that politicians open up their states again and get people back to work, he can see where they are coming from, he says. However, that doesn’t mean he agrees with them.
“These yahoos that are storming the capitol buildings, they are not helping anything,” he said. “I’m not saying that from a place of privilege; I’m saying that as someone who will probably be out of work longer than they all will.”
If anything, Hood said he hopes people can emerge from the crisis with a new perspective on systemic issues in America.
“This has really exposed the flaws in our health care system and the dark side of how much we’ve let manufacturing become something that is done in other places,” he said. “Hopefully, it will be a wake-up call for finding other ways to do things.”
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