062817_Truckers

Athens band The Drive by Truckers will headline the 2017 Southern Grown Festival, put on by Sea Island.

Provided photo

Patterson Hood has always had a way with words — and he’s never been afraid to use it.

The singer-songwriter and founding member of the Southern sensation, the Drive By Truckers, began penning his thoughts when he was a child, growing up in the late 1960s and 70s in Muscle Shoals, Ala.

It was a different era then, full of division — the rise of the Civil Rights movement and the strife spilling over from the Vietnam War. But Hood always seemed to know exactly how he felt about a particular situation, often leaning toward the more liberal end of the spectrum. That often clashed with some of the region’s traditional beliefs but that has never silenced him.

“I have always written about what I care about ... what I’m thinking about or what I’m concerned about. I tend to write about things that are making me mad or sad or upset or disturbed. That’s the tendency. That’s my way ... it’s how I became a writer,” Hood said.

“It was a way of processing things that I couldn’t understand or accept.”

As he grew up, Hood gravitated toward expressing these thoughts through music. His father, David Hood, was a bass player with the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section and played with a number of big-timers, including the queen of soul herself, Aretha Franklin.

The younger Hood also found music to be inspiring and cathartic. By setting down his thoughts in music, he was able to wrap his mind around complex issues. That did not change over the years as he began to play in bands and share lyrics with audiences.

While he freely voiced opinions on politics and policies, Hood also became adept at storytelling, developing complex characters in his songs.

Eventually, Hood and friend, Mike Cooley, moved to Athens and formed the Truckers. And the rest, as they say, is history. The band arrived on the scene with its first album “Gangstabilly” in 1998. From there, they developed a devout following throughout the South, which eventually stretched well beyond those borders — across the country and even around the world.

Since the early days, the band has seen a varying line-up, which includes former member Jason Isbell. The group has produced 11 studio albums and a handful of live records.

But through it all, Hood has stayed true to his core — writing lyrics that reflect his views, regardless stereotypes about what a Southerner should be or believe.

“It has always been a natural extension. I stay pretty up on current events and there are all these things going on ... I think one of the things that (the South) has always done right is our music and our literature. Our art is great and hopefully we are adding our slant on that,” he said.

“My writing has always been pretty political. The band has always focused on politics.”

The Trucker’s most recent album, “American Band” which was released in 2016, is no exception. One of the tracks, “What It Means,” examines the racial tensions that have arisen from police shootings, as well as the killing of Florida teenager, Trayvon Martin.

“I don’t think that this record was any more political than any of our others. This one may have gotten more attention because of the album cover and maybe some things I have said in interviews,” he said. “But when I wrote ‘What it Means’ people were marching in the streets in Ferguson.”

Hood’s lyrics in the song support the stance that the killings were racially based, a perspective he maintains. It is just one example of how the Truckers have continually bucked the preconceived ideas of what a Southern band should be and the views they should express.

And Hood is just fine with that.

“There is this stereotype of the ‘Southern man.’ And there are still a lot of people who are like that ... I think we elect a lot of racists ... none of the people I hang out with would vote for people like that,” he said. “So I think it is important to be a voice of another view.”

They have been doing just that — both through their albums and their extensive touring schedules. Recently, the group has travelled throughout the country and in Europe.

“We’ve been touring since July of last year. We have really worked hard and now it’s starting to slow down a little this summer but we’re going to get busy again in mid-October,” Hood said.

But in-between, he and the rest of the Truckers are going to be making a trip to the Golden Isles. The group is headlining the Southern Grown Festival, performing at the primary concert Sept. 1 on Rainbow Island, Sea Island.

And he is excited to play for a venue that offers a more intimate connection to the band’s audience.

“It is fun to play in New York or Seattle but I come from a small place that didn’t get the ‘cool’ concerts very often. So I am always conscious of that and we to play the places that are smaller or that might be a little more rural,” he said.

Of course, for Hood, it will be a return to a place he has visited before, albeit a few years back.

“I believe I went to St. Simons on a church retreat when I was a kid. I feel like I played solo down there one time or two but it has definitely been a while. I’m overdue,” he said.