You'd never call Drive-By Truckers main man Patterson Hood a slacker, especially when it comes to writing. His band's 11th album will be out next month, on top of the solo album he released last year, and there's yet another Truckers album in the can.
So what does Hood choose as a New Year's resolution? To write something all 365 days of 2010. He even plans to give prose a try and write a novel, and has thought out the logistics of this.
"I've got two kids at home, and there are 11 of us on the bus," he says by phone from his home in Athens, Ga. "So it's extremely hard to get alone time to write. But I think I might have a better shot at doing other kinds of writing.
"There's always noise and music on the bus, which keeps me from writing new music. But nonmusic writing, I can sit in the back, get in the zone and do that."
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This productivity ethos applied to the imminent new Truckers album, "The Big To-Do," due out March 16 on ATO Records. The band wrote and recorded more than 30 songs, 13 of which made the cut (plus a bonus 14th song for the vinyl version). A big chunk of the rest will be on the follow-up.
"My dream has always been to work like Neil Young as far as starting to record with no regard for a specific project and amassing a stockpile of recordings to draw from," Hood says. "Then if you happen to write something that needs to be on there, fine."
By Truckers standards, "The Big To-Do" is unusually short - a half-dozen fewer tracks than its 2009 predecessor, "Brighter Than Creation's Dark."
It's also pretty rocked-up, starting with the stomp-along kickoff track "Daddy Learned to Fly," featuring the by-now-expected cast of blue-collar ne'er-do-wells struggling with everything from drinking binges to existential angst.
Past Truckers albums have sometimes felt like thematic period pieces, but "The Big To-Do" perfectly reflects the grim desperation afoot in these unemployed, under-insured times. Then again, the Truckers have always been all about harsh realities. So maybe it's more that the times finally caught up to them.
"I've always looked at our records like little movies, only without the movie part," Hood says. "There was an actual moment where I thought I'd try to set the songs more present-day to see what happened - as much control as I have, which isn't much. Songs happen the way they happen.
"But there's no need to do a song set in the Depression era because we're going through that now, whatever people want to call it. 'This [Expletive] Job' doesn't need to be set any other time than right now.
"It's very scary," he continues. "None of us are fortune tellers, but we could all see this coming. Anybody who spends much time on the road isn't surprised at what's happened. Wall Street and Washington..."
Hood has a personal interest in the state of the nation, especially health care.
Christmas Day saw the death of his friend Vic Chesnutt, an Athens singer/songwriter who committed suicide, in part because of ongoing health problems and crippling bills.
Hood is pitching in to help Chesnutt's widow, playing at benefit shows in Athens.
'This album roars'
Fortunately, the business of Hood's band is a lot less complicated than fixing the American health-care industry.
Even though "The Big To-Do" won't be out for a few weeks, it will be the focus of the Charlotte shows. Consider it a live preview.
"This one will work better live than the last couple albums have," Hood says. "As something to be played live in front of people, these songs kind of scream for that.
"I couldn't be prouder of 'Brighter Than Creation's Dark,' I'll go to my grave thinking it's one of my favorite things we've ever done. But it was very inward, us in a circle playing to each other.
"That made it hard to turn into a show, which is very outward and extroverted. But this album is extroverted, just roars out of the speakers."