"THE HOUSE WE GOT has chickens," Patterson Hood says, and of course it does. You don't up and move to Portland for six weeks and not get a house with chickens in a walk-able neighborhood. "It'll be a little weird for me," he adds, "having grown up in the South and away from any kind of mass transit, to not have a car. There's the Zipcar thing." There is, and that puts him just one bike commute short of citizenship. He laughs. "It would do me some good to get on a bike, probably."
Hood's best known as one of the Drive-By Truckers, makers of thunderous rock songs with a Southern lean. Hood's also put out a couple of solo records, including 2012's excellent Heat Lightning Rumbles in the Distance. He's from Alabama. He lives in Georgia. He doesn't fit the profile of the musician who usually sets up shop around here. But he's been touring through Portland for more than a decade, and he and his wife turned Peter Buck's wedding here last year into a mini-vacation, and had a blast. "My wife would probably pack up and move tomorrow," he says.
Instead, they kicked around the idea of an extended vacation around Christmas and New Year's, some family time during a rare lull in Hood's schedule. He'll play a few shows this month, including three consecutive Wednesdays at the Doug Fir, and they'll relax before the Truckers release their 12th album, English Oceans, in March, and Hood hits the road hard.
English Oceans features an even split of songwriting duties between Hood and Mike Cooley, and a last-minute addition inspired by Portland writer/musician Willy Vlautin's upcoming novel The Free. Hood says he and Vlautin became pen pals after Hood became obsessed with Vlautin's last book, Lean on Pete. "I'm a huge, huge fan of his," Hood says, and even if he never puts his feet on pedals while he's here, that alone should qualify him as a local.
After reading The Free, Hood immediately wrote "Pauline Hawkins" from the point of view of a nurse in the book, a woman who maintains a quiet, determined grace in the face of the kind of day-to-day grind that could break a lot of people. The Truckers recorded and mixed the song in one day. Hood sent it to Vlautin, who says he's still awed by the song's existence.
Vlautin will open Hood's first show (January 8) at the Doug Fir. "That'll be a good way to kick off the residency, and then I'll have to figure out how to follow," Hood says.
Fernando Viciconte joins Hood for the January 15 show, and Sera Cahoone on January 22. With a dozen Truckers records and three solo albums, Hood figures it shouldn't be too difficult to make each show different. He says he'll figure it out as he goes along—no use over-thinking his vacation, which, he says, is also a sort of test run. Perhaps for a more permanent relocation?
"It could happen at some point," Hood says. "I would love for it to at least be the start of doing this more. We did kind of intentionally do it during the rainy, crappy season just to see how it feels. Because we know how awesome it is in June."