by: Thomas D. Mooney
Adam Hood is a busy man–even by musician standards. Travelling here. Player there. Writing with him. Going to Nashville. Coming from Alabama. Touring Texas. All of the above.
When I spoke to Hood last week, he was travelling back down to Alabama from Tennessee, before heading west to play a string of dates including The Blue Light and Midland’s Crudefest.
Hood is quickly becoming not only one of music’s best singer-songwriter performers, but also just one of it’s best songwriters. Period. Though he’s been at it since around 2000, it’s not until recently the Alabama native has really made a major impact on the Americana-Country sound. Think about this, since 2008, he’s had 15 of his songs he’s written or co-wrote, make it on other people’s records (with another handful of songs coming out this year), released his latest full-length “The Shape of Things” as well as his self-titled EP, and played 200+ shows each year. Now, that can make anyone blush realizing they probably aren’t nearly as busy as they claim, myself included.
What makes Hood’s songs so accessible is accessibility. Like he says in our interview, he’s found how to write first-person without getting too personal, yet on the flip-side, he doesn’t sound distant, stale, or despondent. It’s something that I don’t think many people realize is a tough, fine line to walk, but one Hood is currently been able to.
New Slang: You’re originally from Alabama. How’d that environment affect your songwriting? And what’s been the reception here in Texas? As we both know, Texans can be pretty proud of Texas songwriting culture and country music in general.
Adam Hood: Yeah, I do know what you mean. The thing is, ironically enough, nobody has ever given me a problem. I try and not wear it around as a badge to be honest with you. It is what it is, but you know, I didn’t grow up in a musical family. No one in my family plays an instrument or can carry a tune or anything. You’d think that’d be a hindrance, but to me, it’s a good thing because I had all the resources in the world to figure it out myself. I decided for myself what I liked and what I didn’t like. I didn’t have a parent or sibling looking over me saying what I should be playing. And I agree, Texas has its own sense of pride. The state has pride because of the quality of music that is put out there. It’s flattering honestly, because I feel so welcomed by a group of people.
NS: This past year or two or so, it seems like you’ve been one of–I hate to use this word–one of the most buzzed about artist in the alternative country/Americana scene it seems.
AH: Wow. That’s real flattering. I really appreciate it.
NS: Really though, it feels like since your last album came out, there’s been a lot of talk about yourself as a musician and a songwriter. As a rising up and comer. How’s it been since the album came out?
AH: Oh, I’ve got no complaints. It’s one of those things where it’s all a process. It’s kind of been trial and error for me. You know, this is the fifth record that I’ve released. Did one in 2000. Like the two I did completely by myself. And then I did one in Los Angeles with Pete Anderson. And the last two I did in Nashville. And I’ve been coming to Texas since 2004. The best part and what I’m most proud of is the fact is I’ve been able to write for, with, and co-write with a bunch of different guys and a lot of songs I’ve participated in have come up on a lot of different people’s records. I want to pride myself as a performer, but I’m a writer at heart. I think that’s what I–it’s difficult–but it’s what comes easiest for me. That’s where I am right now, but it’s good to see the fruit of that labor.
NS: You brought up doing your first albums yourself. I was going to bring that up actually. What have you learned about making a record since then? I’m sure you’ve learned so much, but looking back on those, what do you think about them now?
AH: Well, I’ve learned that the studio is a completely different environment [laughs]. It’s way different from being live. You see a lot of bands who are incredible live performers, but they’ve spent more time live than in the studio and it’s one of those things where it takes just as much time separately to get what you’re wanting in the recording. It’s its own separate process. And I’ve learned to have a voice in the studio just as much as having a voice on stage. I’ve become a better player, songwriter. I think my stuff has become less personal. I mean, I always write from a personal perspective, but at the same time, it’s one thing to speak from the heart and another to air your dirty laundry [laughs]. I learned a lot of that the hard way. Just learning to make things better. I’m learning still all these important things. Everything on the production side of making a record. You know, picking songs and where they are in order on the album is just as important as mic placement on an amplifier.
NS: You also mentioned how songs of yours have ended up on other people’s albums. Really recently, one of your songs that you co-wrote with Brian Keane, “I’ll Sing About Mine, it ended up on Josh Abbott‘s latest record. How’d that go about?
AH: Well, I had written a song with Josh. We wrote “Hotty Toddy” together. We came in with that together and that’s when I sort of got to know Josh. He just called one day and said that he really liked that song. It was kind of in-between times. It was on Brian’s record. Brian took it to number 2. Then we put it on mine. I had no intentions on releasing it as a single since Brian did so well with it. And then Josh came and asked, I told it was cool with me if it was cool with Brian.
NS: How is that? You know–well, how old is the song? When did you guys write it?
AH: Oh gosh, it’s been about two years ago.
NS: OK. Well, what do you think about a song like that, being only a couple of years old and already being interpreted three times? Know what I mean? What do you think of the different versions and how all of you have personal interpretations of the same exact song?
AH: To tell you the truth, I’d feel weird if it wasn’t interpreted in three different ways. We’re all three different artists and our own person. I don’t believe in doing things verbatim when it comes to the creative process. There are songs that I cover in my shows from artists that I really appreciate and I can hear the songs in my head, but I never ever do them like I hear them in my head for the fact that I’m doing them myself. It’s a good thing where I can only do it my way. And Brian does it his way. Like I said, if they weren’t done differently–the feel of the three versions are completely different–it’s great.
NS: It feels like–well with you and Brian, since you both wrote it, I definitely feels this way–but with Josh, even though he’s covering it, he’s singing it like he wrote the words himself.
AH: Absolutely. I think there’s something to say about that. You can tell that Josh connected with that. He called me and said, “You know, there’s not 25,000 people in my hometown. My hometown is smaller than that. Can I change it?” And I said yeah. It goes to show you that the guy wants to put himself in the song. You should do that. It’s your responsibility to do that. You have to do it as an artist.
NS: Switching gears a little bit, you’re really one of the hardest touring artists out there playing a ton of shows yearly. With touring, how much of it is really a grind and how much of it is just fun and enjoyable?
AH: It’s about half and half. Traveling is tough. It’s tough for me because I’m a homebody. And it’s tough for me–not to say it’s any harder for me than anyone else–but from my perspective, the things that are hard about it are that I’ve got to work so far from home. Number two, it’s just having to be away from home. I’ve been doing this long enough, that I’m getting better at it. I’m getting better at communicating with my family back home. I make a point of calling home everyday and staying connected to the back-root and the well where I draw my water from. And try to keep my alcohol intake to as minimal as possible [laughs], but forgive myself for the days when I don’t do that.
NS: Going back, like we discussed earlier, you’ve really risen as a singer-songwriter these past two years. But, as we both know, it’s not like you’ve been doing this for two years. You’ve been doing this for a good chunk of time. But now, do you feel like you’re at a point where you can look back and exhale a little–not that you can actually even do that–but you know what I mean? Do you think you’re at a point where you can see how far you’ve come and see everything paying off?
AH: Yeah, I get what you mean. It’s hard to do because rocking back on your heels is what gets you knocked off your feet. At the same time though, it is nice. A lot of what’s making it easier is that I’m more accustomed to dealing with it. Another aspect is that the shows are getting better. More people know who we are. More people are curious to hear what I do and that’s the big thing. I tell you, I’m guilty of this just the same, but it is hard to get folks off the couch. It’s hard to get folks out of their house because they’re having to take a chance. I understand that. I want to hear music that moves me and if I’m not sure on something, I’ll sit at home and listen to my records. At the same time, it’s nice going out and hearing something new. It’s good to see people coming out. I’m also a realist with it. I know what my role is. I take it in stride and be as responsible with it as I can. I’m glad to see things are happening with it.
NS: You say that you really take pride in being a songwriter first and foremost. For you, how do songs come to you? Do you try and write a little everyday?
AH: I try and write everyday. I’m getting better at it. It’s something where I’ve got to discipline myself to sit down and do it. There are other days where I’ve just got other things I’ve got to do. It’s hard to say that, but it’s true. What I try and do is, if ideas come to me, I try and keep pen and paper available or throw it on the memo pad in my phone or something. I absorb ideas. I write them down. I try and keep them in the front of my head and when it’s time, try and turn it into something.