Patterson Hood is feeling his age. The singer-songwriter, best known as the founder and frontman of alt-country band Drive-By Truckers, just turned 50 years old, and, as he puts it, "I never thought I'd see that."
Born in Muscle Shoals, Ala., a town known for its landmark recording studios and influential musical history, Hood took to writing songs and starting rock bands at age 14. Forming Drive-By Truckers in 1996, Hood and company kept up a breakneck pace of recording and performing for more than 10 years, but recently took a three-year hiatus to recharge.
"We kind of hit the wall there after the last go-round. We'd been on the road too long," says Hood. "Taking a break, slowing down—we didn't have a choice. It was like, 'If we are going to continue, we've got to address this, otherwise it's just not going to work anymore, and then what am I going to do?' So we took some time. It saved our band."
Returning to the studio last year newly invigorated, Drive-By Truckers recently released their first album in four years, English Oceans, which peaked at 16 on the Billboard Top 200 last month. The record marks the first time that fellow guitarist Mike Cooley split song-writing duties equally with Hood, who previously dominated the band's songwriting.
"Cooley called me—he called everybody—and made this record happen," remarks Hood. "That was great for the band, for the record and for our dynamic."
This month, Drive-By Truckers embark on a national and European tour. Leading up to the band's kick-off show at the Greek Theatre in Berkeley on April 12, Hood is making a few special solo appearances in the North Bay this week, playing at Sweetwater Music Hall on April 10 and the Napa Valley Opera House on April 11.
Contrasting with the Drive-By Truckers rowdy alternative country vibe Hood's solo material consists of quieter, introspective stories of love and loss. He especially looks forward to revisiting material from his last solo release, 2012's Heat Lightning Rumbles in the Distance, an album that began life as a semi-autobiographical novel about a chaotic time in Hood's life before shifting into a collection of songs.
"The timing worked out, and it's fun to mix it up, get into the storytelling aspect more," says Hood. Then, with a laugh, he notes, "It's also fun to sometimes play a show that, when it's over, my ears don't take all day to quit ringing."
Patterson Hood performs April 10 at the Sweetwater Music Hall (8pm; $27–$32; 19 Corte Madera Ave., Mill Valley; 415.388.3850) and April 11 at the Napa Valley Opera House (8pm; $15–$25; 1030 Main St., Napa; 707.226.7372).