You can call Adam Hood a singer, a guitar player, a father, a husband, or simply an artist… And you’d be right every time. But call him a songwriter? Well, you’ve rung the bell. His story reads like fiction or the kind of anthemic Southern Rock ballad that couldn’t possibly survive past mythology. Of course, it’s all true. The native of Opelika, AL began performing in his teens and would continue to pursue music while working as a land surveyor before leaping into the role of the full-time musician during the early 2000s. While sharing a gig with New Jersey twanger Moot Davis, Hood would impress Davis’s guitar player, none other than the legendary Pete Anderson (Jim Lauderdale, Dwight Yoakam, The Mavericks). The encounter led to the release of Different Groove for Anderson’s Little Dog Records in 2007– the same year that Miranda Lambert would just happen to break down in New Braunfels, TX while Hood was opening for Ray Wylie Hubbard. As fate would have it, Lambert and her mother caught his set and were impressed enough to offer Adam a spot on tour– an act that eventually opened the door to a publishing contract with Frank Liddell’s Carnival Music. Since then, Hood has recorded four more albums of his own while becoming one of Nashville’s songwriting elite, penning with and for artists like Lambert, Anderson East, Whiskey Myers, Little Big Town, Will Hoge, Jason Eady, and Brent Cobb. In 2016, Hood signed with Low Country Sound and in 2018, he released Somewhere In Between, a culmination of chimerical style and ability. Adam Hood rolled into Macon this week with a fist full of songs and accompanied by his friend Cobb, who plans to step into Capricorn’s Studio A as the project’s producer. Adam is scheduled to finish the week with an intimate, socially distanced performance at the legendary studio.
AI- I’m not sure when this trend began, but it seems like a lot of artists over the last decade or so have been late bloomers when it came to performing and writin’. You were the complete opposite. You were doing the full-time musician thing when you were just a teenager. And you knew then? There was no lookin’ back, “I’m gonna go play music for a living!”
AH- Yeah, I did. And what I knew then, it’s not right or wrong. It’s just I chose a little bit of a different path when I was 16. My parents bought me a guitar when I was really young. I never really got into it, but I hit my teenage years about the time Gath Brooks came around. That was a really good time to like country music and have an acoustic guitar. I really got into that kind of stuff and that was stuff I could play. So I started taking lessons and when I turned 16, my mom brought home a cassette tape of John Hiatt’s Bring the Family… And I knew exactly what I wanted to do then.
Hiatt is one of those guys that made albums that people chose songs to record off of those albums– not typically, but he was the guy behind the songs. And that’s a hard sell. I also realized that especially in Nashville– and Nashville is just one city, but nonetheless a hub– they either want you to be a writer or they want you to be an artist. And so the singer-songwriter is the same thing. It’s a hard sell. It’s what I’ve always wanted to do and I’ve stayed my course, but it’s kind of the road less traveled really.
So early, you knew that you wanted to be on the writing end of it as opposed to the performing? Something that you mentioned that I had never really considered before– and I’ve spoken to your pal, Brent Cobb, about this– was that when he got to Nashville, he didn’t realize that it was that way. That they wanted either/or not both. Did that tarnish it for you at all? Or did you just say, “Nope, I’m good. I’m going to become the writer.”
No, it didn’t tarnish it. It’s a method and I get it. I totally understand. What they want to do is work you up to where you move to town, you get in some rooms with some writers, you learn how to write a hit, you have a hit, and that hit becomes the concrete that they can start framin’ the house with. I get it, you know what I mean? It’s a method that– you can choose to like a song or not– but it works. I think by the time I really got to that method, I’d sort of set my pace. Granted, I’ve got three kids and I’m a homebody, and so just bein’ at the helm of the way touring is these days, it’s a little over my head. But I still love to perform. It’s the same gift that God’s given me that writing is. I feel like I have a responsibility to it. However, the creative process is really what I’ve always worked the most on.
You have raised a family being a songwriter– which is not something a lot of people can take credit for doing because it’s often a very hardscrabble, claw-your-way-through-it ordeal. Have you always been at home and makin’ this work? Or did you [have a residence] in Nashville at the heart of it all?
No, I never have. I’ve never lived there. I have an apartment there. Speakin’ of Brent, we both rent a one-bedroom apartment from Randy Rogers. So there’s three guys in a one-bedroom apartment! Thankfully, we don’t have to be there at the same time, but nonetheless, I do actually have an address there. But no, I’ve never lived there. My wife and I, we’ve said we were gonna move… We play in Texas a lot and we said, “We’re gonna move to Texas!” And every time we decide to move, we have a baby (laughs)! God’s little blessings, you know? (Laughs) That’s sort of tellin’ us to stay put! We live in Alabama and that’s where my family is and her family is, and it’s easier to raise kids when you have more than just the two of us around to love and take care of ’em.
You’ve had an opportunity to get back out and do some socially distanced shows, smaller affairs. I watched your video from the Mucky Duck– I think that was in June? And it seemed like that was a very well put together event. Of course, for the show at Capricorn that you’ll be doin’, I’ve spoken to Hubble Beasley, the manager of that show, and he’s taken every precaution to make sure everything is set up the way that it needs to be. What is the general feeling from your realm of performers and getting back out and doing it?
It’s shaky ground. I mean, it’s good. And the thing is just like everything that you’ve been sayin’, the places that I’ve played, everyone has taken pretty great measures to make sure that the rooms are socially distanced, the staff has masks, that the crowds are small. So it’s good. It’s good to walk into those places and go, “Okay, I can relax.” There’s a few setbacks, just the nerves. The phrase “uncertain times” is the status quo. It’s also a little tough to not be able to [meet peope], and then not sell merch and stuff like that. But I try to be as much of a people person as I can be.
Currently, you’re with Low Country Sound, Dave Cobb, writing for that organization. A lot of times now, when you’re writing a song, it’s not just a general, “this song has the potential to fit all.” They’re coming to you and you’re writing for “this person” individually. What is your process when you have to go into writing for someone specifically? Do you take into account past work? Does it help when it’s someone you’re actually familiar with on a personal level? What is the difference between writing an Adam Hood song versus writing a song potentially for…
I think it’s all style, really. When it comes to Dave or somebody like that saying, “Hey, I’m going to make a record with so and so,” it’s probably smart to go back, if they’ve got a catalog, and listen to some of it. Even if stylistically, they’re trying to do something completely different, there’s certain keys that people sing in, certain tempos that people like. There’s stuff that makes people comfortable in their setting. I try to look for things like that, that way, the more focused I can get, the better we’re gonna be and the more successful we’re gonna be.
Sure, I like to go into things with a clean slate too. It’s nice to just start from scratch, but like you said, if you’ve got an idea, if you, in any way, shape or form know the artist, it’s just always been a little bit easier for me. As far as the difference between their stuff and my stuff, my motto has always been, if I write a song and nobody else is gonna record it, I will! That’s always been my thing. But I think I have a little easier feel. There’s stuff that I do that’s a little bit more throwback, you know? I’m a little honkey tonkier, I guess, for lack of a better word. There’s just those little things. Keys are important for me, and tempos are important for me the same way they are for other artists too.
I know people ask you all the time about working with Pete Anderson and something that strikes me about that relationship and that music, Pete is somebody who I would say very, nearly defined the sound of country and roots music in the 1990s and in the first part of the 21st Century. You’re workin’ with Dave Cobb now, and he’s very nearly defining the sound of country and roots music in this era. You’ve been in on Low Country from the beginning if I’m not mistaken. How do you feel about contributing to that overall sound?
It sounds really cool, doesn’t it? (Laughs) It really is pretty nice, to be honest with you. And it’s an honor to be able to write and perform with guys that are like that. It’s those kinds of things that help me feel like I’m doing something right. But at the same time… Well, no, there’s no but! It’s pretty great. (Laughs) I can’t even make anything up that’s negative to it! It’s kinda nice!
With your last record [Somewhere In Between], there was a concentrated effort to make everything as natural and as organic and rooted in reality as possible. You’re about to come into Capricorn records with your friend Brent Cobb. Will you be coming at this new project the same way? Trying to keep everything human?
I think it’s best for me. I feel like that suits me a lot better. The intention with Somewhere In Between was the fact that the last couple albums I’d made were full production, five, six-piece band, big records. We play live [with a] max four-piece. Usually, we’re a three-piece. It’s me handling all the guitar work, bass, drums, sometimes harmonies. It’s a lot to cover and I got sick and tired of just never being able to reproduce [that sound]. When we decided to do Somewhere In Between, I said, “Look, let’s scale this back so that we can make a record that we can go play live– and when you see us play, it sounds like the record! ‘Cause that’s kind of important.
Isbell’s a great example. Man, when you go see Jason play, it sounds like the record. He’s great at it, and I admire that. The only way to do that is to play it on the record. That’s the best way to be able to sound like the record is to play the record. I think that’s the intention and I think it just makes things a lot easier. It’s more organic. It’s how Brent’s makin’ records and so yeah, that’s, I think that’s the intention.
Are you bringin’ songs with you [to Capricorn] or do you intend to craft things while you are recording?
We’re gonna do both. It’s always smart to have songs and the good news is that’s the best thing. I’ve had a publishing deal for almost 12 years. Low Country’s my second company, but I’ve had a publishing deal for that long. So I’ve got songs and that’s a good feeling when it’s time to record. But also, Brent and I had been talkin’ about it and the reason why I got him involved was because I think Brent’s got a really cool opinion on what I sound like. It’s hard to really develop your sound when you’re inside it, you know? And so he and I, through all the conversations we’ve had, he has helped me figure out what I sound like. I know that sounds silly, but it’s a really difficult thing sometimes, especially for somebody like me that started out tryin’ to write everything for everybody. It’s difficult to hone it down and go, “Okay, you’ve been writin’ everything for everybody for so long. What do you sound like?” I needed the help on this album and that’s what we’ve been talkin’ about. We’ve got about a half a dozen that we want to record and we’re gonna give it a shot and try to get there about three hours early, write something then record it. And if it don’t work, the good news is we got songs!
Of those half dozen that you’re bringin’, can you share who you’ve been writin’ with?
I’ve got one that I wrote with my buddy, Dave Kennedy, who was on [Real Country], good friend of mine. Brent and I have two. I’ve got a friend named Davis Nix that lives down here on the Gulf Coast. He and I wrote a song. And then I got a song I wrote with Warren Haynes! Which is really awesome! We’re workin’ to make sure we get that one on the record.
And did I hear that Charlie Starr’s gonna be down there with you too? That some of the guys from Blackberry Smoke are gonna be playin’ on the record?
Yes, that’s correct. That’s actually what’s going to happen. Charlie and Richard [Turner], and I think a few more guys are gonna come down and play. We got a great band. I’ve done a couple of shows with Blackberry Smoke before, and Charlie’s from around Lynette [AL], so he grew up about 20 minutes from where I grew up. We got a lot in common and I’m really looking forward to that. This will be the first time we’ve ever gotten in the studio together.
I know you’re friends with Josh Abbott, and it makes me consider The Panhandlers project that he did with [John] Bauman and all of those guys. When I heard that you and Brent and then Charlie were gonna be involved, I got to thinkin’, “Man, what would that kind of supergroup be like?” Is that something you’ve ever considered doin’?
(Laughs) Oh, sure! Jason Eady and I were talking about it last week– just gettin’ in the studio and recordin’ some songs. We do it all the time, talk about it all the time. It’s just timing’s been a really big deal. Brent and I have talked about it a bunch. There’s times when I really would rather do that. When it’s just your name, just your stamp on a record, it puts a lot of responsibility on you. I’d like to pass that burden to someone else every once in a while (laughs)!
You and Jason Eady, who I love, have been involved with the Sequestered Songwriters series that’s been goin’ on during the pandemic. That thing is massive with everybody that’s involved. You’ve gotten an opportunity to dig into a lot of different artists when you guys do all the tributes. I saw one video, the Tom Waits night, and you got to talkin’ about your phases– goin’ through your Steve Earle phase, havin’ your Tom Waits phase. Obviously you’ve had your John Hiatt phase. Is it safe to say that you are finally in your Adam Hood phase?
I think so. It’s by necessity. It’s always smart to be diggin’ and it’s always smart to be listenin’ to good music. There’s always something to learn. There’s always somebody better. There’s always somebody doin’ it different. It’s great to have your ear to the ground on stuff like that, but like I said, I don’t mean to be a broken record, but I feel like God’s given me some pretty unique gifts and I have to have a sense of stewardship about it and own what I’ve got and be myself. That’s the thing. In this line of work, if you’re not yourself, people kinda smell it on you. Authenticity is really what people would rather see. I got a lot of folks that are very encouraging and supportive and they’d love it if I made a record of Reba McEntire songs! But they would rather hear me dig into who I am and the things that I love and the things that are important to me– and own it! Yeah, I think it’s time to be in my Adam Hood phase.