Drive-By Truckers' Mike Cooley on Defeating Writer's Block

The road hasn't necessarily been the smoothest for the alt-country/Southern rock group Drive-By Truckers. From multiple lineup changes since their inception 18 years ago to dealing with writer's block and long, tiring days and nights on the road, this Southern band continues to move forward, recently releasing its10th studio album, English Oceans, which hit No. 16 on Billboard's Top Current Albums charts.

Usually releasing albums every other year, it took the band three years to release this one, to allow the group time to take a break and recoup from the long years of writing music and touring.

Upon returning to the studio, Truckers executed a bit of a change-up with their latest project, which features songs written by both founding members, Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley.

Alternative country has typically been a defining sound in their music, but the Truckers have moderately moved away from that for their latest album. However, moving toward more of a straight rock sound wasn't exactly intentional. As Cooley describes the writing process, that's just how things ended up this time around.

"I'm just trying to finish the song," said vocalist and guitarist Cooley. "If I'm able to finish it, it's whatever it is and that's what we'll record. I don't really plan on how it's going to come out or what it's going to be."

Finding inspiration for their songs isn't an issue, even after nearly two decades in the business. Cooley explains they just continue to draw from what they live through everyday because "you don't stop finding things to write about until you're dead."

Having recently gone through a writing slump, though, Cooley said he had to become his own boss to get himself back into the flow of writing.

"[I had to] twist my own arm," said the Alabama native. "I just didn't want it to be over yet, so I had to find a way to make it happen."

Twisting his own arm paid off because the opening track -- as well as five other songs penned by him -- of Oceans is his own "Shit Shots Count," which keeps to the band's ability to be in your face and brutally honest with their lyrics -- a trait that has stayed with them even throughout their many line-up changes.

Regardless of the departure of many of their members, Drive-By Truckers have never faltered in their sound, which Cooley attributes to them always managing to find people who see things the same way as them and who think the same as they do. He says it's a very natural process for them, asking people they already know to join the group.

Drive-By Truckers will perform at Crescent Ballroom on April 27.

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Chelsea Hough
Contact: Chelsea Hough