For anyone living in Muscle Shoals, David Hood needs no introduction. In short, David Hood is the embodiment of the Shoals Sound — the swampy, soulful music that seems to flow out of the area as easily as the Tennessee River itself. A bassist and producer, Hood has contributed to records by artists as varied as Willie Nelson and Frank Black, Odetta and Paul Simon, Aretha Franklin and Shelby Lynne, Bob Dylan and The Staple Singers, William Tell and the Waterboys — many times in his role as the backbone of the iconic session band, The Swampers. He founded the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio and is in the Alabama Hall of Fame. Oh, and not to be overlooked, his son Patterson is a co-founder of the Drive-By Truckers.
Hood turned 78 this September, and is still going strong. We caught up with him to learn what he’s been up to, and what keeps him going. (Hint: Like Guy Clark, he has a fondness for home grown tomatoes.)
Despite all the success he’s had, he’s not looking to repeat the past. “Variety sustains me and keeps me interested and engaged,” he says. “It would be boring if I played the same stuff all the time.” He’s recovering from shoulder replacement surgery right now, but hopes to be playing bass soon. Until then, he is cultivating his own garden — literally. “I planted tomatoes back in the spring and have had a banner year with them. Sounds crazy, but that makes me very happy and proud. I love sharing them with people.”
He is also closely involved with preserving the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio. (Billy is also on the board, along with the likes of Grammy-nominated producer Dave Cobb.) It’s a project dear to his heart. “My partners and I were influenced by Sam Phillips, Rick Hall and others to have a studio where great music was created and other musicians were inspired to greater heights,” he told us. “I am so thankful that the studio has been restored and will be viable for the next generation.”
Naturally, we wondered what the South means to him — after all, the Swampers are name-checked in Lynyrd Skynyrd's “Sweet Home Alabama” — and what it means to be a Southern musician. “It’s the tradition that I enjoy being part of,” he says. “To stay within that tradition, and still keep it fresh is a great challenge to me and a lot of other Southern musicians.”
And while it’s a question often asked in these parts, we couldn’t help but wonder what Hood thinks makes the Shoals so special, and why so much great music has been written and recorded here: “As long as I can remember there have been many talented players, writers and other members of the Shoals music community who continue to stand out apart from the rest of the world.”
Thanks to Hood’s work and example, that community will continue to stand out for generations to come.
And now, for our five lightning round questions.
1. What are you reading or listening to at the moment?
I am always reading books and listening to music. I read a lot and listen to all kinds of music. What I read or hear changes often because I like variety to broaden the mind and keep things interesting.
2. What is a principle you try to live by?
To be a good husband, father and friend.
3. What is one hidden talent you possess, and one hidden weakness you overcome?
I would say one hidden talent is that I really listen to people and try to understand what they are trying to say. Listening is a lost art. My weakness is that I don’t always speak up when I probably should.
4. How do you keep your inspiration / imagination fueled?
I love variety and learning new things.
5. Do you have a daily practice or ritual?
Not exactly. I practice my bass on a regular basis and work extra hard on it when I have something coming up that I need to learn for a session or a performance.