Singer-songwriter Adam Hood spent the last week of August recording his new album at Capricorn Sound Studios. He, along with producer Brent Cobb and Blackberry Smoke’s Charlie Starr, took some time out from recording to chat with Aaron Irons of Sound and Soul to talk about the album, recording at Capricorn, guitars, COVID-19 and making music with a message.
Aaron Irons: The week, fellas, you’ve been in Capricorn Studios all week long, and when you and I spoke, Adam, before, it was you wanting to find that sound that works as well in the studio as it does on stage, at the bar, in the club, the theater, anywhere. Did you find it?
Adam Hood: Yeah, I think we did. The statement of the week for me has kind of been, I didn’t expect these songs to turn out the way they did, and that’s a good thing. I mean, it’s a testament to sort of the work we’ve been able to do here, so yeah, I think it surpassed my expectations.
Aaron: And you came in with some songs, but you also wrote some new ones.
Adam: We didn’t do as much writing as we wanted to.
Brent Cobb: I thought it was good. The three of us finished one after the first night.
Adam: Yeah, we got some done. Does that sound derogatory? Do I sound like we didn’t get any work done?
Brent: Every time you say, ‘Well, it didn’t turn out the way I expected …”
Charlie Starr: I’m offended.
Brent: I’m completely offended, Mr. Hood.
Adam: I’m trying, if you’d let me get to my point.
Brent: But what’s cool is the one that we wound up finishing was the first song that you had on the list that became the list for the album. Can I say the title of it?
Adam: Yeah, sure, yeah.
Brent: It was “Harder Stuff.” Which kind of was the theme of the album to me
Adam: And, you know, that was the one that was unfinished, and that was the plan to be able to knock one out and try to get things done, but the truth is, the reason why we didn’t really do any more writing than that was because of the fact that we kept finding songs that worked. You know, why write a song if you’ve already got one that works, and that was the good thing about that.
Brent: That’s because I went through 260 songs of Adam Hood’s.
Adam: So you did way more work than I ever intended on doing for this record.
Brent: And how cool is that, I just thought of how cool that the one song that was the leading theme of the album, the three of us wrote. We finished it together. And did you start that with Davis?
Adam: Yeah, (singer/songwriter) Davis Nix, he came to me with the idea. It was like a time that I was about six months into the whole ‘I’m not drinking anymore’ thing, and we were at a big benefit that that was really, everyone was going to be hanging out and stuff, and I sat in my room, I said, ‘I ain’t doing this.’ And he came in with that idea, and I was like, ‘Well, maybe we’ve got something else to do now.’
Brent and I are just sitting over here talking. Sorry, Aaron.
Aaron: No, that’s what it’s supposed to be, man. Charlie, you got to come and play some guitar. You got to do some songwriting. Something we had talked about stylistically was whether this album was gonna be a rocker, or was it gonna be more in the country vein. And as soon as I knew you were involved with it, I thought, ‘Well, there’s gonna be some rock ‘n’ roll going on. Did you guys get to mix it up on the guitar at all?
Brent: I’m curious of your opinion on how …
Charlie: Yeah. Well, I think it’s a little of both, you know. It’s a real good marriage, I thought. I don’t know, you know, there’s a couple songs — I hope you don’t mind that I say — that are stone-cold country songs in my opinion.
Adam: Yeah, I agree.
Charlie: But then there’s some stuff that you can’t put a name or a face to it. It’s like, it’s kind of funky, and it’s definitely Southern, you know. But I’m not the person you would ask, ‘Hey man, is this a country song or a rock ‘n’ roll song?’ Because that line’s very blurry to me anyway.
Aaron: And this is not your first rodeo in Capricorn. You’ve actually been here since it opened up. Blackberry Smoke has almost been the house band for Capricorn Studios in 2020. Are you beginning to feel like this is your second home?
Charlie: I have keys. No, it’s fantastic. I mean, it just sounds incredible in here, and I guess that’s why it’s legendary. Incredible music was recorded here, and like when Blackberry Smoke came in, we came in for a day, you know, earlier this year, and I couldn’t believe what we got accomplished. I mean, usually in one day you’re still looking for a comfortable place to sit, you know, or where’s the refrigerator. It’s just a testament to this place.
Aaron: Do you think that having spent so much of your life, your life and yours, listening to the music that was recorded here, prepared you for the experience?
Brent: I think I always, kind of like you said, the blend between country and rock ‘n’ roll, which is really neat, that it’s right here in Macon, a lot of that. It’s always kind of been, I feel like I’ve been preparing my whole life because of what has come out of here without even knowing it really, you know?
Aaron: Adam told me that the reason he wanted you (Brent) on board with this project was because you have a cool concept of who he is and what he sounds like. I want to know, from you, what that is.
Brent: I’m just a fan. Me and Adam started writing together 10-plus years ago. And I’ve told him, I’ve made this comment several times, that if this album turns out really good, it’s because I’m just a fan. If it turns out really bad, it’s because I’m just a fan. But that’s the truth. We hit it off early on. I remember the first day I ever walked in to write with Adam — he was writing for Carnival Music publishing, who became my publisher as well — and he was one of the first people I ever cowrote with. And I didn’t grow up cowriting. And I walked in, and he said he was from Opelika, Alabama, and I said, ‘Damn, we’re probably kinfolks, then.’ And it’s just always kind of been that way. I just, I know the boy.
Aaron: Did you have to steer him at all during that first session?
Adam: No, uh uh. Brent’s one of those guys that goes to cowrite with the verse and the chorus. And the way I look at it is if you’ve finished the verse and the chorus, you probably just ought to spend another 20 minutes and finish it up. But he’s nice enough to share with me. There’s not much guidance that I can give Brent.
Aaron: Now, you two (Adam and Charlie) come from down around the same part of the world.
Adam: We were just talking about that earlier. Yeah, I mean, we graduated from high school within a year of each other, and our schools used to play ball together, play football against each other, yeah.
Aaron: Y’all did?
Aaron: I didn’t know that.
Charlie: Well, we actually played each other, and — no we didn’t.
Adam: Yeah, no.
Brent: We actually kicked each other’s asses out there on the field.
Charlie: Now my dad worked in Opelika, which is only what 10 miles from Lanett for 28 years or something like that, so I spent a lot of time down there. But you know, if you’re in that area, you all wind up at Auburn on Saturday anyway or at the War Eagle Supper Club.
Aaron: I have ended up at the War Eagle Supper Club when I should not have been at the War Eagle Supper Club.
Adam: Well, it was the only game in town for so long, you know, I mean, everything else would close at 2. I remember, man, when my wife and I, we first started dating she would always be like, ‘You gotta start at midnight? My friends aren’t gonna come.’ I’m like, ‘Babe, they’re not moving. You start at midnight.’
Aaron: That is the weirdest thing about going there to play is that nothing gets started until 1, 2, 3 o’clock in the morning.
Adam: Til everything else shuts down.
Aaron: And nobody tells you that the first time you go to play.
Charlie: Even when I moved to Atlanta and we went back down there to play, either the Supper Club or even The Nick in Birmingham, and it would be like, ‘Well, y’all don’t go on til like, you know, 1,’ and I would think, ‘And that’s 2 my time.’ And I’m like, ‘This is tomorrow. Our show is tomorrow, basically.’
Adam: It’s funny when you put that on your calendar in your phone and stuff. It’s like, the lines are so blurred. Is it Tuesday or Thursday? That’s funny.
Aaron: Tell me about some guitars, man, ‘cause I’ve been wanting to ask you (Adam) about that old Gibson you’ve got, and when I walked in here today, I saw that Esquire you (Charlie) got. So I think that every guitar, no matter how short the story might be, should have a good one. What’s the story behind that Gibson?
Adam: Credit where it’s due, that’s my manager Ben Ratliff’s guitar. But, you (Brent) played it for a couple of years. I played it.
Brent: Yeah. I beat the hell out of it.
Adam: Yeah, which is probably the reason why …
Brent: His manager, Ben Ratliff, used to tour manage me. He’s from Zebulon, Georgia. Ben Ratliff from Zebulon. And we, I beat the hell out of that Gibson many times.
Adam: Now it’s my turn. But it does play great.
Brent: It records wonderfully.
Charlie: Real well.
Adam: Yeah, yeah.
Aaron: What is it?
Adam: It’s a ‘73 J-45.
Aaron: Charlie, what about that Esquire?
Charlie: That Esquire, credit where it’s due, belongs to Mike Reeder in Cincinatti, Ohio — Mike’s Music. And he wants me to buy it. He wants a little more for it than I want to give him for it.
Brent: You’re just increasing the value on it too, playing on all these Capricorn songs.
Charlie: Yeah, it’s a ‘65. I think the jury is still out on whether or not it’s a factory black Esquire, but it is a ‘65. But, God bless you, Mike, thank you. As soon as COVID is over, and I can get back to Cincinatti, I’ll bring it back to him.
Aaron: It’s a COVID-19 guitar. It can’t go home because of COVID-19.
Charlie: It is. But, you know, I’m hoping people that’ll see this, they’ll contact Mike and say, ‘C’mon, give Charlie a better deal on that guitar.’
Aaron: C’mon, Mike, give Charlie a better deal on that guitar.
Adam: Yeah, right, I second that.
Aaron: So one of my favorite things to do, when I was out on the road, was to hit up the barbecue joints wherever I went. But you brought the barbecue with you. I was talking to Brent here, and he was saying that Ben, who we were just talking about, was hell on wheels when it came to that Traeger grill.
Adam: Yeah, he does great. Yeah, it’s been nice to sort of have, like, food made for you instead of having to, I don’t way to say, we’re happy to take the break, but to not have to look around and stuff, but there’s a part of me that’s thankful, but I feel like we’ve missed out on some good meals here, though. We are in Macon.
Brent: Yeah, that’s true.
Adam: Charlie went to H&H this morning.
Aaron: Kinda gotta make that stop.
Charlie: You have to.
Brent: Ben wears a pile of hats, though. Just to give more credit, so not only is he managing Adam, he’s tour managed me, he is working at a publishing company plugging songs. He is also a caterer, obviously. And he’s the guy that kind of facilitated this whole experience on this Hood record. He also tour managed Drake White for a couple years, and Drake’s old manager, well y’all (Charlie) have shared the same manager, I think.
Charlie: Mmm hmm. Trey Wilson.
Brent: Trey Wilson and when Adam and I started talking about making this, when he said, cause I would just go to Adam, and I’d go, ‘Man, I don’t want any credit or anything, I just, but let me help you pick song. I just want to pick some songs with you for whatever you decide to do.’ And then one day, he was just like, ‘Man, why don’t you just produce the damn thing?’ And I had never produced anything before, and so I was like, ‘Well, OK. Maybe.’ And so then, Ben said, ‘Well, why don’t we just do it at Capricorn? And then you don’t have to drive to Nashville.’ And then he said, ‘Why don’t I just call Trey and see if we can get Blackberry Smoke’s rhythm section to be the band on it?’ OK.
Adam: Then we had studio dates. I mean pretty much.
Brent: Immediately. It was all real quick. And y’all said yes. Thank you.
Charlie: You’re welcome.
Adam: Yeah, thank you.
Brent: And then I feel like I wore everybody out for about five days, but maybe I didn’t.
Charlie: It was great. Well, we definitely had nothing else to do.
Aaron: I asked Brent, when we came in here and sat down, I said, ‘Was your wife ready for you to get out of the house?’ And he said, ‘Well, eh.’ What about you guys? Was it time to go do something?
Charlie: Yes. Absolutely.
Aaron: I think that was something, you know, like, I work. I go out, do the thing during the day. I come home. But I have a young daughter and my wife, and they have their world set for that time that I’m gone. And then all of the sudden, there’s no more work, and you’re home. And I upset that environment. And it took a little while for us to get into a groove. Did you guys find the same thing?
Adam: Exactly the same thing. Yeah. You realize that you’re sort of infiltrating the order of how they sort of do their thing, and I realized it about the time that it was, like, OK, you better get in line or you’re gonna be in the way. And so, I think we’ve got a method now. But yeah, I certainly followed the method. I didn’t come up with it.
Aaron: Any ghost stories in the studio this week? Did you hear the echoes of the past?
Adam: I like the TV shows, but I’ve never had an experience, you know what I mean? Very much believe it happens to people. But I never had an experience till this.
Brent: The camera, you talking about the audio on the camera?
Brent: Yeah, there’s people talking and (expletive) in here, man. Like we were listening to the live audio on the camera that’s in this room — I don’t know where it is but somewhere — and it’s the only camera that has audio on it, and you can hear, like it’s, you know, you can hear the room noise. But then you can almost hear, like, somebody’s having a conversation in here.
Adam: Audible, like audible male voice. I don’t know what they said, but I heard it, and then I heard a female voice. I mean, and this was in a 30–second period of (Capricorn Chief Engineer) Rob (Evans) showing us, like, the live feed from the day. I heard it.
Brent: I mean, also, yesterday, last night or the night before last, I was locked out. I had went outside, but I wound up getting in, and Ben came — I texted him to come get me — and he was on the way out, and I had gotten in, and right when he went to open the door, I was right there. And he was like, ‘Woah!’ He heard somebody walking across the room in the other room, like boots walking. He thought it was me, and I was already in.
Adam: Wow. When did this happen?
Brent: Last night or the night before last.
Adam: You didn’t tell me that.
Charlie: I’m out of here.
Aaron: Well, out of this crew, you’ve been here more than anybody, so you might be getting in tune to everything that’s going on.
Charlie: I don’t know. I think I’m kind of like you, Adam. I’ve never had an experience.
Brent: I think they’re just possessing you, and then you’re great at everything that you record and play. So that’s what’s happening. You’re not able to experience it because you are it.
Charlie: Well, bless your heart.
Adam: Now that’s deep.
Charlie: That was me in that room last night.
Brent: Damn it. You ruined it.
Aaron: Not to dive too hard to the bottom, but it has been a very odd week in a lot of ways. There’s been a ton of protests, a ton of demonstrations, tons of things happening in the outside world. Sports teams choosing to not play in support of Black Lives Matter. In country music, it always seems to be a situation where it’s shut up and sing. We don’t want to hear about a platform. We don’t want to talk about what the issues are, but as a songwriter, and I wouldn’t say that any of you are necessarily political songwriters, although Brent, with your new album coming out, you’ve got some songs that sort of —
Brent: It’s like anti-political.
Aaron: What’s your take on that? I mean, how do you feel about that when it comes to being a songwriter and being in a tumultuous world?
Adam: I feel like if your intention is to make a statement, whatever that statement is, I think you have the wrong intention. I think it’s that, and granted, that’s my opinion. And, but, you know, the songs that I’ve always respected the opinion of were people that wrote from, ‘This is how this affects me.’ You know what I mean? Instead of telling me how this should affect you. Let me know how it — does that make sense? I think I’m getting my wires crossed. But yeah, I’d just rather hear someone else’s perspective of how they feel about something, instead of, it’s not my job to tell anyone how to think. But I’m given a gift to tell people how I feel about things, I feel like, so that where we’re relative, we can be relative, and when we’re not, then that’s OK too, you know? But so, I don’t know, I mean, I’ve never intentionally done it, you know? But I don’t know. Maybe that’s the wrong perspective. I don’t know.
Brent: I saw an Eddie Murphy quote that was awesome. That was about early on, him and Spike Lee — I read this to you the other night — he and Spike Lee, people would kind of be like, ‘Why aren’t you all working together?’ And, I got it in my phone, so I’m gonna paraphrase it, but he was saying that he wasn’t a politician and that he didn’t go down that route, and if he could get a message across in his art then, good. But he didn’t want to be a politician about it. And I’m sort of under that same — of course we have opinions, you know, but I feel like if I can get that message out, I mean, (sings) ‘Born in the U.S.A.’ Most folks don’t know that’s, you know, that’s a pretty heavy song.
Charlie: Yeah, it’s anti-war.
Brent: But you’ve got more people singing about it. We don’t even need to say what it’s about is what’s awesome about it. Is that a lot of people are singing that song, and they may not even feel the same way about it, but they’re singing it. And it may take them, I think anytime somebody’s preached to, it’s harder to accept. But if you discover that truth on your own, you accept it, it’s easier to accept. And I believe in not preaching. That doesn’t mean I don’t believe in not putting a message out there. I just believe that you should discover that message yourself.
Aaron: Do you think that that’s one of the more alluring parts of songwriting is what someone else’s perspective will be on what you write?
Brent: I think you have to care a little bit. But I don’t think it should affect whatever your take, whatever your opinion is. I think you just gotta kind of, you know, you gotta think that not everybody’s gonna take whatever it is the same way.
Aaron: You gotta keep them on their toes.
Brent: You gotta keep them on their toes, baby. For me, I’m better at shutting up and singing. I’m terrible at articulating what my opinion is. I just put a song out called “Shut Up and Sing.”
Charlie: That song’s great.
Brent: Thank you all. Thank you.
Aaron: So, Adam, have you got a timeline at this point? I mean, you’re here. You’re working. I don’t think you — were you even intending to make a record this summer? You were going to be out playing.
Adam: Well, we had made an intention to go into the studio in April, first week of April, so that was it. And, you know, it’s, some of the people that I was gonna do that record with were still gonna participate in this one, but I’m really thankful that didn’t happen. I think this is a way better record, a way better record. Not that that one would have been bad, but this is a pretty, I mean, we’ve kind of been talking about it all week. This is, it’s nice to be a part of a pretty unique project, you know.
Aaron: And it is. Having you three and everybody else that’s been coming through here doing it, it’s been an important factor to me to see not just the history get brought back to the forefront of Capricorn Studios, but to see new music, you know, from new artists coming in and, you know, making records here, so thanks guys for coming and doing that.
Adam: My pleasure.
Brent: Charlie, I gotta say, back, we don’t have to go deep down in there, but “One Horse Town” to me has such a message kind of like I’m talking about. That it doesn’t preach something to you but you feel —
Adam: You understand the person’s perspective, yeah.
Charlie: Thank you.
Brent: Anyway, I just want to say, and you don’t even have to comment on that, but to me that is exactly what I mean on shuttin’ up and singing and saying something.
Charlie: Yeah. I get that. And it really is, I guess, I mean, I’m not comparing it to “Born in the U.S.A.” at all, of course, but it is similar in its, in the idea, like, it’s not a — yeah, you know what I mean.
Brent: I know what you mean. It’s just a cool message that you’re not preaching. You’re like, you wanna sing along to that (expletive). You know? I don’t know. I think it’s awesome.
Charlie: I heard a good buddy of mine yesterday, we were talking about, I mean, what a confusing, crazy, scary, sad time. I mean, it’s all just — it’s like it runs the gamut of like, and he’s like, you know, well Todd Snider, not long ago, he’s like, I mean, it’s a strange idea. Fighting for peace, if you think about it, is a strange idea. It’s like screaming for silence. That was his, the way he put it. I thought well that — I mean obviously people will probably disagree with me when I say that, but I thought that turned my head when I read it. I was like, wow, that’s a good point. But (Capricorn Museum Director) Bob (Konrad) last night was like, ‘Things don’t get better when a situation’s bad until every person realizes that they are responsible for their own actions. You can’t just look at a group of people and go, you have to do this, and you’re responsible for this person and this person. Everybody’s gotta be like, I gotta do the right thing.’ So I don’t even know if that’s possible.
Brent: That’s right. And it may not even be possible.
Adam: Well, and it seems like a lot more manageable to be responsible for one person as opposed to a group.
Charlie: I can barely do that.
Adam: Right, it’s a lot of work.
Brent: We’re fortunate enough to be able to write songs for a living because that’s the only time you do feel like you can sort of be half responsible for your actions. I know that’s the way I feel.
Aaron: Generally, you guys would all be out, studio schedules notwithstanding, would be all out touring, working, going to different cities, seeing what’s happening across America in real time. That’s not the case this year, COVID-19 has stopped that. I have seen the concern about people who are not touring and working and able to play music. Just recently this week Justin Townes Earl passed away, and I had somebody say to me, ‘Well, they ought to chalk that up to COVID-19 because if he had been working, that wouldn’t have happened. Well, you can’t really say that, but at the same time, have you guys experienced that kind of feeling, the depression, of not being out and working. Or have you been able to help somebody who’s had that problem?
Brent: I made a post that was like, Hey, anybody that needs to talk, you know, get in touch with me. We’ll talk about whatever you want to talk about. It don’t even have to be heavy. And, but I don’t think it’s just musicians. I think it’s just a lot going on in the country right now, and a lot of folks, idle thumbs, er idle thumbs, idle hands, all the fingers. (Laughter)
Brent: Idle thumbs make devil’s work.
Charlie: Idle thumbs, that’s the name of the record.
Adam: It is.
Brent: Idle hands make the devil’s work.
Adam: Idle thumbs. Who you guys on the road with, Brent? Idle thumbs.
Aaron: Coming this summer, Brent Cobb, Adam Hood and Charlie Starr, Idle Thumbs.
Brent: But idle hands make devil’s work. You know what I’m saying?
Charlie: They’re on Bonnaroo this year, actually, Idle Thumbs.
Brent: I don’t think it’s just down to musicians. I think it’s the whole country. Like it’s, man, it’s a weird time, you know, and —
Adam: And I think that —
Brent: Jesus Christ
Charlie: I can’t stop.
Brent: I’m trying to make a cool, important point.
Aaron: But actually, you just made my point because this here, the laughter that we get to do that, and immediately I feel better from the laughter, which is what you get to do. You get on stage and you let all of that out and the therapy of that, the catharsis of that. That to me, is where the problem comes in.
Brent: We may not be able to recover.
Charlie: And I’m blaming this on COVID too.
Adam: Yeah, that’s right, idle thumbs is a —
Brent: Best thing to come out of COVID is idle thumbs.
Adam: For sure. Yeah. That’s why I named my record that. All right. I’m done.
Aaron: Gentleman, thank you so much for your time, and I know you guys have still got work to do, and I really appreciate this.
Adam: Man, thanks for doing it.
Brent: Thank you very much.