Interview::Mike Cooley in the Independent

The Independent Weekly of the triangle area printed a rare interview with Mike Cooley from the Drive By Truckers yesterday. The article talks a little about Gravity’s Gone, the lost art of road testing songs, and the new record. I didn’t however see anything about Cooley’s shirt collection. I think someone should do an expose on that alone.

Here are some excerpts, and for the whole article go here:Cooley in the Independent Weekly

INDEPENDENT: I understand you wrote “Gravity’s Gone” over a long period?
MIKE COOLEY: It’s something I kept coming back to for over a year or more. I think I came up with the chorus, or most of it, at one time, and just thought it was cool and didn’t know really what it meant. I’d just kept going back to it. Every time I’d think about writing, that’d be one I’d go back to. And then the verses started popping out and taking shape.
You say you’d been coming up with lines: Did you know they were for this song?At a certain point, I think I was kind of consciously thinking of them to go with that chorus. A lot of them, when we were on one particular tour, every day or two another one of those kind of funny lines popped into my head, and I’d hang on to it.It’s reminiscent of the advice from that famous column “Wear Sunscreen.”
I don’t live by any of that crap, but I try to bestow it upon others as much as I can. [laughs] I’m usually talking to myself, that’s my dirty little secret. If I ever sound like I’m preaching or trying to make someone smarter than they are, I’m talking to me.
It has a quality about the lovable loser, like some of the songs by the Replacements or Townes Van Zandt.A lot of times it takes me a few years after I write something… [Cooley tells a squealing kid to hold on, he’s on the phone.] It takes me a few years before I really know what I’m talking about. In that particular case, a lot of it came together while I was on this tour that I wasn’t having much fun with. [laughs] I was on the road a lot harder and longer than I wanted to be, and I didn’t feel like we were really reaping the benefits. [Editor’s note: Could this be the Dirty South tour?] But the whole thing in the chorus is kind of like, if I derail my career, at least I’ll have my feet on the ground. I’d rather be at the bottom with my feet on the ground than the bottom with no where to land. So it took me a while to figure out what I was talking about, but I think that was it.I suppose there’s an aspect that you couldn’t write as well as you can if you knew what it was you were saying.Oh, exactly. You would probably say it badly if you knew exactly what it was. You wouldn’t be nearly as clever because you wouldn’t have anything to figure out later.I guess it’s one of those themes that has an appeal because a lot of us are fuck-ups.Yeah, I like to stick with that because I think it’s honest. That’s kind of who I am.It reminded me a bit of “Carl Perkins’ Cadillac” with a kind of wistful yearning for something fleeting or a day gone by.I wasn’t really thinking about it at the time, but they were very similar. I had kind of reached the same point in my career, as he was in the second verse of that song. Like, “Well, I’ll be, here I am. I made it. Great. Now what do I do?”So I understand you took a little hiatus before working on this new record.We were off the road for most of 4 months. We did a show here and a show there, but we didn’t tour at all. When we actually started coming in and working up these songs, it had been several months.How’d it feel?It was great. We were getting ready to do a tour, and putting together the whole Dirt Underneath thing, and had [Muscle Shoals keyboardist] Spooner Oldham in there, so it’s a new sound. We were actually excited about touring again. That was the cool thing about it. We used that tour to work up the songs and we played mostly, or at least half the show was brand new stuff.You road tested them?Took it on the road first, what a concept. [laughs]The old-fashioned way.Yeah, and a lot of the times you’ll get a certain amount of resistance and people will tell you you shouldn’t be out playing new songs before the record comes out. It seemed like why not. They’re mine, I’ll play them whenever I feel like.How is the new album coming along?We’re pretty close to finished. Everything’s tracked. I’m going back tomorrow [to David Barbe’s studio in Athens] to do a few more days of working on it. Maybe redo some vocals, add some parts here and there. But it’s pretty much there. I think we’re going to trust our mix.

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