Mike Cooley lived up to his band's name.

The Drive-By Truckers guitarist and vocalist was on the road during a Jan. 24 phone interview.

"I'm south of Montgomery, Alabama," Cooley said.

The band, which also includes Jay Gonzalez, Patterson Hood, Brad Morgan, John Neff and Shonna Tucker, had two days off in Pensacola, Fla., during a short tour. So, Cooley decided to rent a car and make the four-hour drive north to his Birmingham, Ala., home.

There was a lot he had to take care of, he said, but his three kids - 3, 5, and 7 - would no doubt monopolize his time.

"I'll do whatever they allow," he said.

He joked that he's seen every kid's movie that came out last year including "Toy Story 3," "Despicable Me," "Megamind" and "Tangled." But he did recently get a chance to see the Coen brother's Oscar-nominated film "True Grit."

"It was fantastic," Cooley said.

During the next few months, the Truckers will have even less free time as they head out on tour to promote their new album "Go-Go Boots," which will be released Tuesday. The next day, the group will play Penn State York's Pullo Family Performing Arts Center.

Cooley talked about the new album's inspiration as he motored down the southern highway.


I'm interested to hear what stories you guys are sharing on the new CD. Some of these (songs) if they take a story form are actually . . . real events. Some (happened) as long as 20 years ago. They were actually pretty newsworthy items. If you made a movie (about the songs) and made it pretty true to form, it would probably get panned as being too far-fetched. Sometimes, people do strange things and the only way to tell somebody about it is to put it in a song because it sounds too crazy to be real.

I guess southern rock lends itself to storytelling. That all comes from old folk music, too. It was all based in story and folklore. In its origin, (the music) was probably there to help people remember events. (Those) who were mostly illiterate . . . could come up with a way to sing it and pass it along to other people.

That also might be why your music has been featured on movie soundtracks. That's always cool. We've got a few things in television shows, too. That's nice for the mailbox money. (Laughs) I've always been drawn to the stuff that puts a visual image there where the song just kind of sets the scene, and you can actually see it. I try to do that myself as much as I can.

And you take fans through the new songs on webisodes. I'll probably never see any of those. But it's a cool thing to do. In this day and age . . . somebody's going to do it for you, if you don't do it yourself. You have to kind of take control of your own information.

You don't like to watch yourself on camera? Oh God, no. It's the most uncomfortable thing in the world. It takes a while to get used to just hearing yourself on audio. I went to . . . the premiere of (the band documentary "The Secret to a Happy Ending"). I watched it by myself, and I was still about to crawl out of my skin. I'm actually really proud of it. I think it's very well done. If I'm ever in a movie again, I want to play somebody else . . . somebody younger and better looking. (Laughs)

When does your tour start? We never really stop. People are always referring to "the tour." I'm like, "you pretty much mean my life." (Laughs) We're in the middle of a . . . short (tour) now that's all here in the south. When the record comes out, we're going to hit the road again. Of course, we'll be going to Europe probably twice at least this year.

Do audiences in other countries differ from American crowds? The U.K. is not a lot different than the U.S. The apple didn't fall too far from the tree there. A lot of the European audiences, like in Holland especially, (are) great listening audiences. They don't get as rowdy as you typically see . . . here in the south or in England or Australia or Spain.

What have you been listening to recently? I'll mostly listen to older stuff when I'm at home. I was listening to a couple of old Charlie Rich records. I went back and started to listen to some older Squeeze, too. I really like them. There's a group out of Los Angeles called The Henry Clay People that we've had some good times with (out on the road). They've been one of highlights lately.

Wes Freed has designed most of your album art. How did you connect with him? It was really early on when we first put the band together. We were doing the Bubbapalooza festival at The Star Bar in Atlanta, and (Freed's) band got invited to play that. Then, they invited us to come up to Richmond, Va., where they lived and do a monthly show. We stayed at their house and have been great friends ever since. Wes had a lot of his work hanging around his house back then, and we were really knocked out by it. He's got a pretty massive body of work on just stuff he's done for us.

I saw you had a link for Nuci's Space on your website. What is that? We got involved with that when they first started it. Patterson's on the board now. They're based in Athens, Ga. Athens has such an artist/musician segment of the population. None of them have any insurance. Most of them work in restaurants trying to get their thing going. (The organization) started out for suicide prevention . . . since people have been doing creative things, a certain amount of emotional and psychological turmoil tends to go with the territory. They branched out into actual medical (issues) and a summer camp for kids.

The band has been together for a decade. How has it worked? A lot of people drop like flies when it starts getting too real. There's a certain amount of maturity you have to reach to push aside some of the petty things that aren't really that important. That breaks up more bands and gets more people out of this business than anything. Know what's going on inside your own head and keep it there. (Laughs)

- ERIN McCRACKEN, FLIPSIDE STAFF

If you go

Drive-By Truckers perform at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 16, at Penn State York's Pullo Family Performing Arts Center, 1031 Edgecomb Ave., Spring Garden Township. Marah will open the show. Tickets cost $32. For details and tickets, call 505-8900 or visit thepullocenter.com.

Online

For details about Drive-By Truckers, visit drivebytruckers.com.

Listen to the interview at www.flipsidepa.com.

Read more meet-the-artist interviews at www.flipsidepa.com/musicdirectory.