At the beginning of the pandemic last March, Adam Hood and a group of Red Dirt artists began a weekly tradition that became known as Sequestered Songwriters. What began as a one-time thing became a livestream every week that spawned a non-profit that helped provide relief to artists that were struggling through 2020. Jason Eady and Courtney Patton kind of took the reins and the shows kept going for an entire year.
Hood, an Opelika native now based in Northport, is now finding his way back out on the road. He’s on a run of shows throughout the southeast with Eady and they are treating the shows much like they treated the weekly gathering; and making sure to pay homage to the thing that helped bring a lot of people together during a difficult time.
I talked to Adam about how an Alabama boy became a fixture of the Red Dirt scene, how Sequestered Songwriters evolved, the legacy of Wayne Mills and what’s next in 2021 and beyond.
How did the Sequestered Songwriters thing come about over the past year? How did you guys all hook up and make the best of a bad situation?
We all did this as a tribute as a tribute to Merle Haggard. That was on April 6 [of 2020]. The first week of March, everything shut down, so April was a month into it. We were all missing each other and were looking for a way to hang out, so we decided to do the tribute to Merle Haggard. Well, the next Monday, John Prine passed away, and we said, “Well, we’ve got to do that one.” And the next week was 4/20, so we did Willie Nelson. And by the third one, it was a thing.
By the third one, Jason [Eady] and Courtney [Patton] kind of saw, “Wow, there are a lot of folks that are paying attention to this. People kind of started sending messages, “Hey this was a lot of fun. It really helped me get through this week. I hope y’all don’t stop doing this.”
It wasn’t just, “That was fun,” it was more, “We really needed this.” You could tell that not only was it benefiting us as songwriters, it was really paying off for people that were watching it, too. We all needed some love and positivity.
Was it an adequate way to compensate for not being on the road financially?
At the end of the day, we’re playing cover songs. The mechanics get a little weird when it comes to stuff like that. So what they did was set up a non-profit; an organization called Sequestered Songwriters that pays out relief for artists. For instance, someone’s van got stolen. So Sequestered Songwriters kind of helped compensate for the replacement of some things. That’s how it was handled monetarily. You couldn’t really make money off of it. That wouldn’t be ethically correct.
As you get back to normal shows, do you leave in some of those covers and include elements of what you’ve been doing the past year?
Yeah, especially on this run. What Jason and I are doing is–I’ll do a set, then he’ll do a set, then we’ll both do a set at the end. One of the last thing we do is pick a Sequestered Songwriters song that we like. I’m trying to make it a deliberate point to put at least one of these songs in every set and to make the statement that, “This is a Sequestered Songwriters song. I’m playing this song because this happened through that Monday night thing.”
There’s a John Hiatt song. I do an Elton John song. There’s a couple in there that are pretty interesting. The Aretha Franklin one is probably the most unlikely one; but I learned a song that I really loved. And because of the fact that I can’t get anywhere close to the way Aretha Franklin did it, I made it unique enough to where it suits me.
How does the full set look with you and Jason on this run? Do you swap up a lot?
Jason and I always cross-pollinate fans. We played in Macon the first night, and that town leans a little more to my side. We played in Dahlonega [Georgia] last night–Jason had been to that room a little bit more than me. There are a number of people that’ll come see me that find Jason and vice versa. Because of that–we’ll do about 40 minutes each–we’ll alternate nights on who goes on first. We alternate sets, then we get together at the end.
Going all the way back, how did you find yourself in embedded in the Red Dirt scene while living in Alabama?
Before I made the 6th Street record–which is the “Play Something We Know” record–the 21 to Enter record had gotten into the hands of my buddy Justin Johnson. We recorded the 6th Street record at Justin’s place in Birmingham. His friend started managing me, and he lived in Lakeway, which is outside of Austin. He said, “Let’s get you some shows in Texas.” And I said, “Great.” I was always a fan. I had a friend that’d send me tapes of Roger Creager and Pat [Green], Jack [Ingram]–Jack Ingram was coming to Auburn when I was too young to get into the bar…
Was he playing [War Eagle] Supper Club?
He was playing a place behind Supper Club called Locker Room, which I think burned to the ground. I saw Pat play Supper Club a couple of times.
That 6th Street record was the record that finally got me into the clubs that I needed to get into in Austin and Dallas and places like that. I made a couple of other records and worked it for a little while; then I met Miranda Lambert a couple of years later, and she got me a publishing deal in Nashville. That’s when I started writing for these guys. It went from opening shows for Wade Bowen to writing songs for Wade Bowen. Once I was able to be a part of their creative process, that’s when I really got involved.
You and Brent Cobb wrote a song for Wayne Mills a few years back called “King of Alabama.” How much of an influence was Wayne on you when you were coming up and how important was it to you to pay tribute to him that way?
He was the first person I ever saw doing it. Wayne rolled into town on a bus. And they were his songs. Sure, you saw the Velcro Pygmies roll up on a bus, too, but they were playing cover tunes. Wayne was playing Wayne Mills songs. And it wasn’t like he was riding up on a bus and no one was coming to see him, he rolled up and everybody was there. I mean everybody. He did that everywhere. He was the first guy I saw doing it. Granted, it was a little bit more of a circus than I wanted us to have. [laughs] He was larger than life.
He was the best at making the Alabama music scene a family. He pulled everybody together, all the time. There was never a time that I was talking to Wayne that he wasn’t talking about somebody that lived in Montgomery that I had never heard of before, and six months later, that person would become a friend of mine. Every time. He was the best at it. That’s the one thing I can say about it. Tony Brook and I still talk. [James] Posey and I still talk. My buddies from back home, we still talk. But since Wayne has been gone, I don’t think that we have been the community that we once were.
Is there a timeline on a new Adam Hood record?
We’re hoping to get the new Adam Hood record out first of next year. It’s a really good record. It’s really special. Brent and I got Charlie [Starr] and Brit and Richard [Turner] from Blackberry Smoke and we went down to Macon to Capricorn Studios. We spent four days down there writing and recording this record. It’s a really special project. I don’t want to put it out just because it’s done. This may be the last time I make an album like that. It may be the beginning of my method. But I may not ever do this again. Meaning–things are changing so fast. You can make a really great record at your house. But you can also still do this. We want to give this enough time to see if we can do this right. Something’s gonna happen and we’ll find out that we did it right or learn that we should just “put the doggone thing out” like people want us to.
Are you mixing new stuff into this set?
Yes. I’m trying to be strategic with that. It’s really hard. It really is. It’s hard to have songs that you love so much and keep them in your pocket. I play the title track, a song called “Bad Days Better.” We’re gonna call the album that. Then I pick two more songs that I really like, and I try to leave it at those.
Adam Hood and Jason Eady are at Zydeco on Saturday, May 22. The show starts at 7:30 p.m. and tickets are $15.