“I guess I’m a control freak,” Adam Hood admits to Rolling Stone Country, laughing but not exactly joking. For his fourth record, Welcome to the Big World — streaming on Rolling Stone Country exclusively before its wide release tomorrow — Hood decided to shirk the restraints of a label deal and put out the LP himself with the aid of a fan-funded Kickstarter campaign. And after a period where other, more mainstream country players — like David Nail and Little Big Town — saw success cutting his songs, now seemed as good a time as any to cement himself as both a successful writer and autonomous artist with his own unique voice.
“The ownership of it is rewarding,” he says. “I didn’t want to cut anybody out of it or anything like that. But you start to realize that this is your work. I really like to have the final say — to have the deciding factor, that’s a big deal right there.”
Welcome to the Big World is a chance for Hood to showcase new songs and give a platform to those crowd favorites that didn’t always get the same response from a label as they did from fans. “It’s just a compilation of songs, really,” Hood says, though they are often united under a thematic umbrella of simply growing up — whether that’s a 15-year-old getting her drivers’ license or an adult man discovering new, hidden corners of life. The title track, a guitar-chugged ballad inspired by the somewhat nomadic existence he inflicted on his daughter as a touring musician — and the guttural panic of her morphing from child to mature woman behind the literal and metaphorical wheel — sets the stage.
“I had to do a little bit of growing up, too, and that’s ok,” he says. “And it’s nice to be pushing 40 and still say that. It keeps you young.”
After his last record, 2011’s The Shape of Things, saw some secondhand success via Nail, Little Big Town and Josh Abbott Band offering their own versions of the album’s songs, it became increasingly frustrating for Hood to continue to push against a machine that sometimes doesn’t always embrace a songwriter who is also an artist. And vice versa — especially because he never quite understood the tendency of Music Row to separate the two.
“People always ask, ‘Are you an artist or a writer?’ I tell them I’m both. I never knew there was a difference.” Hood grew up worshipping John Hiatt and shaping his career after the likes of Guy Clark, who are both as active at the pen as they are in front of the microphone. For Welcome to the Big World, Hood recruited some other notable writer/performers like Will Hoge on “Postcards and Payphones” and Charlie Worsham on “The Countriest,” featuring Sunny Sweeney, that balances a honky-tonk stride with Hood’s signature bluesy twang. He also pays tribute to one of his idols, John Prine, on “I Took a Train,” that matches an appropriately locomotive beat with flashes of sly steel guitar and a preaching chorus.
It’s a reverence for the history of the craft that Hood wishes would carry through as we head into the CMA Awards this Wednesday. “When George Jones died, it was a passing thought,” he says, disappointed in the lackadaisical tribute to the legendary country star. “I’d like to see a lot more of the pillars of country music there. Because they’re the reason you have a job and a chart.” But he probably won’t be watching either way. “There’s just so much going on,” he says. “I kind of get panic attacks!”
Stream Welcome to the Big World below.