Patterson Hood, Josh Jackson to share views during Art Matters symposium

June 6, 2014 

When a musician and a music critic sit down to talk about the role of arts criticism in their lives, you can bet the conversation will be a lively give-and-take.

Patterson Hood, co-founder of the Southern rock band Drive-By Truckers, will share the stage with award-winning critic and co-founder of Paste Magazine, Josh Jackson, at a free Art Matters symposium at the Cox Capitol Theatre on Monday afternoon.

“We’ve always been pretty lucky, as far as reviews go,” said Hood about receiving criticism for his work. “I’ve read some less-than-stellar ones that I appreciated and perhaps learned from. There’s always going to be at least one or two where they’re just being (rude).”

The Athens-based Truckers released their new album, “English Oceans,” in March. Monday evening, Hood will perform solo at a College Street house as part of Music Ambassadors.

Hood said musicians and journalists are facing similar challenges in the changing media landscape. As newspapers and record stores alike struggle to stay afloat, professionals in both fields are changing their practices to make a living.

“It’s easier and easier to get a record out, but it’s harder and harder to have it stand out, because so many record companies have gone under,” Hood said. “You’ve got so many people downloading stuff that it’s harder to get paid for what you do.”

Having a record make the Top 20 list used to mean money. That’s no longer true.

“We make most of our living off of playing live,” Hood said. “We have to stay on the road more and more of the time.”

Paste Magazine’s Josh Jackson says the role of the music critic also has changed dramatically during the last 15 years with the rise of the Internet.

“In one sense, (criticism) has become less necessary. In another way, it has never been more important,” Jackson said. “For the cream to rise to the top, it needs champions. I think critics can serve as some of those champions. There are more voices out there, and sometimes it’s helpful to cut through the noise.”

Paste’s writers have lauded the Drive-By Truckers for the last decade. In an April article on the 27 best songs of 2014, Jackson named the band’s “Made Up English Oceans” as number 13. But, as a professional music critic, he can’t always give a thumbs-up to everyone.

“It’s really hard, because our main responsibility is to the reader,” he said. “When readers come to us looking for honest opinions, that’s what we try to give. That said, when we don’t like an album, there is a level of trying to understand what the artist is going for.”

As a writer himself, Jackson knows what it is like to be an artist and have his own work judged: “If you approach it with just common human decency, you can write a negative review and still write an entertaining negative review, without it simply being mean-spirited.”

Jackson said critics help people discover music they will love, and they foster a deeper appreciation by helping listeners understand it better. He’s looking forward to hearing an artist’s perspective on music criticism at Monday’s symposium.

“It’s not something we discuss a lot with the artists we cover,” said Jackson. “I’m sure every artist responds to it differently. Some don’t read their reviews. Some take them to heart. Others are angered by them. Some appreciate it.”

Laura Corley is a journalist working with Art Matters: Engaging the Community through Embedded Arts Journalists, a collaboration between Macon Arts Alliance and Mercer University’s Center for Collaborative Journalism. This project is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts and funding provided by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

Art Matters symposium

When: 2-3:30 p.m. June 9

Where: Cox Capitol Theatre, 382 Second St.

Cost: Free, but requires registration


Patterson Hood House Concert

When: 6:30-8:30 p.m. June 9

Where: 619 College St.

Cost: $25 in advance; $35 at the door


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