IN 2010, the husband-wife team of guitar prodigy Derek Trucks and acclaimed singer-songwriter Susan Tedeschi were finally ready to join musical forces. Today, Tedeschi Trucks Band is a cross-genre favorite, an entourage of 11 talented musicians filling the stage to craft the duo's blend of hard-driving blues rock. Together, Trucks and Tedeschi have two albums, two children, and a lifetime of music left to make.
Trucks, who spent 15 years playing guitar for The Allman Brothers, is now down to one musical project for the first time in ages since the band’s heralded final performance in October 2014 at The Beacon Theatre.
We spoke with Derek about honing in, rocking out, and getting music recommendations from his kids.
Welcome back to Savannah!
Derek Trucks: We're excited! It's almost a hometown gig; we did our first show as a band there.
Y'all have some family up here, too, right?
Derek: Yeah, my little sister just moved up there and opened up a smoke shop on Abercorn [Sans Souci Smoke Shop]. We're going to do a little meet-and-greet day of the show, check her spot out. It's nice, I really like having family in Savannah.
You're down to one band now. What was the Allman Brothers farewell like?
Derek: It was great! The last weekend, those two or three shows were pretty amazing. Everybody really focused in like it was the last show. I was really hoping that the spirit was right, and it was. The last show was probably four hours plus of music, and the crowd could feel it, the band could feel it. It felt appropriate. There's an amazing history that band has, and I wanted to see it go out properly; I didn't want to be there when it just limped across the finish line. It felt dignified—there was some magic about it.
So how's it been, being able to hone in on one project?
Derek: You know, it's the first time [I've had one band] since I was 18 years old! For quite a while, it was two or three, and I always loved it. There were always things to learn and a lot of hats to wear.
But at a certain point it’s feeling like...you have to switch gears, dynamically, personally...the politics of the groups are different—I had to change my head space. So it was nice to get some momentum going. You don’t have to put it down, just keep going, and keep working.
We’re in the process of making a record, and this time is the first time I’m part of an album and I don’t have to shift focus. If you need to step away, great, but you don’t fully disengage. It’s a new experience. I guess in a few years I’ll be able to look back and see if it turned out musically better or not, but it’s feeling a lot musically better!
Are you working in your home studio again?
Derek: Yep, every Tedeschi Trucks record's been done here, and I did the last record with my solo band here.
What are the benefits of working in a home studio?
Derek: In the beginning, it was really an excuse to not leave home as much and get to be around my kids. When I was pulling two, three bands, it was really hard to carve our two weeks to go into a studio and not feel like a shitty dad. At home, I don't mind working until four in the morning; at least I get to see my kids.
Had you engineered before?
Derek: Well, it turned out that Bobby Tis—he's an engineer who was my guitar tech at the time—his dad was a part of Electric Lady, Hendrix's studio. So he helped us build the studio, and we have people inside the camp who know their way around the studio. It became an obsession and a wormhole to go down! Now we have a pretty strong handle on how to make a good-sounding record.
Every record gets a little better. This band was formed in that studio, and this band feels really comfortable. A lot of groups, you only feel good live. You hit the studio, and it just doesn’t feel right at all. This band is a different avenue to explore, and everybody appreciates that.
Do you track live?
Derek: For the most part. We don't use a lot of studio tricks; there's no auto-tune, there's no click tracks. You'll go back and add horns and background vocals. Sometimes solos are done live on the floor, and sometimes you go back and craft a solo.
Making a studio record, you’re doing things you couldn’t do live. Those great Jimi Hendrix and Beatles records, some of those albums that really hold up on multiple listens—some great Stevie Wonder albums—you realize it’s a different art form. We know this band can get out and play live and make things happen.
A lot of people wear it like a badge: ‘Everything was done in one take!’ We’re not afraid to get in there and put on the miner’s cap and go at it.
What’s it like corralling 11 band members?
Derek: It's crazy! When me and Susan had the idea that we wanted to put the band together, we really wanted to make that the thing: lay everything else aside and focus on it. When I told my manager and everybody involved that we wanted this huge band, they said, 'You're out of your fuckin' mind! 11 people?!'
It wasn’t long after the economy collapsed, and they’re like, ‘How do you think that’s possible?’
I said, ‘I’m not really concerned!’
We were at the point that, if we were ever going to try something like that, now was the time. If we waited too long, we wouldn’t be that stupid! It was kind of a now-or-never thing.
It’s a really amazing thing to roll into a venue with a band that powerful and people take notice; whether it’s people working the venue that see bands every night, or promoters, they can feel that it’s a labor of love. You’re doing it because you want to, not because you have to.
Are the kids coming with you on tour this summer?
Derek: For most of it. As soon as they're out of school they'll be on the bus. They know their way around the bus, and they really love being out with the guys in the band; they've grown up around them.
How old are they now?
Derek: 13 and 10!
Are either of them playing?
Derek: Well, my son is playing on two baseball teams, so his schedule is pretty full! My daughter is into everything at all times, so it wouldn't surprise me if she did.
They have good taste in music—at least around me, they do. I don’t know if they’re doing for me!
We did a small, three, four day family vacation, and when were in the rental car, they had their phones plugged in and it was Sly Stone, The Beatles...they’ve even been on a David Bowie kick! They’re actually introducing me to things I missed along the way; I appreciate that.
I know my daughter listens to some current music that I think is terrible, but she knows enough not to play that around me. I told them, ‘I’m not going to tell you what to listen to; I will tell you what I won’t buy for you. The rest is up to you!’