Monday, December 9, 2013
The last time Tedeschi Trucks Band played in Portland was on August 19, 2011. It was an outdoor affair at the Ocean Gateway Terminal. Thousands of us gathered, thankful that the rain had drifted back into the clouds. The 11-member band led by guitarist Derek Trucks and singer Susan Tedeschi, a married couple, were touring in support of their debut record “Revelator.” Both Trucks and Tedeschi had huge followings for his Derek Trucks Band work and her several solo records. The Portland show shined with soulful blues played to the hilt by an ensemble cast of dazzling musicians. Simply put, it was awesome.
Six months later Tedeschi Trucks Band won a Grammy in February for “Revelator.” They took home the prize for best Blues Album of the Year. Not too shabby. They also put the finishing touches on the double-live album “Everybody’s Talkin,” released on May 22.
Let’s not forget that Derek Trucks, 33, is also a guitarist for The Allman Brothers Band and has been playing with them since he was a teenager. He and Susan are also parents to two kids; 10-year-old Charles and 8-year-old Sophia.
I considered myself lucky to have scored a phone interview with Trucks from his hotel in Fredericton, NB where he and the band were playing the Harvest Jazz & Blues Festival. This dude is busy. Seriously. But he was more than happy to let me fire off a few questions and I’m pleased as punch to bring you this conversation.
Here we are 14 months after the last time you played in Portland outside on the waterfront. First off, congrats on the Grammy Award and congrats on the spectacular live album. First let me ask you about The Allman Brothers Band. What’s the latest?
The Beacon will be the next round of shows (Beacon Theatre in NYC) in March. I think there’s a kind of renewed energy with the last little run we did. I think everyone started toward the end of it was getting back to full power. There’s a lot of health issues and a lot of things going on. I think everyone has an eye on the 45th anniversary, which is 2014. Everybody wants to build to that and make it a big deal and make sure we hit it right. There’s renewed energy for the first time in a while and it’s exciting to be around.
What about a follow-up studio album to “Revelator?” Is that anywhere on the horizon? I mean the live album will certainly tide us over for a while but what’s cooking on the new album front?
We’ve already started heading into the studio with friends and writing and really the rest of the year any break we have is down in the studio doing pre-production for the record. I think the plan is January to cut an album. So hopefully probably late summer or fall, the record would come out if all goes well. We kind of keep the pedal to the floor. We’re an 11-piece band, we gotta be moving.
Speaking of which, now that you’ve been touring with such a large band not to mention the all the crew for a couple of years now, what’s changed? Does it get any easier?
It gets easier in the sense that you know what to expect more. There’s just as many balls in the air that you’re juggling constantly. There’s a lot of schedules and a lot going on. It’s a lot of numbers to crunch. We have a great crew that’s been with us a long time. We’ve grown slowly and we’ve grown together so that’ s been a nice thing. When the momentum of the band starts really starts carrying it musically and otherwise, it’s a good feeling. It makes you feel like all that grind is not in vain. It’s starting to roll. Really every tour the band takes a pretty big step forward. Even for the people that work in the offices, whey they come out to shows it makes everybody feel like all that work is really worth it.
With such a large band is there one guy, or I suppose it could be Susan, who is the practical joker?
Trucks: I think Saunders (Sermons), our trombone player who is also a great singer; I think he’s kind of the court jester. There are a few of them in this band but Saunders probably stays in character the most. He’s always in a good mood and he lightens the mood for sure.
You must have multiple tour busses for such a huge group?
There’s two busses. There’s twenty something people with full band and crew. You can fit about ten on a bus. You get eleven or twelve it gets a little hairy. But it’s good, everybody gets along.
I know there were some hardcore fans of the Derek Trucks Band who were, to say the very least, hesitant and skeptical about the formation of Tedeschi Trucks Band. Have they come around? I mean after all, the band has won a Grammy for the "Revelator" and have released a very well received live album.
Yeah. I think a lot of them have. Anytime you change there’s gonna be a few you lose along the way. That’s part of the growth and I think if you’re gonna be a real artist you have to kind of expect that and you have to weirdly enjoy it. We’re not in this to upset people but you also have to believe in what you believe in and just roll forward and not worry too much about it. The other thing that I always come back to is at the end of the day if you’re making music and you feel good about it and it’s honest and somebody has a problem with that then (expletive) them. It doesn’t have to be your favorite band in the world but it’s a (expletive) good band. I don’t know many that are playing now that can hang with it so there’s no looking back for me.
Do your kids ever hop on the tour bus?
They’re on the bus all summer; they have about a month and a half with us. They love being on the road.
Are either of them playing any instruments?
They both have pretty great taste in music, which is nice, but they’re into what they’re into right now, sports and being kids. We’ll see. If they show that desire they’ll certainly have a head start.
With regard to their taste in music, as parents you owe it to them to steer them away from Justin Beiber as best you can. Did I really just say that?
That’s always been a rule. Aunts and uncles send (expletive) CDs and DVDs of music and I’m like “send it back, Susan.” Not in my house.
There’s a lot that can be said about the live album. The only other cover I’ve ever heard of Harry Nilsson’s “Everybody’s Talkin’ is by The Beautiful South. I’ve always been so fond of that song and am wondering why you chose it?
I think it’s the same reason. It’s a song that gets stuck in your head. Susan knew it from the Harry Nilsson version and it was just kind of an idea that was brought up. We’d maybe try it at sound check and see if it worked and it kind of stuck.
When the CD landed on my desk I wondered just what Tedeschi Trucks Band would do with the song, but you had me fifteen seconds in. It’s so different from the other versions I’ve heard.
We heard this great Bill Withers version too and it’s kind of a hybrid of the Harry Nilsson and the Bill Withers versions so it’s a different take on it for sure.
Have you been playing some new material lately during your shows?
We’ve been trying to break out some of the new tunes we’ve been writing slowly. It’s a tough thing because in this day and age as soon as you play something people have access to it so it’s tough to release a record of new material. You write it and you play it and then it’s not new anymore. Some of it you hold back, some of it you try to road test. We’re constantly trying to throw new tunes in to feed the beast of the band. Everybody plays better with new material so some of it just tunes we’ve always wanted to play like “Isn’t It A Pity,” or “Wah Wah,” a few old George Harrison tunes. We try to do a small Levon Helm tribute and get in a few tunes that he sang. It’s always nice to change it up, that’s for sure.
IF U GO:
WHEN: 8 p.m. on Thursday. September 27
WHERE: The State Theatre, 609 Congress St., Portland
HOW MUCH: $40 to $75
Aimsel Ponti has been obsessed with - and inspired by- music since she listened to Monkees records borrowed from the town library when she was six years old. She's a huge fan of the local music scene and interviews an act every week for "Making Noise" which runs in the Press Herald GO section. You'll also find her out and about absorbing live music like a sponge and roaming around local record shops and flea markets.