Savannah Music Festival: Tedeschi Trucks Band

'Susan's the only irreplaceable person in the band'

It was just three years ago that Allman Brothers Band guitarist Derek Trucks dissolved his other project, the Derek Trucks Band, and announced the formation of an 11-member aggregate spotlighting him and his wife, rock/blues vocalist Susan Tedeschi.

The Tedeschi Trucks Band debuted at the 2010 Savannah Music Festival.

According to Trucks, the new band "has really turned into a thing. It's what we hoped would happen, and it's actually happened a little quicker than we had hoped, as far as the band fully gelling. It's a lot of people onstage, and when it's working, it's a sight."

With a three-man horn section, two drummers, two harmony vocalists and two of blues rock 'n' roll's most formidable musicians in the forefront, the Tedeschi Trucks Band "has exceeded my expectations," Trucks reports. "Musically, it's chugging along, so that's been fun."

Although he's still part of the onstage Allman family, Trucks' plug-pulling on his self-titled band didn't go down so well with many of his longtime fans.

."There's an expected backlash when you stop doing anything and change it up," the guitarist says. "I was maybe a little unprepared for some of the vitriol, but we live in the Internet age where people hide behind computers. There's a group of hardcores that, if you're not doing the same thing over and over, they're mad at somebody. So it's Susan's fault that I'm doing this, or whatever.

"But I realized early on that I just don't give a shit. I don't communicate in that world anyway."

Trucks, who began playing professionally at the age of 9, met Tedeschi on an Allmans tour (her eponymous band was the opening act). They married in 2001, and live in Jacksonville, Fla. (Trucks' hometown) with their two children.

Revelator, the first Tedeschi Trucks album, was cut at the family's barn studio (it was later awarded the Grammy for Best Blues Album). Last year saw the release of a colossal live document, Everybody's Talkin,' and an all-new set — also recorded at home — should be out in August.

Like so many musicians who feed off constant live performance, Trucks sometimes can't tell whether the house or "the road" is home.

"I think that's what drives a lot of musicians insane, when you can't tell which one you're more comfortable in," he laughs. "I'm pretty happy anywhere I fall. When you're home, the day before you have to leave for the road, you're like 'Shit. I'm not really ready to go.' But once you get on the road you're like 'All right. Great! This is fun.'

"It's two good lives that we get to lead. There's a freedom in being on the road, hanging with some of your favorite people on earth, playing music for a living. It gets tiring; all that comes with it. But the upside, in my mind, is infinitely greater than the downside.

"And when I'm home, I'm perfectly content. I guess having the studio there, and the fact that we're always working and doing something musically, makes me not get the itch to hit the road immediately. Having the studio there, I feel like it's the best of both worlds. But you can't replace being on the road and playing music for people."

Tedeschi Trucks bassist Oteil Burbage left the band last year, explaining that he and his new wife want to start a family.

"I've known Oteil a long time, and he's obviously a total badass," says Trucks. "but when you're conflicted about being on the road, and you're pulled in different directions, it's hard to be fully in something. And my thought process always is: It's either a hundred percent, or out. I can't deal with being in multiple places; you either have to do it or you don't.

"With a band like this, there's a lot of moving parts, so nothing's gonna stop the ship. I think Susan's really the only irreplaceable person in the band! You could find another guitar player if you had to."

Since Burbage's departure, the band has worked with a revolving cast of bassists, including the Meters' George Porter Jr., and Bakhiti Kamalo, who's best known for his innovative playing on Paul Simon's Graceland project.

Mr. and Mrs. Trucks haven't yet decided who'll be filling Oteil's shoes on a permanent basis.

"I told the band: Let's just pretend we've been in a relationship for a while, and now we're going to date a bunch of hot bass players," Trucks says. "We're not gonna settle down for a bit."



Savannah Music Festival: Johnny Mercer Theatre, April 4.

About The Author

Bill DeYoung

Bill DeYoung was Connect's Arts & Entertainment Editor from May 2009 to August 2014.
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