A Conversation With Tedeschi Trucks Band

Since the mid-’90s, Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks have both had successful music careers, she as an acclaimed singer/songwriter and he as an electrifying guitar player with his group and the Allman Brothers Band, among others. The two met on tour in 1999, married a couple of years later and had two children, but their hectic solo schedules often kept them apart. To rectify the situation, they formed the Tedeschi Trucks Band, an 11-member ensemble that recently released debut album Revelator (Sony Masterworks), which was recorded at the duo’s home studio. Knowing how much they like to do things together, we asked Tedeschi and Trucks to guest edit all week. We recently caught up with the two of them via email.

MAGNET: What is the biggest challenge of being in a band with your spouse? Does the good always outweigh the bad?
Susan: The biggest challenges of being in a band with my husband are being on time, playing my best every night and being a positive and creative bandmate. The good always outweighs the bad. Being apart is much more difficult and stressful than being together. I don’t miss being on the cellphone all day. I appreciate Derek more being with him each day and being able to create music with him. The bad part is being apart from our kids when they are in school.

Is this group what you will be concentrating on for the long term? Will either or both of you do a solo record anytime soon?
Derek: Right now, we’re just focused on this band. We didn’t want it to feel like a side project at all so it gets all of our attention and energy. There’s no real talk of solo records at the moment. After spending about a year putting the band together and many months in the studio recording Revelator and now many more months out on the road, we’re only looking forward to seeing how this band grows in the long term.

You have 11 people in your band. Logistically, that seems like it would be a lot of work. How do you fit everything you need to do into everyone’s schedules?
Derek: It is a challenge but everyone in the band is fully committed to the project. We do have a few other gigs on the side that occasionally need our attention: Oteil and I with the Allman Brothers, Susan’s done a tour with Experience Hendrix recently, Mike Mattison has his own band Scrapomatic and so on. We make it work when we need to, but everyone in this band keeps TTB at the top of their list, so it hasn’t been an issue this year.

How did you choose who you wanted to be part of the group?
Susan: We chose carefully and patiently. First, we thought, “Who are our favorite musicians and people we would want to work with?” Creating music together, traveling together, eating and living together—everyone has a special connection to each other. It is similar to being in a marriage with these 10 other musicians and five crew members. So every person is very important to the entire project. It started organically in the studio with Derek and I and the Burbridge Brothers (Kofi and Oteil) along with Tyler Greenwell (the Falcon). That was the beginning of the band. Our next major step was our introduction to JJ Johnson. Once the instant connection between JJ and Falcon took place, it became more and more evident what was needed and who fit naturally with this core group. Mike Mattison is an amazing talent, an outstanding vocalist and songwriter; he was an obvious choice to work with for both of us. Next was the process of finding someone who could fit well with Mike. We had an opportunity to work with three amazing singers. We found the match between Mark Rivers’ voice with Mikeʼs to be heavenly and his personality sweet and down to earth. Our final section was the horns. Derek, Kofi and Oteil and I all wanted to work with Kebbi Williams on tenor sax. We met Maurice Brown (trumpet) and Saunders Sermons (trombone) through some mutual friends and loved their playing and energy.

What were the songwriting and collaborating processes like for the album? Did you know what direction you wanted to take the songs in, or did that just happen naturally?
Susan: The songwriting collaborations were organic and very fun. Almost all the songs were written in our studio. We first wrote together with our core band. Playing grooves and sharing ideas and developing them together was our first step. Next we recorded our ideas and made some demos. Then we had some songwriters down one by one to write with Derek and me. Three is a great number to write with. First, we wrote with Gary Louris, then John Leventhall, then Eric Krasno, Oliver Wood, David Ryan Harris, Jeff Trott and some others. Each experience was the three of us in a room with guitars and piano and some ideas. The process was organic with no strict rules, only ideas on positive subjects with good grooves.

You wrote 30 songs and ended up using 11. What will become of the others?
Susan: The other songs will hopefully be recorded someday for future records. Some we perform live. They won’t go to waste.

Did working together take either or both of you out of your typical “comfort zone”?
Derek: Not really. When you’re recording in your home studio, you tend to be pretty comfortable. We had the time to spend to make the album the way we wanted it, instead of just going into a studio for a week or two and knocking it out. But the big thing for me was to make sure this album really captured the range and power of Susan’s vocals, so in that sense it was a change from the way I’d made albums in the past.

When did you set up your home studio? How much other recording have you each done there?
Derek: We built the studio before my last studio album with the Derek Trucks Band, Already Free. Basically my brother David built it, and our engineer Bobby Tis stocked it with gear. Susan also used it on her last solo album, Back To The River. It’s a wonderful thing to have unlimited studio time.

Why did you choose Jim Scott to co-produce the album? What did he bring to it that you were looking for?
Susan: We chose Jim Scott after hearing about him through Tyler Greenwell’s experience working with him on the Wood Brothers album, which we love! Also JJ Johnson worked with him and loved him as well. Once we met Jim, it was love at first meeting. Derek and I both really liked what he had to say about our demos, and we knew he had killer ears and an amazing resume to boot. It just seemed an obvious choice. He is a sweetheart, and I hope to make many more records with him. It was the best experience I have ever had in a studio.

Derek, what’s currently going on with the Allman Brothers Band?
Derek: Warren, Gregg and I have all been touring pretty steadily this year with our solo projects. We all have new albums out that need support. But we did get together for the [Tune In To Hep C Benefit Concert] at the Beacon last month, along with David Crosby, Graham Nash, Natalie Cole, Phil Lesh and Billy Gibbons, which was a treat. Any time we can get that group together, it’s always a good time.

What do the two of you have planned for the rest of the year?
Susan: I plan on touring, practicing, writing and working on our New Year’s Eve set for the Warfield in San Francisco. I also plan on spending as much time possible with my kids and my husband.

Both of your last solo albums were nominated for a Grammy in the best-contemporary-blues-album category for 2009, but Derek’s won. Susan, do you ever think of “borrowing” his statue?
Susan: Funny question, but I like the Bob Dylan quote “Professionals steal, and amateurs borrow,” and since I consider myself a professional, I will steal it. Ha ha.

—Eric T. Miller

“Bound For Glory” (download):