During the video of the band performing their song “Everybody’s Talkin’”, there’s a furious three minutes where the gradually insistent rhythm radiating from Derek Trucks’ guitar visibly gets the other 11 band members moving. Susan Tedeschi takes a step back and gives the stage to her husband — named by Rolling Stone as one of the greatest guitar players of all time. Zen with focus, he runs with it.
Tedeschi Trucks Band is straight up one of the best live performances to see. The band is composed of some the most experienced and skilled musicians in the industry, many of whom have flown under the radar for anyone other than devoted enthusiasts. Playing tracks from their new album, “Let Me Get By,” which is set for release late January, the band will play The Bell on January 19.
Heading the band are two seasoned artists — Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks. The couple have been married since 2001 and live in the Jacksonville area with their two children. It was at their home studio they met with the other band members to record the new album.
“It’s the first record that we’ve done with this band all in-house, self-produced it, engineered and mixed it ourselves,” Derek Trucks said about the new album. “We feel it’s a natural step; much more representative of what the band is and what the band does live on the road.”
The core of the band has been together for five years or so. Bass player Tim Lefebvre is the newest member. The band also added a 12th member, Alecia Chakour, to sing backup alongside Mike Rivers and Mark Mattison. The years of playing live shows together have helped the band come together in a more fluid and natural way.
Trucks said the band was hitting its stride.
“No doubt about it. All the everything you do together; all the gigs, all the shared life experiences, they make a big difference,” he explained. “I noticed that really when we got together to start writing tunes, it seemed to be pretty easy — everybody had stories to tell, everybody had these cool ideas and you could genuinely tell the band had taken a step forward. Yeah, we’re in a good spot.”
Working toward the goal of a successful band is something both Tedeschi and Trucks can build upon using their ample life experiences in the industry. Derek Trucks began playing at the age of nine and toured with the Allman Brothers when he was 12. It’s hard to visualize such a young person playing with the famous musicians, but evidence exists on YouTube where there’s a nine-minute video of Trucks at age 13 playing a 7-minute “Layla” solo/jam session with the Allman Brothers live. It’s an incredible performance. Even as a kid his talent was undeniable and astounding.
Trucks describes his teen years as crucial to his success and growth as a musician.
“I worked my ass off with the Allman Brothers for 15 years, on the road from nine years old — you do everything you can to keep it together,” he said. “You’re playing for 30, 40, 50 people, and if you’re lucky some nights there might be 100 people in the house. You just keep doing it. There was a good five- or six-year period where we were doing 300 shows a year, that’s what it takes to keep a band together — you grind it out. And I wouldn’t trade those years for anything; that’s when you learn how to play and when you make your mistakes. That’s when it all kinda comes together for you.”
It all came together for Trucks — a fluid slide guitarist — when he worked with Eric Clapton on the 2006 studio collaboration, “The Road to Escondido.” In the year that followed, Trucks played with three different bands in 17 countries. Trucks then toured for a year with Eric Clapton as part of his band, which he said was “quite an experience.”
Susan has also worked with many of her idols, and within the first few notes she sings it is obvious why. Her voice recalls the same full, gravelly quality as Bonnie Raitt and Janis Joplin. It’s smooth and breathless with a forcefulness that is unexpected and doesn’t quite match its owner; the catch and the range give the impression she’s a breath away from it breaking completely.
“It’s pretty intense. I remember the first time seeing her perform,” said Trucks. “It knocks you back a bit, because you’re not expecting that sound to come out of her.”
The comparison to Bonnie Raitt is funny, said Trucks, because the two have met and developed a bond that makes him think they are “kindred spirits.”
And for artists like Tedeschi and Trucks, meeting your idol doesn’t always turn out as you hope.
“It’s a small world out here in the touring world,” Trucks said. “You run into most of your heroes at some point. Sometimes you wish you hadn’t, but then sometimes you get to see people like Bonnie, or Willie, or B.B. There’s times when it’s better after you meet them, because you find they are even better people than you imagined.”
In the years since she sang in her first band at the age of 13, Susan has had great success as a rock and blues singer and guitarist in her own right, earning several Grammy nominations and winning a Grammy with Tedeschi Trucks. After recording a few critically-acclaimed albums, Susan began opening for many big acts including The Rolling Stones, B.B. King, Bob Dylan, Buddy Guy and The Allman Brothers. It was while opening for The Allman Brothers that Tedeschi and Trucks first met.
“We’re very appreciative of the fact we get to do what we do and have a band like this and the fact that it’s working creatively. But it’s a bit surreal — when you think back over the last five, 10 years, all the things we’ve been able to do, whether it’s the tours with Clapton or the tours with B.B. King a lot of them heroes and lot of them aren’t here anymore.”
As a couple, Tedeschi and Trucks have enjoyed some truly surreal moments, such as performing with Warren Hayes for President and Mrs. Obama at the White House. And having a chat with B.B. King while playing in front of a massive crowd at the Hollywood Bowl.
“Yeah, there are certainly moments — that being one of them — when you’re sitting on stage with B.B. King and you’re having a musical conversation and a speaking conversation with him on stage, he was being so sweet and complimentary,” Trucks laughed recalling the gig. “That was one of those moments where I was thinking ‘I’ll be telling my grandkids about this one!’”
The band has gained from having a vast catalogue of musical experiences to draw from. It’s helped Tedeschi and Trucks manage the band’s growth, direction and strength.
“Fifteen years with the Allman Brothers… I mean, those are things that when I first started playing seemed way beyond the realm of possibility, so you look back on a lot of those things and it definitely informs the way you move forward. You learn from being on the road with people like that. You learn what it takes to keep a band together. You learn from people’s mistakes.”
Trucks let out a laugh and then went on, “You learn to navigate through that stuff so that when you are putting everything you’ve got into your own thing, and trying to create something from the ground up you have something to go on. I definitely remember the earlier years being much more trial and error and in some ways it’s like feeling your way through the dark. Whereas with this band, I feel we have a better handle on it.”
The band thrives on challenging itself and pushing boundaries and “Let Me Get By” is filled with vibrant tunes spanning soulful blues, high-energy rhythm and blues, and hard-hitting rock. Everyone has their moment as they effortlessly blend guitars, percussion and brass with several vocal harmonies into a seamless.
The type of music is almost irrelevant, Trucks said. Just as the musicians in the band are diverse, so are their musical tastes, backgrounds and perspective. The album allowed them to combine all their strengths and ignore the confines of a conventional rock, or R&B, or soul album format.
“To me, that’s the beauty of music. It really crosses almost all barriers — it doesn’t matter where you are. If you hear something and it moves you, it just moves you. You don’t consider the background or what it’s coming from,” Trucks said. “I know the world’s always a crazy, messed up place, but especially now when everybody’s kinda at each other’s throats; everyone’s looking for reasons to be pissed off at people. I find that music sometimes melts those barriers. When you start writing off whole cultures it erases a lot beautiful shit there, too, so let’s all calm down and get along.”
When the band is touring, said Trucks, they are tapping into one another, learning about new artists and sharing ideas.
“It gets busy, you know. But a lot of times you get turned onto what you hear on the tour bus. Somebody’s DJing on the bus and playing us music, and a lot of times that’s where I get to hear someone else or a band I wasn’t hip to. A lot of unique music comes to you that way.”
Trucks names classical Indian and traditional Pakistani music as some of his biggest influences, which he says is likely evident in his style, but probably unexpected by his fans.
“Yeah, you’re constantly listening, constantly trying to find things that move you, and sometimes it’s something that’s right down the middle and obvious, and other times it’s the Bulgarian’s Women’s Choir.”
Equally unconventional are the band’s live shows which can launch into a whirlwind of improv and spontaneous jam sessions, the format often changing to reflect the collective vibe. Trucks said the show in Augusta will be a lot of fun, and not at all predictable.
“The beauty of a band like this where everybody on stage is really good at what they do, and they kinda need that creative challenge from night to night; that keeps me on my toes trying to feed the beast, making sure everyone is inspired and enjoying making music.”
The band members manage an often grueling schedule, but Trucks said it’s hardly as stressful as other lifestyles.
“It’s a crazy life. It’s busy and there’s a lot going on, but we feel incredibly fortunate to do what we do. Even on a bad day,” he said. “You know, it could be much worse. I grew up down here in Jacksonville and my dad was a roofer. We used work — me and my brother would work with him — and roofing in 100 degree temperatures? That’s a shitty gig. We have a bad show? Things could be a lot worse.”
Tedeschi Trucks Band w/ Railroad Earth
The Bell Auditorium