Derek Trucks on winning Grammy, recording new album with wife Susan Tedeschi: interview

wtatangelo@bradenton.comJanuary 17, 2013 

Derek Trucks wanted wife, Susan Tedeschi, who had received multiple nominations, to finally get her Grammy.

A headliner at the 1994 Sarasota Blues Festival before joining his uncle Butch Trucks in the Allman Brothers Band about five years later, guitar hero Derek recalled setting the Grammy goal when the married couple formed The Tedeschi Trucks Band.

"When we first started putting the band together, I told her we're gonna do a record and you're gonna win your Grammy and not have to worry about it gain," the 33-year-old Trucks said. "You're going to have that monkey off your back and just be able to focus on being in a great band and move forward."

The 11-piece Tedeschi Trucks Band, which features Susan on lead vocals and guitar, released its debut "Revelator" to virtually universal praise and won the Grammy Award for Best Blues Album last February.

But under strange circumstances. The other Grammy nominees in the category included Allman Brothers Band leader Gregg Allman and fellow Allman Brothers guitarist Warren Haynes, who both also happened to release great solo albums in 2011.

"That one was special," Trucks said of the Grammy Award. "I felt really good about the record but being up against Gregg and Warren made it, not awkward, but unique (nervous laugh).

"But Susan had been up, I think, five times before. I definitely felt it would drag on her a bit if we didn't win."

Last May, the Tedeschi Trucks Band issued the dazzling double-disc "Everybody's Talkin,' " one the best live albums released so far this century.

Trucks explained that no overdubs were used, a common practice with "live albums," and that all the tracks were culled from just two shows.

"The most amazing part was going back and listening to the band," he said. "On stage, I'm so hyper critical. But listening in the control room, running through the tunes, it was pretty inspiring hearing the whole band whooping (butt)."

The Tedeschi Trucks Band closes the inaugural Sunshine Blues Festival that has three Florida dates including a Sunday show at Vinoy Park in St. Petersburg.

Then Trucks, Tedeschi and the rest of the band returns to the couple's home studio in Jacksonville to record the proper follow-up to "Revelator."

"We're excited about these shows and getting ready to cut the record," Trucks said. "I'm ready to play. This has been one of the longest breaks without gigging and my personal playing just feels fresher."

Other highlights at the Sunshine Blues Festival are Big Easy piano man master Dr. John (St. Petersburg and Boca Raton only), contemporary guitar legend Walter Trout and Louisiana slide guitar great Sonny Landreth.

Allman Brothers drummer Jaimoe's Jasssz Band, The Wood Brothers, British blues guitarist Matt Schofield, Crescent City party starters Big Sam's Funky Nation, Florida jam band favorite Bobby Lee Rodgers, multiple Blues Music Award-winner Joe Louis Walker and guitarist/singer Sean Chambers, who regularly entertains local blues lovers at Aces live round out the roster.

Although some might make them out to be competitors for greatest slide guitar player alive honors, Trucks has a special appreciation for the music of Landreth, who recently released the brilliantly singular and eclectic instrumental album "Elemental Journey."

"He has such unique thing," Trucks said. "He's someone who forged his own path. No one sounds like Sonny."

Trucks rejoins the Allman Brothers Band on stage in March for the group's annual residency at New York City's Beacon Theatre, one of the most highly anticipated rock 'n' roll events of the year. The guitarist likens the upcoming shows, which will surely again feature a slew of star guests, to The Band's landmark farewell concert that resulted in the famed Martin Scorsese concert film "The Last Waltz."

"There's a real sense with the band's 45th anniversary a year away, we almost feel like the 'Last Waltz' coming, there's really a sense of making it count," Trucks said. "The last few conversations with Gregg, Butch and Jaimoe have revealed a renewed vigor. It's so fun to see guys at it that long with something to prove."

The anniversary topic leads to the sticky issue of Allman Brothers Band founding guitarist Dickey Betts.

The Sarasota County resident wrote, plays and sings lead on classic Allman Brothers recordings like "Ramblin' Man" and "Blue Sky. He's also the architect of the Allman Brothers' monumental rock instrumentals "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed" and "Jessica."

Gregg, Butch and Jaimoe fired Betts from the band more than a decade ago.

Derek and Dickey shared guitar duties in the Allman Brothers Band from 1999 to 2000.

Trucks confirmed a rumor this reporter has heard before that during the Allman Brothers' 2009 Beacon Run, which served as a 40th anniversary and tribute to original leader Duane Allman, Derek's hero, that Betts declined an offer to join his former band mates on stage.

"Personally, absolutely whatever problems they have are not my personal problems," Trucks said about Betts playing with the Allman Brothers. "The band reached out to him for the tribute to Duane on the 40th anniversary and a lot has gone on. But I feel for it to go out right, it's a natural thing to do, with everybody in the right spirit."

Trucks added, again with a nervous laugh, that Betts has his "vote, but I don't know if it counts."

Details: Sunshine Blues Festival, 11 a.m. Jan. 20, Vinoy Park, 501 Fifth Ave. NE, St. Petersburg. Tickets: $49.50. Information: 1-800-745-3000 or www.livenation.com.

Wade Tatangelo, features writer/columnist, can be reached at 941-745-7057.

Follow Twitter.com/wtatangelo.

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