Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks are married both to each other and their musical careers. She with a busy solo schedule, and he with full-time gigs fronting the Derek Trucks Band, playing guitar with the Allman Brothers Band [Derek's uncle is founding member Butch Trucks], and minor side-jobs with the likes of, oh, some guy named Clapton.
So in a bid for a bit more harmony professionally and personally - and so their two children could see them at the same time - they put together the 11-member Tedeschi Trucks Band. Their debut CD, Revelator, is a tasty gumbo of rock, blues, world/Eastern music, and torchy ballads.
Tedeschi spoke with Rocks Off about the band's formation, taking the kids on the road, and how--even while loaded--Buddy Guy can still rip up a stage.
Rocks Off: So, is your husband in competition with Warren Haynes to see who can be in the most bands at once?
Susan Tedeschi: (laughs) No, trust me he doesn't want to be! He told me "That's it, I'm just doing our band and the Allman Brothers!" I mean, not many people quit Clapton! I was like "Honey, can I have the gig?"
RO: Is this band sort of an extension of what you did previously, playing combined ad hoc tours together with your own bands as Soul Stew Revival?
ST: Sort of, but really, it's completely new. This band has its own chemistry and started as a new entity. We wrote as a whole for this project. Soul Stew was like "Hey, let's hop on a bus and put some guys together." And we have Kofi [keyboards/flute] and Oteil [bass] Burbridge together, and that's another level. It's like playing on an Olympic team. Soul Stew was more lazy.
RO: I understand you spent a long time writing and trying out musicians.
ST: It was really "Let's write the tunes, then find the core band." Whoever was going to tour with us needed to be on the record. And that took about a year. But recording was only a month. Once we had the perfect chemistry, we knew it. But it was crazy to make an 11 piece band because times are hard, but we figured "Let's employ some people!" (laughs). And it's something else to be with a band from day one, to get that kind of camaraderie.
RO: You and Derek sometimes bring your son and daughter on the road. Are they in awe of what mommy and daddy do for a living, or do they think it's pretty normal?
ST: I don't really know! I think there's aside of them that's excited, and one that they expect it kind of. But then there's the side with Sophia, she wants to get dressed up and sing and she wants to know when she can join the band. And she's seven! And our son loves to sell merch out front. He'll ring people up, take credit cards.
RO: Derek's dad, your father-in-law, runs the merch booth. Does it give them time for a little grandfather/grandson bonding?
ST: Exactly! Chris will ask me to take our son Charlie out of school to work on tour. Between the two of them, they have a system, and it's pretty cute. And it brings them together.
RO: Between Kofi and Oteil, which brother is more likely to get on the other's nerves?
ST: You know, they don't do that! They really don't. If anything, they hug and laugh a lot. Maybe Oteil will get on Kofi's nerves, but he'd never say it. Oteil will be like "Man, I hope I get upgraded so I can give my seat to Kofi." And Kofi will say "I found this thing I think Oteil will really like." They love each other to no end. Oteil looks up to Kofi, his big brother.
RO: What is the set list like? Do you perform solo material in addition to your band tracks?
ST: We're not doing anything from solo projects. It's all original stuff for this band and some covers. Things like [the Lovin' Spoonful's] "Darling Be Home Soon," and [Harry Nilsson's] "Everybody's Talkin'" and [Stevie Wonder's] "Uptight." Some Sly Stone stuff. And we do most of the record. I think we've played all the songs except "These Walls." And I love that song. I don't know why we don't do that!
RO: Sounds like a topic for the next band meeting.
ST: Yes! We need to practice it! We've also just done a live record and are putting that together right now. And then we'll be writing for the next studio album.
RO: What makes a good live version of song when you've already got the studio version?
ST: Energy, and a difference in the arrangement. Or, Derek will just say we had a good vibe that night. Just finding something that stands out. And something that might stretch out and be crazy, with more solos and improv.
RO: The first time I saw you live here in late '90s, you played the Arena Theatre here with B.B. King, and I think, Gatemouth Brown...
ST: No, it was Buddy Guy. And Dr. John! I remember that, it was 1998, and I remember that specific show. It was a highlight because I never knew that there was a rotating stage in Houston. I was thinking how cool it was, and at the time B.B. had a guitar player who was from Houston who has since passed.
There's so much history that comes out of Houston, so it meant a lot to me. It just had a really...strong memory for me. I think Buddy was as little, uh, tipsy that night, he was drinking cognac, but he still put on a good show. And the crowd was supportive of the blues. It just felt like a good show. I remember dong some radio interviews, and they were supportive.
RO: Do you have a favorite Texas blues performer?
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ST: Well, I would say T-Bone Walker is my first huge person I fell in love with from Texas. He and Jimmie Vaughan. And Janis Joplin, I got into her when I was about 10. Is Big Mama Thornton from there? [note: Thornton lived in Houston for a period during the '50s while recording for the Peacock label]. T-Bone just had this elegant style, and was a real entertainer. I always loved that. I totally rip off his licks. And of course, Etta James.
RO: She's had some serious health problems, and just got released from the hospital a couple of days ago.
ST: I know, I've been praying for her. I got a text last week that said "Etta died." And that was a rumor, but she was near death. So I started praying really hard and calling my friends to do the same. We need Etta around!
The Tedeschi Trucks Band plays Jan. 20, 8 p.m., at the Verizon Theatre, 520 Texas Ave. The BoDeans open.