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Published: 1998/12/15
by Chip Schramm

He’s No Cinderella: The Evolution of Derek Trucks

Every musician, no matter how talented, how original, or how improvisational, has roots. Some artists deny theirs, others take them for granted. It is only a truly educated and aware musician who can both appreciate the origins from where his or her music came and learn from the influences which shape his music in the present time. After talking with Derek Trucks about his music and the influences that have shaped the Derek Trucks Band, one becomes aware of the fine balance of respect and admiration with which he looks upon those who lend influence.

The Derek Trucks Band’s new album “Out of the Madness” both showcases the new sound the band has developed from long jam sessions on the road and adds special musical touches from renowned musicians such as Jimmy Herring, Warren Haynes, and Larry McCray. The band once again called on John Snyder to produce the album. The net result is an album which adds a distinctively live-performance feels to what is a truly unique studio work. The content of the album itself is a mix of traditional blues tunes and original DTB works bearing a distinct eastern influence in the jams. Songs such as Sonny Boy Williamson’s “Good Morning Little Schoolgirl,” and Eddie “Son” House Jr.‘s “Death Letter Blues” are complimented well by “Pleasant Gardens” and “Deltaraga.” The overall effect is satisfaction for both lovers and creators of live music. I had just missed Derek in Chattanooga where the band was going to play a gig, but were mistakenly booked on the same night as Cinderella.

The following are excerpts from a phone interview with Derek while the band’s bus was rolling down the highway on the way to their gig in Ann Arbor, MI.

C: I was looking forward to seeing you play in Chattanooga and having a face-to-face there.

D: No luck there.

C: Too bad about Cinderella, nothing like 80’s glam-rock, huh?

D: (laughs) Yeah, I would’ve gone to see that show

C: You have the hair to be on stage with them, but I think that’s where the similarities end

D: I certainly hope so

C: How’s the road life treating you right now?

D: It’s long as always, but good. We played Lexington last night and it went really well.

C: So, you have a new album out. It’s hot stuff, it hasn’t left my stereo in a while.

D: Yeah, we were really excited to get it out. We were very excited to work with Warren Haynes, Jimmy Herring, Larry McCray and everyone else. It came off really well, we’re very excited.

C: The first thing that hits me is that the music starts the instant you hit “play.” There’s no intro or lead in or anything like that. It seems like you know what you wanted and just got down to business.

D: We were looking forward to finally getting it out. Jimmy Herring had been on the road with us for a few months, so he came down to the studio and just tore it up. He definitely created some moments in the studio. Working with Warren was also like a shot in the arm for everybody.

C: I was wondering how you got hooked-up with Matt Tutor so sing on Preachin’ Blues. It seems he plays here in Memphis quite a bit.

D: John Snyder knew him from Nashville. He came down and did a few songs with us. It worked out really well.

C: So what was the recording process like? The album flows very smoothly. Even on the parts when you aren’t soloing, you’re playing underneath Warren or Jimmy, building the bridge to the next place.

D: We went in and kind of wanted to do it as live as possible, so that’s how it came off. We came in and did a first, then a second take. The only overdubs were on vocals, I believe, maybe keyboards here and there. We play so much together we wanted to capture that. We know each other so we didn’t have to work too long in the studio to capture the sound we wanted. We just jumped right in and caught everything.

C: How long did it take you to record it?

D: For just the basic stuff, maybe four of five days. We had Warren overdubbed in New York City so that was one extra day. It was a week in all for the recording.

C: What was the professional give-and- take between you and John Snyder? Did he listen to a lot of your suggestions and things like that?

D: He did our first album as well and he really lets everything just happen. We ran through a lot of songs and he made a few suggestion about which ones he thought would work. We just recorded a lot of material and in the end just choose the ones in which the most musical moments happened in the studio. He’s great to work with. He just lets the music speak for itself and doesn’t try to force things. I know sometimes people get in the studio and the producer wants to produce HIS album and not what the band does.

C: It seems like you are lucky in that respect. I know a lot of bands try to reproduce the same sound they have live, in the studio, and don’t have as much success.

D: It can definitely be a tough thing. It’s really all timing. It could have been different a month later. We were lucky we caught it at the right time as far as everyone was playing and how everybody’s schedules worked like Warren and Jimmy.

C: What about the vocals? Have you thought about adding any vocals to your works in the near future?

D: Definitely, it’s always on our minds. It’s hard to find a natural fit both musically and personality wise as far as stage presence goes.

C: I was thinking about you, actually

D: Oh, me personally? (laughs) I don’t know, it just doesn’t seem to happen for me. No telling, I’m not counting it out yet. It’s a thing where you don’t want to do something below your own standards. I don’t want to sing anything I don’ t want to hear. Until I get it to where I want it, I’m gonna lay off.

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