Derek Trucks, Guitar Jedi
Derek Trucks is having quite a busy summer. The Allman Brothers Band brought him on board to join them for their 30th anniversary tour. He is also continuing to perform with his own group, the Derek Trucks Band. He second album with that group, Out of The Madness, continues to generate positive reviews. Meanwhile, he is always happy to sit in with other musicians as well (he recently played with Jazz Is Dead at the Winter Island Blues Festival and he appears on their new album) Derek took a few minutes out of his hectic schedule to talk about the many exciting things on his plate. For info on his upcoming shows visit his web site, www.derektrucks.com as well as www.allmanbrothersband.com.
DB: How did you first learn that the Allman Brothers Band wanted you to join them on this tour?
DT: I got a call on the road from Butch [Trucks, ABB drummer, fellow member of Frogwings and Derek’s uncle to boot] and he was just asking what I was doing this summer. I told him that I’d be out there playing music, and he asked me if I wanted to play some with the Allman Brothers Band (laughs).
DB: Otherwise you intended just to tour with your own band?
DT: We had planned on hitting the road hard as always and then going into the studio at the end of the summer. We’ll probably have to push that back a few months, with good reason.
DB: As it is now, you’re coming off the road with the ABB and then jumping into shows with the Derek Trucks Band, right?
DT: Yeah, I think that this leg it’s the next day. I’m sort of keeping the tour going (laughs).
DB: What is that segue going to be like for you?
DT: I’m really excited about it. Bandwise it’s so different. The Allman Brothers Band is so huge, so massive and my group is more streamlined. I’m excited to have the chance to do both and I’m really curious to see what’s going to happen to our band after doing these shows with the Allmans.
DB: Do you think your playing will be altered?
DT: I’m sure. Whenever you play with other musicians and especially with musicians of this caliber, with so much personality in their playing, it’s gonna alter what you do. But I think that usually when you alter your playing it’s for the better.
DB: Do you find it difficult finding your own musical space amidst so many colorful, assertive players?
DT: When you’re soloing you really just have to go for it and make something happen, which is nice because it’s like having a fire lit under you. You have to do it or you’re just going to crumble. Any time you have people like that behind you pushing you I think it makes for a great thing both for the people playing and the people listening. That’s what I like to go and hear, musicians pushing each other.
DB: How about when you aren’t soloing, what are the challenges?
DT: Those are some of my favorite times on stage, playing rhythm behind Greg or Dickey. I’m just trying to hold it down and not get in the way. With a band that has so many people, one of tricks is to try to disappear at times. You’re still playing and adding but you don’t want to be noticed because if all seven members are being noticed at all times that would be ugly (laughs). I’m still ironing out all the kinks. Every time I play a song that we’ve done before I’ll remember how I wanted to change it from the last time.
I’ll tell you, from the first tune it has been a thrill to be able to look over and see Greg on one side and Dickey and Oteil on the other. Then look back and have the monster drum corps, kicking our ass at all times. When I think about it the synchronicity is pretty wild. The chemistry musically has been great. I wasn’t sure at first because you can’t force good chemistry. I knew it would be great to play with them but I didn’t know if it would lock on more than one level. So far it’s been getting better and better.
DB: I read a newspaper review recently which described you as a greenhorn Jedi Knight next to Dickey, your Jedi Master. What are your thoughts on that analogy?
DT: (Laughs) Well I like being called a Jedi Knight, that’s funny. I guess in some sense that’s the case, I’m trying to learn from anyone I can, and definitely being next to him I’m learning a lot. Particularly I’m learning how much you can do with one note, how much you can make one note mean with an electric guitar. Dickey’s the master of that.
DB: Meanwhile, you’re also stepping into a role originated by one of your heroes and influences, Duane Allman. What has that experience been like?
DT: When I was younger I used to listen to Eat A Peach and Fillmore East when I went to bed. I listened to those two albums more than any other music. I had all that stuff ingrained in my head. So now, when it becomes time to take one of the solos that Duane took, it can be a pretty wild thing. There’s a lot of energy before during and after them because that’s what I really keyed in on when I was young. That was the stuff that cut right through me. It can be a pretty powerful moment. That’s one of the times on stage where you definitely lose yourself, you just kind of put yourself aside and let whatever happens happen. The energy coming in and out of those solos is pretty wild for me.
DB: When you step up for one of those solos to what extent does your familiarity with Duane’s past performances influence your playing?
DT: I am not trying to emulate exactly what he was doing. Instead I’m trying to tap into the essence of the fire and the spirit with which he was playing because to me that was what he was all about. He was a very intense player and he was on the edge at all times. He could either fall off and collapse or take the roof off and usually the roof came off. So when it comes time for me to take one of those solos I just try to channel that energy the best I can. I think there are times when subconsciously I play the same notes that he played but we’re all taking from the same well because there are only twelve notes on the guitar neck.
DB: Moving on to other elements of performing with the ABB, what’s it like coming out with the acoustic?
DT: I like it’s been a nice change. I hope to be able do a bit more on the next run, work up a few more acoustic tunes.
DB: Any chance you’ll bring that over to your band?
DT: Yeah, I’ve been thinking about that for a long time, and depending on the places that we play I’d like to bring out the sarod, the Indian classical instrument, and the old National. The Allman Brothers Band has a great p.a. every night so they know it’ll always sound good. A lot of the clubs where we play you just can’t bust out an acoustic.
DB: Let’s talk about your group. What can people expect when they come out to hear the Derek Trucks Band?
DT: We let the music lead us wherever it wants to go. It changes quite often. The covers that we pull out are usually old blues standards from people who moved us and the writing is coming from that end. At lot of it is instrumental stuff because I really enjoy writing instrumental music. Right now its a quartet with organ, guitar, bass and drums. The other guys in the band are amazing, In fact they’re out there now playing trio while I’m out with the Allman Brothers. They have their shit together. I’m glad they decided to do that. When we get back together it should be fresh.