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Published: 1999/07/15
by Dean Budnick

Derek Trucks, Guitar Jedi

DB: You mentioned songwriting, what are your influences there?

DT: It’s so varied, it really depends on the day. Sometimes I’ll just hear something in my head and pick up an instrument and try to find it. That’s usually the way it works and then if you have enough discipline you’ll finish the song. Of course sometimes I’ll find myself with thirty beginning and no ends (laughs). But every once in a while I’ll get a handle on it.

DB: Returning to your group, why don’t you introduce your band members for those people who haven’t had a chance to hear you yet.

DT: Bill McKay is on organ and vocals. He really brings the other voice, he’s the other soloist in the group. I need to get together with him and do some more writing soon. Todd Smallie is on bass and Yonrico Scott on drums- the three of us have been together for five or six years. We played trio for a while. Those two are locked at the hip. Todd plays a six string bass, and Rico is a madman. He’s an amazing player and in fact he’s the one who’s responsible for them going out as a trio. They’re going out under his name, and he’s doing all the work and making it happen. I’m happy to see him busting his ass to do it because it’s not an easy thing to put a tour together on short notice. I’m glad he took the initiative to get that done because I think it’s going to strengthen us in the long run.

DB: Of course, along with our own group, you’ve also been rather busy playing with a number of musicians. I just received the new Jazz Is Dead album where you appear. What was it like playing with that band?

DT: I love being around Jimmy [Herring] and Jeff [Sipe] any chance I get. So when I heard they were playing together in jazz Is Dead I wanted to get a plane ticket out west just to hang out. Once I was out there I got talked into playing which I was really happy to do. And Vassar [Clemens] was there. I spent a lot of time just hanging with him, he’s a trip. He’s a great person. But I’ll tell you, any time I have the chance to play with Sipe and Jimmy Herring I’ll just jump at it.

DB: How well did you know that music going in [on the new Jazz is Dead album, the band performs the Grateful Dead’s Wake of the Flood]?

DT: Not at all.

DB: How do you approach that type of situation?

DT: I love getting up on stage and not knowing what to do. I enjoy it. You’re really challenged to lay out when you don’t what’s happening. I think it brings a very fresh approach to tunes when you don’t know them, if you’re not the one who has to carry the tune. I was just there to color it a little bit, so I was able to do it. We went over the songs at sound check and Jimmy played them for me in the dressing room before the show, so it came off really well. We had two nights of it.

DB: You mention that you enjoy playing with Jimmy- you’ve had some pretty intense opportunities to do just that with Frogwings. Tell us a little more about your involvement with that band.

DT: Butch spearheaded that. The two of us had really wanted to do something together. When we first started I told him about Oteil [Burbridge current ABB bass virtuoso] and I think that was his introduction to Oteil. I think he had known Jimmy a little bit [editor’s note- the two had played together during the 1994 HORDE tour]. At first, I saw Frogwings as an opportunity to be on the road with Oteil and Jimmy and just learn from them because those are two musicians I hold in the highest regard. Especially when we first got together I would get them in a room and just take notes. I am still going over the notes today. Those guys are encyclopedias of music. The same with Marc and Kofi. And when Popper came along that added a spark as well. I’m curious to see what the next few tours do with that. There’s definitely plenty of potential.

DB: What are your plans for the fall?

DT: I’m going to hit the road hard with my group, and hopefully head into the studio soon after. We have a few people in mind that we want to get on the album, a few older jazz guys and of course Jimmy and Oteil and any of these guys [the members of the ABB] that would get on. I think one of the benefits of going into the studio is it’s a good way to get a chance to bring some people in you don’t have chance to play with on the road. It’s also a great opportunity to play with your musical idols. I’m really interested to see what happens. When I come off the road with the Allman Brothers Band I bet the intensity and urgency is going to be way up with our guys. I’m real excited. There’s lot going on and it’s all looking up.

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