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Published: 2011/06/24
by Brian Robbins

Susan Tedeschi: Mama Revelator

The original notes for my interview with singer/guitarist Susan Tedeschi were pretty much what you’d expect: my questions focused on the nuts and bolts of Revelator, the new album from the Tedeschi Trucks Band.

Revelator finds Tedeschi and her husband, guitarist Derek Trucks heading up a new 11-piece ensemble that melds soul, funk, blues, country, and vibes from around the world into a sweet gumbo. The key word to describing TTB is “family” – the Tedeschi Trucks Band simply feels like a family that’s been playing together for a long, long time.

So, armed with my rough notes and trusty recorder, I waited for someone to call me at the designated time. (Usually in a case like that it’s a PR person who will then patch in the artist.) The time came and went. 5 minutes went by; 10; 15. “Huh,” I thought. “Guess I should shoot someone an e-mail and see what’s up.” Which I was about to do when the phone rang – with a very apologetic Susan Tedeschi on the other end, sounding just a tad breathless.

“I’m so sorry,” she began. “I knew the last interviewer was running way over and I finally had to say, ‘I’ve got to go!’ and now the next person is on hold … I’m really sorry, but could I call you back in 15 minutes? After that, we’ll have a little extra time to talk before I have to go pick up the kids from school.”

I thanked Susan for her concern, assured her that everything was cool, and said I’d be waiting for her call. “Thank you so much,” she said. “Talk to you in 15 minutes.”

After she hung up, I just sat there shaking my head and grinning. Does it get any more real than that? No – no it doesn’t.

And to be offered the extra few minutes before she needed to go pick up 9-year-old Charlie and little sister Sophia (who’s 6) seemed like a great gift.

I looked at my notes. The word “family” was underlined – I must’ve done it while Susan and I were talking.

By the time she called me back, I’d trashed my notes. I knew what I wanted to talk about – the real family.

BR: Susan, do you remember the first time you laid eyes on Derek?

ST: Oh, yeah. (laughs) The first time I actually met Derek was backstage at a show in Atlanta. I was with Sean Costello at the time and Derek would not look at me because I was Sean’s girlfriend. (laughter) He said later, “Well I don’t look at other people’s girlfriends.” And I was like, “Oh, okay …” (laughter)

BR: A true gentleman.

ST: Uh-huh! (laughs) But I remember Derek as very composed. He had this aura about him – very serious, very intense … and very quiet and shy. The next time we met I was opening for the Allman Brothers during their tour in the summer of ’99. Our first show was in New Orleans and I remember being on stage with my band for soundcheck, looking out into the audience … and there were Derek and [bassist] Oteil Burbridge. I said to myself, “What are they doing sitting there? This is the scariest audience I’ve ever had!” (laughter) You know: there are these two amazing musicians sitting there …

But it was great; and Derek and I hit it off – made acquaintances; became friends; started trading music and hanging out before shows – really became good friends that summer. We started dating in August.

BR: Cool. I remember seeing photos of you playing with Derek’s band at Warren Haynes’ Christmas Jam that December. My wife and I had no idea that you and Derek had been dating at that point and I remember us saying, “You know, those two would make a nice couple.” (laughter)

ST: Oh, that’s sweet! (laughs) Well, we were dating – and about a month after Christmas Jam, we bought this house here in Florida together.

BR: Oh, cool.

ST: And then I got pregnant … and then we got married. (laughs) That was in December of 2001.

BR: I remember some great pictures from your wedding with Col. Bruce Hampton …

ST: That’s right! (laughs) Charlie was born in 2002. And Sophia was born in 2004.

BR: Wow – just like that. Perfect! (laughter) So, you mentioned your home in Florida; to me, part of the vibe of Revelator is the fact that you recorded it in your home studio, Swamp Raga. Just to clarify – is the studio in your backyard?

ST: It is. (laughs) Literally: I’m standing between the two buildings right now on a little pathway.

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