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Published: 2012/04/05
by Larson Sutton

Derek Trucks Turns It Up To Eleven

Let’s say Susan sings a particularly beautiful note, or nails a run on her guitar. Are you onstage looking over at her proud of your wife or proud of your band mate? Can the two even be separated?

All of the above. It’s different on different nights. When you play in a band, with anybody it’s that way. It depends on how the day is going, how close the relationship is within the band. There are times where I do feel pride as a husband, like, ‘Shit, she is whooping ass over there.’ Then there are times when you are in it musically together as a band and you are proud with what is happening around you. It runs the gamut. All of those emotions come into play at times. Especially at the White House, that was one time when I knew how much she wanted to make it great. We had to do the song in two different keys so Warren (Haynes) could sing the first verse in his key and modulate up. So, Susan’s having to jump in with a full-on hard note immediately after a modulation, which can be really difficult to grab it. You’re just out there, all alone. There is no safety net. So, I was a little nervous for her. When she knocked it out of the park, it was almost the way you feel with your kids, like, ‘Come on, let’s do it.’ And when she did it, it was just total relief. I was more nervous for her than I was for myself. I think that was one of those husband/wife moments, where normally it wouldn’t have hit me the same way.

You both had successful careers individually. Was it hard to join together as a couple and as parents and lead a band jointly?

We waited a good eight years into our marriage. We had our bands rolling separately for a long time, so I think that was a big part of it. I think if we would’ve jumped in too soon it would have been too much, the stuff we wanted to do individually. Now, it’s at a really good place. You mature as people. We thought long and hard about it before we jumped in the deep end. Once you get married you are already in the deep end, but being married and deciding to put a band together- there is no bottom there. You have to go all the way.

Your upcoming dual appearances at Wanee with both the Allman Brothers Band and Tedeschi Trucks Band signals the start of festival season. Wanee’s always been a great venue for the Allman Brothers and the extended family. Is your approach to festivals different from your own headline dates?

It does change your approach. When it is your own gig, and you have a captive audience in a theater, you can structure things differently. You can take your time trying to get to the peak of the set and be a little more methodical about it. At a festival, you kind of have to come out of the gate swinging. It also depends on who’s in the lineup, who is playing when, who is on before and after. You have to take that into consideration. It’s very much like writing a setlist, the ebb and flow within the set, but instead in a festival, you have to step back and see what kind of band is going on to start the show. Is it high energy? Is it low energy? Sometimes when you are in the middle of a tour and the band is just dialed in, you don’t have to think about it. You know your best punch is going to be enough.

Next up for Tedeschi Trucks Band is a live album. Typically, do you listen to your live shows, and how has it been putting together the new record?

Normally I don’t listen to them. When we decided to do this live record, I started listening to them a lot, and after every show, going back to the bus and taking notes on what I remember being great and what I remember being not acceptable for the record, things we need to work on. It made me think about the tour the way I would about producing a record, constantly keeping tabs on things. That has extended past doing the live record. I’ve kind of enjoyed the process. It made me even more engaged in the live shows. When we got back from the tour, it was 12, 14 shows of two to two-and-a half hours to dig through. That’s a lot of material, a lot of time. I gave that stuff a lot of listening, but having feedback from the outside was nice, too. People pointing out certain shows, things to key in on, helped narrow down the focus. There was a handful of shows at the end of that tour, where we played Toronto, and it just hit me, ‘That’s a live record. That meets my bar line.’ And the next night it was even a little better, and the last night of the tour had moments even higher. It was great, almost like going back in time and recording a live record in the early ‘70s like (At) Fillmore (East) or Donny Hathaway Live. We took out a lot of vintage gear from our studio and recorded things, so we got an amazing signal on the tape. Then we spent about 10 days with (producer) Jim Scott down at the studio mixing, and had Bob Ludwig master it. We really went the extra mile and I’m really happy with the way it turned out; the flow of the set, the sound of everything.

Did you enjoy hearing your own shows?

It was nice. It was great to sit back in the studio, crank things up, and listen to the band. It was such a different perspective. It made me appreciate what some of the guys are doing that much more. There were some moments where Kofi (Burbridge, keyboards, flute) finished playing a solo on one of the tunes, and I just had to get on the phone and call him because it was such a bad-ass solo.

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