Interview: Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi Discuss Tedeschi Trucks Band's New Album, 'Revelator'
Both Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks are well known in the guitar world, each having their own dynamic careers, separate from the fact that they’ve been married for the past 10 years.
Although they’ve appeared as guests on each other’s albums and toured together intermittently, the Tedeschi Trucks Band’s new album, Revelator (released today, June 7), represents the first dedicated collaboration between the two guitarists.
Guitar World sat down with Tedeschi and Trucks for 10 questions.
GUITAR WORLD: I know you guys have been together as a couple for quite a while now, and played on each other's records before. However, Revelator is your first record as the Tedeschi Trucks Band. How is this husband-and-wife collaboration thing working out for you guys? Is it everything you'd hoped it would be?
SUSAN TEDESCHI: It’s been a special experience, without a doubt. It’s very different to write and record a full album together, as opposed to just playing on one or two tracks on a solo album. Fortunately, we both had some extended time at home last year for the first time ever, and we were able to spend a lot of time writing together and letting the music evolve naturally. By the time we started to record the album, we had about 30 songs to choose from, and we were all very comfortable as a band, so we felt the most prepared we’ve ever been to record.
The publicity for Revelator makes a point of saying the album is "song-oriented." Is that a polite way of trying to move away from the "jam band" label?
DEREK TRUCKS: We’re not too concerned about labels, but on “Songlines” and “Already Free,” I was interested in making more song-driven records, and Revelator is another step in that direction.
We have great players in this band, and everyone gets a chance to shine on this recording without straying from the focus of the album. It’s all about serving the song, supporting what Susan’s doing and building the whole sound up into something bigger than our own individual input.
I actually focused on my solos more on this record than previous albums because the solos had to live up to the tune and really count. When we play live, we definitely cut loose and expand further. And that’s what is great about having a lineup this strong. You’re able start letting the songs develop on the road and take on a life of their own.
Your website features it prominently, so I gotta ask: Derek plays a Gibson, Susan plays a Fender. Is there a rivalry between you concerning your brand of choice? You've probably been asked this a million times before, so I apologize, but if you have something witty you want to say about the Gibson/Fender debate, that'd be great.
DT: Well I’ve been playing an SG forever, and I’ve got some other vintage Gibsons I like to use in the studio. Susan is a big fan of Johnny “Guitar” Watson and Magic Sam and guys like that, so Fenders work well for her. But she breaks out a D’Angelico pretty often and is not afraid to grab a Gibson in the studio if the song calls for it. We’re not exactly working up a Ford/Chevy rivalry, but we definitely lean toward our own roots. I think our two different tones and styles on guitar work well together. It’s always nice with two guitarists in one band to have some contrast.
The co-producer (along with Derek) on your new record, Jim Scott, has a crazy resume: Johnny Cash, Red Hot Chili Peppers and the Dixie Chicks. How did he influence the music and the production on the record?
DT: Jim brought a wealth of experience to this record. There’s just no substitute for the time he’s spent in the studio over the years, working with talented people. We’re lucky to have our own studio, and with our engineer Bobby Tis we’ve developed some pretty solid recording techniques on our own.
But Jim was able to come in and help make everything better without trying to reinvent the wheel. When you’re producing your own record, you do your best to be objective and take a step back from it from time to time. Having Jim there was great because he wasn’t there for all the rehearsals, writing sessions and gigs, so he could truly listen with fresh ears, and we trusted his opinion.
Derek, when are the Allman Brothers Band going to tour again?
DT: Gregg, Warren and I all have our own records out this year, so we’re focusing on our individual projects this summer. We haven’t made any definite plans for the next Allmans run, but the shows this spring were great so we’re looking forward to the next time we all get together.
You're about to hit the road with an 11-piece band. Is that the largest band either one of you has ever toured with? Have you hit any kind of logistical problems bringing that many people on the road?
ST: It’s a big band, but it’s such a wonderful group of people that it hasn’t been a problem. It’s a big family on the road so we love having everyone out. Each member of this band really adds to the sound, and the chemistry between everyone is great.
What are you most proud of with the new band and the new album?
DT: With the new band, we were lucky to get such a great group in place. Not just because all the players are world-class, but also because even from day one, it felt like an extended family.
Obviously there’s Susan and myself, but also there’s Oteil and his big brother, Kofi. Even with our drummers Tyler and JJ, they hadn’t played together before, and it can be a tough thing to get two drummers to work together, but for them it was just a natural connection. Everyone hit the ground running and we’ve been building from there, getting more and more familiar with each other each time we play.
On the album, I’m just glad we had the opportunity to take some time to make the record the way we wanted to make it. Susan and I had talked about doing an album together for years, and once it was time to sit down and do it, we knew we had to do it right.
So we made sure there was plenty of time to write and record, and we reached out to some of our friends to see if they were willing to write with us. Whether it was John Leventhal or Gary Louris or Eric Krasno, we were able to collaborate with some amazing writers and musicians. But we also have Susan and Mike Mattison in the band, so there really was no shortage of great songwriters on hand.
At the end it was just a matter of picking the songs that were working best for all of us in the moment. I’m very proud of the album on the whole, and I feel it’s some of the best music I’ve made in my career.
Derek, around the country you're known as the guy who buys up any Fender Super Six amplifier that turns up. How many of these damn things do you have at this point?
DT: I have only a couple of Super 6s now, but I do have quite a few black-face Fenders around the studio. They all have slightly different character and tone, so I keep collecting them. I first started seeking out the Super 6s because I needed something loud enough to work with the Allmans. And then Paul Reed Smith starting making the PRS Dallas amps with Doug Sewell, and that has worked great with the Allmans gig. They have a similar warm tube sound like the Fenders, but they can cut through the wall of sound.
Susan, you still play guitar, but not as much as you did with your old band. Are you happy with the new arrangement, or do you miss playing solo after solo?
ST: I feel good about it. If you’re lucky enough to have a guitar player like Derek in your band, you have to give him time to shine, and I love to watch him play as much as anyone in the audience. But I do still get to play solos, and we often do a call-and-response sort of thing where we get to take solos together, and we’ll just build it up from there.
We feed off each other on-stage and I think people respond to that, so they’re not so worried about who is taking solos and when they are taking them. We’re a family unit – the whole band is, really – so it’s all about supporting one another and making sure your contributions are helping the whole group sound better.
It must feel good to be able to "call the shots" in your careers now that you have kids at home. Do you see the Tedeschi Trucks Band being the group that you'll "ride out into the sunset" with?
ST: Who knows what the future holds, but for now we are definitely happy with our situation. We do have more control over things since our careers are now linked. Our downtime is spent together too, which was one of the driving forces behind the new group. We have a rule about how much we will work, so that we’re not away from our kids for too long.
Playing shows is great, but so is being at home for your son’s little league games. It’s all about finding that balance, and right now we’ve found it, and we’re enjoying it.
Tedeschi Trucks Band
Tedeschi Trucks Band (Photo: James Minchin)
Revelator by Tedeschi Trucks Band comes out June 7.