Tedeschi Trucks Band’s Susan Tedeschi talks about versatility ahead of San Antonio show

The band will hit San Antonio's Boeing Center at Tech Port on Saturday, May 6.

click to enlarge In 2010, Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks combined their solo acts into the Tedeschi Trucks Band. - Shutterstock / S. Kuelcue
Shutterstock / S. Kuelcue
In 2010, Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks combined their solo acts into the Tedeschi Trucks Band.

After performing alongside musicians considered royalty in the jam band world, Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi — leaders of the Tedeschi Trucks Band — have emerged as aristocrats in their own right.

After years winning over fans with its stirring delivery and instrumental chops, their 12-piece powerhouse has mapped out a summer schedule that includes headlining shows at New York's Madison Square Garden and Colorado's Red Rocks Amphitheatre.

But before those high-profile gigs, Tedeschi Trucks Band will hit San Antonio's Boeing Center at Tech Port on Saturday, May 6.

Tedeschi's soulful voice and guitar playing have earned comparisons to Bonnie Raitt and landed her a spot touring with outfits including Double Trouble, Stevie Ray Vaughan's former band. As a solo artist, she's also played gigs and guest spots with Grateful Dead members along with luminaries such as Bob Dylan.

Guitar hero Trucks — the nephew of The Allman Brothers Band drummer Butch Trucks — burst on the scene as a teenage guitar prodigy, mastering the Grateful Dead songbook with bassist Phil Lesh's solo band. He also was a driving force behind the Allmans' revival and joined the band full time in 1999, at the ripe old age of 20.

Somehow, Trucks managed to balance that gig with his own Derek Trucks Band, finetuning a stoic onstage persona that sharply contrasts with the fire he conjures from his six-string.

Tedeschi and Trucks met at an Allmans gig that she opened, and in 2010, they combined their solo acts into the Tedeschi Trucks Band. The ensemble combined the blues rock that is the basis for both of their styles but rolled in a significant amount of Southern rock, jazz and soul.

The Tedeschi Trucks Band's most recent studio album, the ambitious I Am The Moon, was released in four parts and even featured an accompanying film. The Current caught up with Tedeschi ahead of the band's Tech Center appearance.

You earned a music degree from Berklee College of Music at 20 years old. How did being formally schooled impact your music? Many rock players are self-taught.

Well, I was self-taught, and I went to music school to learn to arrange, learn more about the business and things like that. And the one thing I realized is that the things I self-taught myself were the things that I was going to carry with me later on in life. The things that really hit home and make you the artist that you are, a lot of times you find that on your own. I was right out of high school. I started college at 17. I was a little bit more of a folkie and [into] country blues before I got there, and then once I really discovered that whole world, that really changed my whole perspective. I didn't really know who I was before I went to school as a singer.

Tedeschi Trucks Band plays a lot of jamband or jam-influenced festivals. But there’s a big difference between your band and, say, Phish or Gov’t Mule. There’s a balance in your band that straddles the line between being a jamband and a band that has an appeal outside that insular scene. What makes you different?

I started to learn more about Phish when we did that LOCKN’ collaboration on the Layla record. And I really learned a lot more about Trey. My feeling about him is that, obviously, he’s a songwriter. And he has his own style. To me, he’s very theatrical. He almost naturally writes more musical theater kind of stuff. But with the expansion of the jam, kind of improv thing — there’s a contrast. I really think it’s very creative what he does. And very different. But at the same time, he does have influences of gospel and soul music that he’s inspired by. But [Phish] is also really good at covering whole records. They’re one of those bands that can play Pink Floyd’s The Wall if they want, or whatever. They’re musicians and they have great ears. But they have a lot of fun. And it’s more theatrical. I think that’s why people are into that as well. It’s an entertainment thing. You’re entertained. It’s visual.

A lot of fans in the jam world — for better or worse — have their obsessions and listen to the Dead and the Allmans or Phish, and that's sort of it. Whereas you have fans that like that stuff but might enjoy hearing your solo albums, which have a different vibe.

Absolutely. One of the things is that Derek and I are both very versatile. We cover a lot of ground. ... People love [Derek] in the jam world because he is such an improvisational player. He can stretch out, and he's so musical that he can do any kind or sound of music, really. But for him, he wasn't really into the Dead until he played with Phil [Lesh] and Friends, you know? And he grew up with The Allman Brothers, one of the best bands that America really had.

The Dead is kind of the same way. It’s only been recently that it’s changed from being this hippie novelty juggernaut to being recognized as authors of one of the classic American songbooks.

Yeah absolutely. That relationship between Garcia and Hunter was really unique and they wrote some beautiful songs. Now, they don’t always get executed that way. (Laughs.)

Fair enough.

When I was pregnant with Charlie, our first son, they were in California for New Year’s Eve. It was 2001 going into 2002. Derek was playing with Phil and Friends. That night, Phil invited me to play with the Dead, and it was gonna be the first time getting back with them without Jerry — the first new Grateful Dead configuration after Jerry passed. I was lucky enough that I toured with them a few months. I’d just had a baby. Played a little bit of guitar, but mostly sang. I did it for, like, three or four months. But I just couldn’t keep up because I had a newborn. And — I’m not even kidding — they would rehearse for four hours, take a dinner break and then play for three hours [in the concert].

Obviously, there's a family aspect to the Tedeschi Trucks Band. Is that hard? Relationships are challenging, whether they're romantic relationships or creative collaborations. You and Derek have both. Is that difficult?

It goes in stages, you know? It's very difficult and it's very easy. It's just like any relationship, like you're saying. They take work. And sacrifice. It's hard work and communication. You have to have all those things or it's not really gonna work. But we also have a lot of things we love. We love a lot of the same music. Blues and gospel music. Also, we both love sports, which is not really a thing when you're with musicians.

As a band, you did the full Layla record. What would be an album that you’d love to do with Tedeschi Trucks that would surprise people?

It would be cool to do one of the early Bonnie Raitt records. Give It Up. Or something really different, like a whole Bob Marley record. That would be really fun. A Stones record would be really cool. Like Let It Bleed or something.

Do you have any San Antonio or Texas memories as a touring musician?

I remember playing [the Tobin Center in 2019], because at the time, our [former] drummer, J.J. Johnson, his parents are from there and they came out. So, that was special. But I don’t think I’ve been to San Antonio a huge amount. I’ve lived in Dallas for a little while.

I didn’t know that.

I used to tour with Double Trouble, Stevie Ray Vaughan’s band. And I played with Jimmie Vaughan quite a bit. So, I have a whole lot of fond memories of Texas for sure. Clifford Antone, of course. I was close with him before he passed. A lot of wonderful musicians. Of course, Willie Nelson and all his folks. A lot of guys I know from his band, in the old days. I also used to play with Eric Johnson. He’s also from Austin. I have a lot of friends and family I love and care about. It’s been a while since we’ve been out there.

$25.50-$125.50, 7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 6, Boeing Center at Tech Port, 3331 General Hudnell Drive, (210) 600-3699, boeingcentertechport.com.

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