Blues-rock siren Susan Tedeschi of the Tedeschi Trucks Band on family, rock & roll and the delicate balance between the two
Susan Tedeschi may be a soft-spoken New Englander, but her dynamic soul and blues vocals tell a more elaborate tale. Drawing comparisons to Bonnie Raitt and Janis Joplin, the Massachusetts native has been electrifying audiences around the world for nearly two decades. She’s been nominated for five Grammy Awards, including Best New Artist in 1999 (among the diverse crowd of Christina Aguilera, Britney Spears, Macy Gray and Kid Rock), and she’s opened for the likes of the Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan.
But of all her talents and professional accolades, Tedeschi says she’s most proud of her “domestic superpowers” – recording songs with a child strapped to her hip or making dinner and drinks for a dozen hungry musicians with the same ease as performing in front of 40,000 fans.
These days, Tedeschi has teamed up with her husband – guitar virtuoso and Allman Brothers Band member Derek Trucks – to form the Tedeschi Trucks Band, an 11-member powerhouse fusing rock, soul, blues and jazz into one impressive musical package. Their 2011 album, Revelator, won the Grammy for Best Blues Album.
Last year’s follow-up album, Made Up Mind, is an equally impressive mash-up of world-class musicians and production, all put together by Trucks and producer Jim Scott (of Wilco and Red Hot Chili Peppers fame). Recorded at Tedeschi and Trucks’ home in Jacksonville, FL, Made Up Mind was an eight-month labor of love fueled by the collaboration of musician friends and more than a few Dark ‘n’ Stormys (a rum and ginger beer beverage that they made from a special recipe by famous blues man Taj Mahal).
The Tedeschi Trucks Band returns to Central PA for a show in Harrisburg this month (if you miss the Forum show, the band also performs back-to-back New Jersey shows at the Scottish Rite Auditorium on April 3 and 4). We caught up with Tedeschi to talk about her children (Charlie, 12, and Sophia, 9), the dynamics of an 11-piece group and her husband officially leaving the Allman Brothers Band after serving as the band’s lead guitarist for 15 years.
Fly Magazine: Has forming the Tedeschi Trucks Band made it easier to be a family unit raising your children together?
Susan Tedeschi: The minus – just because there aren’t many of them – would be that we’re not together as a family all the time because Derek and I do travel a lot for work. Now that we travel together, we’re both away from our kids. With my own career, in the past, I could coordinate around a lot of their birthdays and holidays, and Derek could still be working on the road because he’s just a workaholic – he always has been. Now we have to compromise a little bit more, but I also know the importance of working and touring. We’re trying to be with our kids, too, so it’s kind of a juggle.
FM: How about your relationship with Derek?
ST: It’s been great for Derek and me because we were never together. If anything, it’s made us stronger as parents and as a couple and as friends. Even though we’re together all the time and we get no space, somehow we get along better. We seem to get a lot done and stay really busy but stay focused. If anything, being around him inspires me more to play more music rather than just focusing on being a mom – which I can get caught up in a lot because it is awesome and I’m trying to watch them grow.
FM: Are there any plans to start a family band with your kids?
ST: [laughs] No plans. They’d have to audition just like everybody else.
FM: What’s the transition going to be like with Derek leaving the Allman Brothers Band this year?
ST: It’s a big deal because Derek and Warren [Haynes] are both saying, “Hey, we’re not doing this next year.” It gives them time to be dads. Warren’s a new dad – his little son Hudson is adorable. And that stuff’s important. You’re only little once, and everyone needs their parents. Derek can also focus on being a parent more, too. He loves to go to Charlie’s baseball games and football games or go golfing and fishing with him.
FM: What were the similarities and differences between recording Revelator and Made Up Mind?
ST: With Revelator, we weren’t even a solid band yet. We got together with a bunch of our friends who are all songwriters, wrote a bunch of great tunes and started recording stuff with a little core group. Then we found the horn players at the end. We were just finding each other, but the producing – with Derek and Jim Scott working together with Bobby Tis engineering – was a really special combination. A big part of the puzzle is having people you can trust and knowing how to bring the best out of people. Having Derek in a producer role really helps the band communicate because you don’t feel separate from the creative process. I feel like everything had a real natural flow to it.
FM: How about Made Up Mind?
ST: Once again, Derek and I had [musicians] Oliver Wood and Doyle Bramhall come to the house for a couple days. We would write some songs and have them done. Then when the band came down to rehearse, we would mess around and start recording them. We got a lot of the songs by trying out different bass players because we were going through a transition with Oteil Burbridge. We had Dave Monsey and George Reiff from Austin, TX, and then Bakithi Kumalo, who plays with Paul Simon, and Pino Palladino, who came down and recorded a couple songs with us. It was all this excitement from all these different musicians and scenes. I thought the creative process was really unique because it showed the diversity in the band, and it helped us find our voice a little bit more. By the time we finished Made Up Mind, we had really created our voice. The next record could be an even bigger jump just because we’re constantly growing and learning and working together.
FM: Have you started recording any new material?
ST: No, we haven’t. But we will be doing that in May.
FM: How many Dark ‘n’ Stormys were consumed in the recording of Made Up Mind?
ST: [laughs] Way too many. We have an 11-piece band, so that’s 11 drinks – just if they had one on one night. But I’m sure they had a couple on a couple nights. I hate to say 100. I don’t know if they drank that much, but it was definitely fun to make them and cook up dinner and have wine every once in a while after a good long day’s work. You have a routine you get into. You come in and usually make breakfast or lunch, and then we go in the studio and work all day. You don’t really come out and eat until night because you’re staying focused and playing all day and writing. So you’ve got to let loose at the end and have a Dark ‘n’ Stormy.