Tedeschi Trucks Band, the 11-piece ensemble led by husband-wife team Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi, have proven themselves one of the hottest, most uplifting acts on the road today. Formed in 2010 when Derek and Susan decided to set aside their successful solo careers and join forces, Tedeschi Trucks Band has since been touring the globe - and accruing fans and accolades in the process. Fronted by Trucks' signature slide-guitar sound and Tedeschi's pliant, honey-to-husky voice, TTB -- as their fans know them -- delivers a hearty roots-rich musical mix with the power to renew faith in live music.
From the moment Trucks and Tedeschi first met during a 1999 Allman Brothers tour (Tedeschi opened and Trucks was in his first year as co-lead guitarist), the personal and musical synergy between this prolific duo was clear. Heavily steeped in the blues tradition, both share influences ranging from rock and gospel to jazz and World music. They married in 2001 and began a family in Trucks' hometown of Jacksonville, Florida, while also continuing to develop their own musical styles and solo careers. The two have guested on each other’s albums, toured together intermittently, and even found themselves nominated in 1999 for Grammy awards in the same category with their individual bands. But by early 2010, with two children in grade school and both of their careers in full swing, they decided to put their individual musical projects on hold and devote themselves to a new joint ensemble. As Trucks described, the idea was to create a “collective that will allow everyone in the band a chance to shine.”
A year-and-a-half process followed, during which Trucks and Tedeschi minimized their live commitments to such high profile events as Eric Clapton’s Crossroads, New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, the Fuji Rock Festival, and a noteworthy collaboration with legendary jazz keyboardist Herbie Hancock. The couple’s primary focus through most of 2010 held fast to the goals of assembling a new band and writing new material that would and recording an album of performances true to their new musical approach.
Trucks recalls stepping into the process but with no set deadline in mind. “We spent a whole year putting a band together with different lineups, different approaches, different mindsets, and during the same time began songwriting. After about six months we had over 30 songs to choose from.”
The result was Tedeschi Trucks Band - an 11-member ensemble overflowing with talent and musical familiarity that includes harmony singers Mike Mattison and Mark Rivers, brothers Oteil Burbridge (noted for his years as bassist with the Allman Brothers Band) and Kofi Burbridge (longtime keyboardist/flutist with The Derek Trucks Band), a pair of drummers J. J. Johnson and Tyler Greenwell, as well as trumpeter Maurice Brown, tenor saxophonist Kebbi Williams, and trombonist Saunders Sermons.
The fact that the DNA of the Tedeschi Trucks Band includes so many musical couplings has a lot to do with it. “It has such strengths, everyone’s a great songwriter in this band and everyone’s so good at listening to each other,” Tedeschi says. “There are also lots of pairs in the band—like the drummers. They’re fabulous together, creating space for each other. Then you have Oteil and Kofi who have known each other since they were born—when those two brothers are locking in together, it’s amazing, like ESP taking over. And Derek and myself know each other so well and inspire each other.”
Tedeschi Trucks Band debuted big with their inaugural album Revelator in 2011, which earned the band the Grammy for Best Blues Album. It also helped them dominate the Blues Music Awards - where they won not only Album of the Year, but also took home trophies for Band of the Year, Gibson Guitar Award (Derek) and Contemporary Blues Female Artist (Susan). True to Truck's promise, the album delivers a collection of blues-dipped rockers and heart stirring ballads in which the echoes of so many great traditions—Delta blues and Memphis soul, Sixties rock and Seventies funk—flow together naturally, blending with an entirely original, modern sensibility. Critically acclaimed as a 4 Star "masterpiece" by Rolling Stone magazine and simply "Outstanding" by USA Today, Revelator broke into the Billboard Top 200 chart at #12, bringing both artists to their highest first week sales and charting of their careers.
With its focus on tighter song structures and lyrics, Revelator was a dramatic leap forward for Tedeschi and Trucks. “Everything’s been thought out a little deeper, figuring out the music and what the tunes mean—more time given to the whole process," says Trucks. "I think my album Already Free in 2009 was the first step in the direction of working with professional songwriters who take their craft as seriously as instrumentalists do. Revelator is the first true realization of that process, in which the sum of the parts—the songs, the band, Susan and myself—were greater than just the parts themselves.”
More than any other recording project, Revelator also found Trucks taking on multiple roles of bandleader, lead guitarist, songwriter, and producer—spending equal time on either side of the glass in Swamp Raga, the recording studio he built behind their house in Jacksonville, Florida. To ensure the album lived up to the strength of the songs and musicians involved, he also recruited and co-produced the album with Grammy-winning engineer Jim Scott, whose genre-bending credits include popular albums by the Dixie Chicks, Johnny Cash, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Tedeschi Trucks Band toured the U.S. and Europe on the heels of Revelator's release for the rest of 2011, praised by fans everywhere for their outstanding live performances. With the new year came a string of new accomplishments that most bands spend a lifetime trying to achieve. In addition to the Grammy for Revelator and the Blues Music Awards accolades, Trucks himself, along with TTB band mate Oteil Burbridge, were honored with lifetime Grammys for their membership in The Allman Brothers Band. Then in a span of just ten weeks, Derek and Susan were invited to perform at the White House, joining Mick Jagger, B.B. King, and Buddy Guy to celebrate the blues -- at the Apollo Theater, joining Eric Clapton, Keith Richards, and a host of blues guitar heavyweights in an all-star tribute to bluesman Hubert Sumlin -- and at the United Nations General Assembly in New York, joining Herbie Hancock, Wynton Marsalis, Tony Bennett, Stevie Wonder and others to celebrate the first annual International Jazz Day.
With the band firing on all cylinders, Tedeschi and Trucks recognized the time was right to document the growth and energy on stage with a live album. Out of a series of 12 live performances recorded in the fall of 2011 emerged a spirited blend of originals and vibrant covers that became the band's sophomore album Everybody's Talkin', a double-disc set released in May 2012. For Trucks the live album was an opportunity to offer a closer look into the expansive talent of the band. "When you get a song on the road I think a different side of the song comes out. A lot of times, you break a song wide open and it's kind of a song within a song, so a tune like "Bound For Glory," once it's cracked open in the middle and there's this amazing B3 solo, it takes on a life of its own," says Trucks.
Eagerly anticipated by fans, Everybody's Talkin' debuted in the top 25 of Billboard's top albums chart and has maintained a top 3 position on the best-selling blues albums chart since its release. It has also received rave reviews from critics across the globe. Called "one of the truly great live rock albums" by the Sydney Morning Herald, the extended recordings offer a closer look into the expansive talent of the band and deliver "a revved-up intensity hard to elicit in a studio setting." (MSN)
Trucks and Tedeschi share a sense pride in their new collective and the band's ability to inspire on stage. “It’s nice having all these new songs but also having that looseness and spontaneity that comes with a great group of musicians. There are few bands that do that—hold on to that element of surprise. One moment could be a train wreck but the next, it’s church.”
Tedeschi Trucks Band is currently touring the U.S. and Canada for the rest of 2012 and writing songs for their next studio album.