Catching Up – Tedeschi Trucks Band: A Family Circus on the Road

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Derek Trucks is all about making magic in the moment. Whether he’s making music with his wife of 14 years, blues siren Susan Tedeschi, sharing a stage with generations of legendary artists or cheering on his beloved Jaguars, Trucks does what it takes to make it happen. He celebrated the Jaguars’ first win of the season over the Miami Dolphins despite waking up on the opposite coast.

“We played in San Rafael right outside San Francisco and took the 6am flight home, so I could land in time for the game. We landed at 4:05, and I hopped in a cab and headed right for the stadium and made it just in time for the second touchdown,” he says. “It had to be done.”

Writing, recording, performing and touring with Tedeschi Trucks Band is a family circus. On the road, Derek Trucks brings his parents along to help keep things humming. His dad Chris is the merch guy, and mom Debbie helps with the couple’s two kids, but at home, they trade sound check for baseball practice and set lists for spelling words.

“When you get a few days at home, and it’s actually quiet with just the four of us at the house, it’s nice to appreciate the down time,” Trucks says. “But jumping back in, you realize there’s the school schedule, baseball and doctor appointments, you’ve got a stack of mail and bills to pay. It’s not quite like the tour bus. There’s no one to help with anything.”

The band will play a hometown show at Magnolia Fest Oct 16-19 at the Suwannee Music Park before gearing up for a short European run and release of a new album early next year. The album was written, recorded and mixed at the couple’s Swamp Raga Studio and captures the essence of the band’s onstage magic.

“This is the first time that we’ve really been able to capture what the band does live in the studio, and I think you can really see the spirit of the band, all the different personalities coming through,” says Trucks. “You can really feel the evolution of the sound and performance. I’m excited about it. It feels like a new direction for the band a little bit. It’s familiar. It’s the same musicians, but I think it’s more experimental and free than we’ve usually done.”

It’s been a busy couple months for Tedeschi Trucks Band. The band was part of an all-star group including Mavis Staples, Buddy Guy, Jon Baptiste, Ben Folds, Brittany Howard, Kyle Resnick, and Aloe Blacc performing a soulful rendition of Sly & the Family Stone’s ‘Everyday People’ on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.” On stage, Trucks wore a Jaguars jersey under his jacket. “It also had to be done,” he says.

The band also wrapped up a series of shows during its annual run at the historic Beacon Theatre and headlined a one-night-only tribute to the legendary Joe Cocker at the Lockn’ Festival in Arlington, VA, featuring Leon Russell and fellow Mad Dogs alumni Bobby Torres, Bobby Jones, Matthew Moore and Daniel Moore.

“Originally, we had been talking with Joe Cocker the year before about playing with our band, and then all of a sudden the discussions stopped. We knew something was up. He passed away a few months later. The promoter asked us about doing a Cocker tribute since we were going to do a show with him, and that led to us thinking about that Mad Dogs & Englishmen tour. A big part of us putting this band together was thinking about that time period and that band and that music,” says Trucks.

“We reached out to Leon Russell to see if he wanted to be a part of it, and when he agreed to do it, it seemed like all the other original members were on board. They hadn’t played together since that tour 45 years ago. It was a pretty amazing reunion. It was the greatest tour of their life, but it also spun a lot of them out for a long time, and they never re-formed. When they look back on it, I think in a lot of ways it was kind of the high water mark.”

The historic gathering also included Rita Coolidge, Claudia Lennear and Pamela Polland alternating lead and background vocals, joined by Chris Robinson, Dave Mason, John Bell, Warren Haynes and Anders Osborne with renowned percussionist Chuck Blackwell and keyboardist Chris Stainton to recreate the legendary 1970 Mad Dogs and Englishmen tour.

“It was total mayhem but really a magical show. We had a 10-person choir with the original members, our singers, two drummers and 22 members on stage,” Trucks says. “When we started playing the first tune, it just kind of happened. You could just feel it. If you looked around the room, there was more than one original member that you could just tell the emotion got them. There was a lot of good spirit in the room.”

Original tour photographer Linda Wolf was on hand to capture the expanded congregation of musicians performing classics selected from the Mad Dogs film and live double album. Capping the momentous evening was an empty microphone and single spotlight center stage in honor of Cocker during “The Ballad of Mad Dogs & Englishmen” followed by The Beatles’ “With a Little Help from My Friends” led by Tedeschi and Robinson.

“After the show was over, it just felt like this huge weight was lifted. You want it to be right,” Trucks says. “Our band respected that music enough and knew where it came from to really care about it and want to do it right, and the original members certainly came at it that way. It was the right connection of new generation and that band. I think Joe would’ve enjoyed it.”

Trucks is looking forward to spending time at Magnolia Fest and sneaking in a few songs from the new record. “We try and hold some of them back until the record comes out, so there are some surprises. But everybody is anxious to play everything,” he says. “It’s fun when you’re in a band with people that you really like being around and really like making music. When you spend that much time on a new record, it’s good work. It’s busy and chaotic, but it’s all stuff that energizes you.”


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