Derek Trucks talks Tedeschi Trucks Band tour with Sharon Jones and Doyle Bramhall II

BY MELISSA RUGGIERI

For guitarist Derek Trucks and his wife Susan Tedeschi, playing Atlanta is essentially a hometown gig.

The ace musical couple and their kids, Charles and Sophia, reside in Jacksonville, Fla., but as Trucks reminded during a recent chat from his home, several of the musicians in the ample Tedeschi Trucks Band hail from the city and both he and Tedeschi lived here at some point.

When the 11-piece outfit (plus guest vocalist Alecia Chakour) pulls into Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre in Alpharetta on July 17, there will be yet another Georgia tie binding the “Wheels of Soul” tour – Augusta native Sharon Jones, who is on the bill with her Dap-Kings.

Also joining the fun – and to hear Trucks talk about the first leg of the tour, the 4 ½-hour concert sounds like a musician’s nirvana – is singer-guitarist Doyle Bramhall II.

During a 30-minute call, the amiable Trucks, 36, talked about the collaborative tour, what to expect from the new TTB album, the end of the Allman Brothers Band and his beloved Jacksonville Jaguars.

Q: How did you get Sharon and Doyle involved in the tour?

A:  The idea for this tour started for us two or three years ago during the Black Crowes tour. There was something about being on the road all summer with the same two groups. There’s a lot of mutual respect musically and personally and by the end of the tour there were some amazing sit-ins. After we got off that tour, it hit us we should put one together. For us, we’re such music snobs, we don’t really like much. It’s hard finding bands that you love that will bring people in! Sharon’s name came up early on, but she was dealing with her health problems so that took that away at first, but she’s back stronger than ever. It seemed like a no-brainer for us. We had been working in the studio with Doyle and he’s got a band together for the first time in 14 years.

Q: And you and Doyle go back to being in Clapton’s band together?

A: That’s when we first connected. He played on Susan’s record, ‘Hope and Desire,’ and we met then and that is what got me on the Clapton tour. I owe him many dinners for that!

The ample TTB. Photo: Mark Seliger

Q: I hear there have already been some collaborations onstage.

A: We’ve been trying to have that evolve as the tour goes on. Sharon was coming up for most of the encores with most of her band, so there was our band, all the background singers, Doyle – we were probably pushing 22-23 people on stage. It feels good up there. Sharon, she’s a fireball, and she and Susan are a great fit. I gotta say, not only because I’m up there, but it’s one of those tours that I would certainly buy a ticket for.

We try to keep the set moving as much as we can. I’m of two minds: I love the idea of not repeating tunes, but my favorite live records, whether it’s the Allman Brothers or Donny Hathaway, you can tell those guys played those tunes, they were pretty static set lists. If a tune ever gets less than inspired we’ll take it out.

Q: Do you think you’ll ever play with Clapton again?

A: He does his Crossroads festival every few years, so you never know. I would imagine I will. When he did his 70th birthday (concert at Madison Square Garden in May), he invited four guitarists, including me and Doyle. We got that trio back together. It was amazing. During the rehearsals, it was like stepping back into it. We did our homework and learned the tunes and stepped back in. It’s a natural connection among the three of us.

Q: When might we see a new album from TTB?

A: We’re 95 percent done. When this tour ends, we’ll have a real break in August, so that’s when we’ll mix.

Q: What else can you tell me about it at this point? Does it have a name?

A: No name yet, but we’re close on the artwork. To me it’s the most realized thing we’ve done as a band. You feel the personality of the band on stage. All of the songs were written with the band in the room. It’s more experimental than anything we’ve done.

Q: Now that the Allman Brothers Band is history, are you relieved that you have one less thing to worry about in your busy music career?

A: It was such an amazing run and an honor to be a part of, but the first five-to-eight years of doing it, I felt like we were trying to get it back to where it needed to be, and for me it felt like it was time to move on. That’s their legacy. I was never delusional enough to think it was mine. They were in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame when I was in Little League!  I always loved doing it, and there’s family and history, but I felt like when it was time to go, it was time to go.

Q: What are the odds of seeing you do anything again with Gregg or Warren or any of the Allman guys?

A: I run into Warren quite a bit on the road, I’m sure we’ll do something. But I feel like under that name and that lineup, we left it where we should.

Q: You kind of had that burden of being one of the greatest guitarists ever when you were so young, but now that you’re in your 30s, do you still consider yourself a prodigy?

A: As long as you can stay inspired and keep moving, that’s really your concern; how people deal with it later on, it’s kind of out of your hands. I don’t love guitar records for the most part - I love inspired musicians. When it gets too guitar specific or any instrument specific, it kind of loses me. I enjoy making records and the crafting of things, when you’re in the studio and it gets adventurous. When you get a chance to be on stage with someone like B.B. King and get to hear him play a note you’re like, wow, the guitar really is wonderful. I feel like what keeps you going is not accepting that you’ve found it or you’re good. You have to keep sharpening the edge.

Q: Do you play every day if you’re not on the road or in the studio?

A: There aren’t many days when I don’t play. There are always instruments around. If I’m away from it for too long, I get the urge.

A perfectly suited pair.

Q: Do you consider yourself an old soul?

A: I definitely at this age having been on the road so long, I’m starting to see younger musicians and realizing I’m not so young anymore (laughs). That’s been a change. My son is 13 and taller than Susan and I see him and think about the time I was on the road at that age and it kind of twists my head.

Q: Are your kids into music?

A: He plays a little, not much. He’s in baseball mode. But he’s got good ears.

Our daughter is 10. I would see her jumping on stage sooner than him!

Q: Do they come out on the road with you and Susan?

A: In the summer they do. They like it because they’ve grown up with most of the people in the band, but it’s getting to the age where they’ve got stuff they want to do, so when we’re home there a lot of sleepovers.

Q: You have the Joe Cocker tribute coming up at the Lockin’ Festival (Sept. 11-12 in Virginia)…

A: Yeah, it’s turned into a thing! We’re doing a nod to (Cocker’s) Mad Dogs & Englishmen tour (from 1970). We reached out to Leon Russell and Rita Coolidge and they were excited and signed on. When it was announced, all of the original surviving members (of Cocker’s band) reached out. It’s gonna be a beautiful mess, probably 25-30 people coming and going. Everybody is into it. Leon gave me some amazing stories about how chaotic, but fun, it was putting the tour together. There’s a lot of chance the magic will show up with everybody.

When we were putting our band together, the Mad Dogs band and tour were a big inspiration. Susan and I were watching the (concert) movie going, ‘That looks like fun!’ It’s going to be a great hang.

Q: OK, since we have a shared love of football and you’re a huge Jacksonville Jaguars fan, I’ve got to ask, is Julius Thomas going to be the difference-maker this season?

A: I hope so! It always comes down to, can you get him the ball? I have faith. I feel like we’ve turned the corner. I like the new GM and owners, and there’s more talent than there’s been on the roster in a long time.

Q: Do you get to go to many games?

A: We go to as many as we can. We’ve been known not to schedule shows when the Jaguars are playing. My son has been to almost every home game the past five years or so and they’ve never had a winning season in that time, so when they bust .500 it’s going to be like winning the Super Bowl!

Concert preview

Tedeschi Trucks Band

With Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings and Doyle Bramhall II. 7 p.m. July 17. $19.50-$89.50. Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre at Encore Park, 2200 Encore Parkway, Alpharetta. 1-800-745-3000, www.ticketmaster.com.

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About the Author

Melissa Ruggieri
Melissa Ruggieri
Atlanta Journal-Constitution staff writer Melissa Ruggieri covers music and entertainment news for the AJC. She remembers when MTV was awesome.  
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