When I catch up with Derek Trucks from his New York City hotel room, he’s in an especially amiable mood. One night into his final six-night run with The Allman Brothers, the guitarist is looking back with a renewed sense of self and slowly setting his sights on the next chapter.
“I wasn’t really sure what to expect coming into it,” Trucks said, referring to the beginning of his end with the Allmans. “There are a lot of different emotions flowing around for different people, but so far so good. I think everyone’s head is in the right spot.”
Following the band’s Beacon Theatre blowout, Trucks will be a one-band man for the first time in over 15 years, turning his attention to his other long-running project, Tedeschi Trucks Band, which he copilots with wife Susan Tedeschi. Next week, they hit the road for a series of West Coast dates, which includes a stop at the Arlington Theatre on October 30.
I’ve been told to give you music-shop recommendations; your publicist says you’re quite the record collector. [Laughs.] Yeah, we try to keep new music flowing on the bus all the time.
Do you want to talk a little bit about four records that made an especially big impact on you growing up? Oh, man. The first records were the records my parents were spinning — At Fillmore East, Eat a Peach — those two Allman Brothers records were the first music I ever heard where it wasn’t just background noise or entertainment. It felt like something different. That was the first time I was ever really moved by music. I think that was kind of the start.
Later on, I remember a friend of mine, Colonel Bruce Hampton, buying me John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme. That was one of those life-changing records. I think I was 14 or 15 at the time, and it just reinforced that if you’re going to do this, you might want to dig deep and try to find people that put everything they had into what they did — and not for career or financial reasons but just for the music, the art, just to try and see how far it could go. So that was a pretty big record for me, conceptually and musically.
Elmore James’s records were always around my house as a kid. Him and Duane Allman were the two that got me really locked in on slide guitar.
And then later on, I think in my mid-teens, I got into all of those 1970s Stevie Wonder records, from Where I’m Coming From to Songs in the Key of Life, Talking Book, Fulfillingness’ [First Finale], Innervisions — those were the first ones I ever really dug into with headphones, just listening to every note where the more you hear, the more you can pick out of it. The way he made records there for a while was, I think, probably the best string any modern artist has ever had. It was just one amazing album after the next.
Was there an insane amount of pressure stepping into The Allman Brothers? Yes and no. I’ve always been of the mind-set that you should be applying all of the pressure yourself and not really worry about the outside pressure. I try to surround myself with people that are their own worst critics, and that’s the way it’s always been. But I had so much respect for that music. I certainly wanted it to be right. When I joined the band, instead of listening to what they were doing in the late ’70s, ’80s, ’90s, I went back to the very beginning and just listened to those records again and tried to start steering it back to where it was, what it was about in the beginning. In doing that, you’re not trying to photocopy what happened; you’re trying to maintain that mind-set and that spirit but throw everything you’ve learned in the mix. It’s always been kind of one foot in the past, one foot in the future with that band. I think now with these last six shows I’m going back to that mind-set. I’m up here listening to those early records and trying to recapture that spirit a bit.
The Tedeschi Trucks Band is a beast of a lineup. How do you approach a project with that many players? With an 11-piece band, you certainly have to [take charge], whether it’s by being really obvious as a band leader or just by over time people learning what you want. You have to kind of steer the ship. The great thing about that band is that it’s a lot of people, but there [are] two drummers, and they do kind of act as one unit. The three horn players really think as one unit; the two backup singers really think as one unit. It kind of feels like a six- or seven-piece band. When the chemistry is right, it really is a lot easier than it should be. [Laughs.]
Throughout this summer, I feel like a lot of my friends were coming back from music festivals and saying that you guys put on one of, if not the best show they saw. That’s good. That’s how the band has been feeling lately. Everyone’s real excited about it. It’s been a lot of work getting it to this point, making sure you have the right people in place and everybody is on the same page and after the same thing. But in the last six months, eight months, I feel like the band really is in a spot now where you just have to feed it — the more time and energy you give to it, the more material we bring to the band, the better it gets. It’s not pulling teeth, and I haven’t been in that place with many bands. [Laughs.] With this band, everybody’s taste and musicality is so strong and so locked in. Everyone knows what this band should and can sound like, and everybody’s after that. It’s a nice place to be.
UCSB Arts & Lectures presents Tedeschi Trucks Band at the Arlington Theatre (1317 State St.) on Thursday, October 30, at 8 p.m. Call (805) 893-3535 or visit artsandlectures.sa.ucsb.edu for tickets and info.