Music: Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks

Jun 1, 2011 9:00 AM, By Blair Jackson



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The formation of the Tedeschi Trucks Band marks the union of two formidable talents: 40-year-old Susan Tedeschi, one of this country’s finest blues/roots singers and songwriters for the past 15-plus years; and 32-year-old Derek Trucks, who has been writing great tunes and laying down some of the most wickedly soulful slide-guitar licks ever since he was 14—in his own band, as a member of the revitalized Allman Brothers and even touring in Eric Clapton’s group for a spell. The two share so many of the same musical loves and influences—old gospel, rock, blues, jazz, classic soul and R&B—it seems only natural that they would play together in a band. Of course, it helps that they have been married to each other for a decade and have two children, ages 9 and 6. Through the years, they’ve played together on numerous occasions, on each others’ albums, sitting in with their respective bands and touring jointly in the “Soul Stew Revival.” Still, starting the new group was a big step for these veteran yet youthful road warriors.


More From Derek Trucks

After putting their self-named bands on ice near the end of 2009, Trucks and Tedeschi began the long process of forming their new group, a big and bold 11-piece ensemble. There are a few familiar faces—holdovers from Trucks’ groups include keyboardist/flutist Kofi Burbridge and singer Mike Mattison, and longtime Allman Brothers bassist Oteil Burbridge. (Derek and Oteil will keep playing with the Allmans, who only tour sporadically.) From Tedeschi’s band comes drummer Tyler Greenwell. Second drummer J.J. Johnson was in John Mayer’s band for a few years, and singer Mark Rivers comes from New York’s gospel music world. Then there’s the potent horn section: Tenor sax man Kebbi Williams has played with John Legend and many others; trombonist Saunders Sermons is a New York cat whose diverse credits include the likes of Jay-Z, 50 Cent and Diddy, but also various jazz outings; and New Orleans trumpeter Maurice Brown is a distinguished jazz player who has fronted his own group.

During the same period Trucks and Tedeschi were putting together their new band, they were also co-writing a passel of original songs with a whole bunch of different folks in and outside the band, and, with an eye toward making their first album—the just-released Revelator—built a recording studio from scratch on the back part of their lovely 3-acre spread in Jacksonville, Fla., where Trucks is from and much of his family still lives.

“When I got the Clapton gig,” Trucks says, “I was on the road so much, and because we have kids, it really hit me that I wanted to be home more. Originally, I just wanted to build a rehearsal space so I wouldn’t have to go somewhere else. I mentioned it to Bobby Tis, who at that time was my monitor engineer and guitar tech, and he said, ‘You know, my dad is in studio design and I sort of grew up around that. Before you build it, let me look at the plans and I’ll send it to my dad and maybe we can turn it into more of a recording studio.’ When I got the plans back, it was this world-class studio!” [Laughs]

Tis’ father, who goes by Bob, is an engineer, studio tech and designer who worked at Foghat’s Long Island, N.Y., studio, Boogie Hotel; at Bearsville in the ’80s; and spent 12 years as tech director at Sterling Sound in Manhattan. “Dad’s a master of AutoCAD and drafting,” says Tis, who played in bands growing up and eventually moved into recording and live sound himself. “We spent a lot of time [in New York] together drawing up what the studio would be like, and he also came down to Jacksonville a few times. Derek took a real leap of faith building this studio. I think he was kind of blown away by the idea.”

Trucks says, “It went from a crude sketch on a legal pad to more than I’d imagined. I wanted it to feel warm and homey—sort of the Bearsville barn idea—and to have a playing room big enough that we could all set up and play and record live. Once we realized it was going to be two stories, we figured we should also have a nice listening room or lounge upstairs where we could chill and listen to what we’ve done.”

The main recording room is 25 by 32, with RPG Diffusors and Owens Corning 703 acoustic panels “near the top of the room to give it a sort of live, juke-y sound,” Tis says. “It doesn’t have a slap, but it’s rich. When you stand there and just talk, your voice sounds amplified, so it’s got a nice live vibe.” The control room is equipped with a vintage Neve 8048 console (which contains 32 Neve 1081 pre’s), Genelec 1037 mains, ADAM A8X near-fields and scads of analog outboard gear. “Derek is definitely into the vintage thing,” says Tis, who has been instrumental in acquiring old and new pieces for the studio, which Trucks has dubbed Swamp Raga; the guitarist is an aficionado and player of Indian classical music.

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