Music: Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks

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



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More From Derek Trucks

On the decision to build a home studio:
The idea first dawned on me when I was making a record with [producer] Jay Joyce. Me and [singer] Mike Mattison went down to his house in Nashville for pre-production writing with him and he decided he wanted to record it at his home studio. I had never done that before. The whole process, feeling like you’re at home instead of going to work in a sterile environment, looked pretty appealing.

On balancing work in the home studio and playing with the kids…
We make it a point that the studio days have time scheduled around the kids, where we get started while they’re in school and then we usually take a few-hour break when they come home from school so we have some hang time. My brother and his wife and my mom and my family all live within a few miles, so everybody’s kind of chipping in and hanging out. If there’s stuff we’re deep into in the studio, someone will be here with the kids at dinnertime or whatever.

How about on the road?
If we’re on the road and the kids are in school, my mom is watching them. If it’s spring break or summer vacation, we can bring them along. Actually, they come on the road quite a bit. They’re well-toured. The other day, my son, who’s 9, said to me, “What’s the opposite of ‘homesick’?” I said, ‘I don’t know—‘roadsick’?” “That’s what I am,” he said, “‘Roadsick.’

You better not tell your son when you started playing gigs!
I already did: “You turned 9, time to get a job!” [Laughs] He said, “I’m ready!”

On recording quickly:
If you have good enough musicians and the chemistry is starting to be there, you don’t need that much time. You learn the tune and you capture it immediately. With the bulk of these tunes, they were written and recorded within a few days, or they were written and no one in the band other than me and Susan had heard the song before we recorded them. There’s something about that I really enjoy. As long as Susan was comfortable with the material and could really deliver it, it was off to the races.

Like with Gary Luoris [co-writer, with Trucks and Tedeschi, of the songs “Simple Things” and “Don’t Let Me Slide”], he came in, we wrote the songs together fairly quickly, and he was walkin’ up the driveway to leave when the band was pulling in. We immediately cut “Simple Things” and a version of “Don’t Let Me Slide” about 20 minutes after Gary left the house.

What did you learn about production from having made a few albums with John Snyder and then the one with Jay Joyce?
That each had different approaches. John is really from the blues and jazz school of facilitating performances in the studio. Most of the work is done before you get to the studio. He’s a capture-the-moment guy, which with a band like this and what I do is just as important as really getting in there and re-writing tunes and deconstructing things, which Jay was more into. He was like, “Let’s dig into every corner of this thing and figure it out.” So Jay was very hands-on and John was more, “Let’s make sure the sounds and the attitude are right and then let the musicians do their thing.”

I think I fall somewhere in the middle. I’ve realized more and more that being a producer is like being a band leader, making sure everyone’s head is in the right place and the attitude and the vibe is right. With Jim [Scott, co-producer of the TTB album,] a lot of the work was the pre-production and making the sure the songs would hold water before you got great performances of them. The risk of having a band this good is you can make a bad song sound good and fool yourself into thinking it’s a great song.

Almost all of the demos were two acoustic guitars and Susan singing, so it was bare bones when we wrote the tune. So either the tune was good or it wasn’t.

Is it tough to produce your wife?
Well, it’s constantly feeling out the boundaries and finding out what works and what doesn’t. Sometimes needling somebody at the right time really does work. And sometimes it doesn’t. [Laughs] It’s different because it’s your wife, but at the same time it’s not. It’s still working with a musician.

Having a band together for 16 years, even at the end of the 16 years you’re still trying to figure out how to work with people or how to get the most out of everybody. The advantage is I’ve known her for 10 years and we’ve only been in a band together for about a year, and I feel we’re much further down the road than most musicians are a year in.

Was it tough to leave the other band?
It was, but you have to keep the fire lit in yourself to keep pushing forward and be able to put everything you have into it, so you really mean it every time you’re playing. You have to have the ability to see around the corners, and know, “I’m gonna need a change soon.” But yeah, it was difficult.

When I put the first group together, I was 14 years old and it formed pretty naturally and musicians came and went and it was finding the right chemistry, so in a way I’ve never done that as an adult. The juggling of schedules is crazy. “Who’s available for January?” We had to wait for some of them to be available. And when a band goes from four or five pieces to 11, there’s a lot to figure out.

How do you juggle crafting punchy songs with your fans’ desire to hear really long guitar solos?
That’s one of the toughest things to balance. I sometimes almost forget I’m supposed to put solos on the record until somewhere toward the end. So much of the music I listen to doesn’t have long guitar solos on it. I’ve been digging into a lot of The Band and Beatles records—records I love to listen to from top to bottom. So when we’re writing and making a record, I’m more in the mindset of making great songs. But then at some point, I have to think, “Oh, shit, I’m a guitar player!” [Laughs] But even listening to my favorite Hendrix records, there’s really not a bunch of long guitar solos on those albums. I try to lean in that direction where, when you are playing, you’re really saying something with the solos and they demand attention. But it has to live up to everything else in the song. I also wanted to make sure we didn’t put songs on the record just because they were good vehicles to solo over. The song had to carry its own weight. And I also knew that once we hit the road, all this material is going to be cracked wide open.

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