" Interview Part 1 "
What more can be said about Derek Trucks who has ensured his legacy in roots music by performing and recording with heavy hitters like Eric Clapton, Buddy Guy, McCoy Tyner, Phil Lesh, Carlos Santana, David Sanborn, the Allman Brothers Band, Bob Weir & Ratdog, his wife Susan Tedeschi, and many more. Oh, and six albums are credited to his name, plus a brand new self-produced recording due out in January of '09. Need I say more? Even with all of these achievements documented, it's noteworthy to mention that Trucks is not even thirty years old!
I recently had the opportunity to connect with Trucks during a northeast tour swing, as his new single "Down in the Flood" was about to be released and in January his seventh recording, Already Free, will be available.
Bob Putignano for BluesWax: Hi, Derek, as per usual, you've been one busy guy as I heard you playing on the new David Sanborn, McCoy Tyner, and Jimmy Herring CDs, plus your new album should be out soon.
Derek Trucks: The sidemen sessions were nice and it's always great hanging with Jimmy Herring who came to my home studio to record the tracks that I play on. The Derek Trucks Band single is scheduled to come out on November 4, and the entire album will be out in early January. My wife Susan Tedeschi's album was released at the end of October and I play on several tunes on her record, too.
BW: Do you and Susan record at home, too?
DT: We did one track at home, the rest was done out on the West Coast.
BW: Susan did some work with Robben Ford on his most recent recording.
DT: Yeah, yeah, we've been fortunate to have been on some really good records recently, including a new Richie Havens record that I'm on and the latest Scrapomatic album, too. Funny story, Scrapomatic's CD charted at number two on the Macedonian charts.
BW: Macedonian, how did that happen?
DT: We were just touring there and somehow their record got a lot of play and took charge in Macedonia.
BW: Mike's vocals always amaze me and it seems that every time I see him he gets better and better.
DT: No doubt, and Scrapomatic is also up for a Grammy nomination, as is Susan, so if you know anyone who can vote, please encourage them. Get them some trophies!
BW: Were you ever nominated for a Grammy?
DT: No, they have a problem with me, maybe it's because I talk bad about them.
BW: You were just plugging them a second ago.
DT: I don't know why, perhaps some day.
BW: The other organization who doesn't recognize you is the Blues Foundation, not that they are comparable in size or stature to the Grammy organization, but I could never figure that one out.
DT: Well, you know if you don't stay close to the talking points, they abandon you, so when I or anyone does some of the songs that are not considered Blues then you get kicked out of the Blues Foundation. [Laughs]
BW: Several years ago I was on the nominating committee for the then called W.C. Handy awards at the Blues Foundation and I just never could understand the process. Especially when young musicians like you come into to prominence, as Lord knows the Blues industry needs a more youthful following. So if you don't qualify, I just don't understand what is going on in people's heads down there in Memphis.
DT: I guess sometimes things just have to go full circle, as all the music we are performing and recording is roots based. The Folk and Blues element is a huge element of what we do. I've noticed with a lot of Blues fans that if you go back in time too far to the real early Blues you kind of loose them. I guess there's a certain period of Blues that is acceptable, but if you go back too far it's not.
BW: I'm probably double your age, but I also have a problem with Blues going too far back in time. Especially when it gets too cranky and moaning and groaning; I'm just not connected.
DT: I'm the opposite, the deeper and the darker the better. Guys like Jerry Garcia were listening to stuff from those early periods of Blues, same with Clapton. When I was on the road with Eric I'd dig up all of this obscure recordings and in a blink he would know the tune and name the artist.
BW: But both Garcia and Clapton took from the roots and then took it to another level, especially improvisationally.
DT: Oh yeah, definitely!
BW: No doubt, but from the other times we've spoken you are a musical historian who spends a lot of time researching all kinds of music.
DT: Definitely, when I was fourteen or fifteen and decided to get serious about the music, I spent a lot of time looking back at the roots of all kinds of music. Duane Allman was a huge influence and we knew he was listening to Elmore James, then you checkout who Elmore was listening to, and trace back to people like Son House, so I just try to follow the leads.
BW: Did you get to meet Jerry Garcia?
DT: No, but I got introduced to that camp on the 1999 Phil Lesh tour, which was the first time I was really around it.
BW: What was that like?
DT: It was great. I grew up not hearing that music so it was a new world for me and I really enjoyed it. Plus I am kind of glad that I got into it with fresh ears, as I felt I appreciated it for what it was and still is.
BW: Yeah, I guess there's a lot to be said for not being affected.
DT: As long as you have an appreciation for the history and for what the Dead have done, you go into it with a healthy amount of respect. So I did not get into it as a super-fan, I approached it as a music fan.
BW: I saw you and the Allman Brothers band jamming out with Bob Weir and Ratdog.
DT: Those tours with Ratdog have been great, as were the Phil Lesh and Allman Brothers tours, there was a lot of musical interaction with everyone.
BW: You must know Dennis McNally who works in Weir's camp.
DT: Yeah, yeah, a great guy for sure.
Bob Putignano for BluesWax: Back to currents, your new record is coming out soon, what can we expect to hear from you and your band this time?
Derek Trucks: Well, initially we were not going to perform any of the new tunes live until the album was released, but we got antsy, gave in, and we are playing them on this current tour. I'm really excited about this recording; it really feels like a serious step forward for the band as well as for me personally. We built the studio on our property last year in Florida and bought this beautiful old console from Ray Davies' Kinks studio. I love this vintage gear that sounds so amazing in the room. So as we were piecing the studio together I started having friends down and started learning about how to use the board, which is when we started writing and tracking tunes for the new album. Two to three weeks later we realized we had fifteen tunes and we kept plugging away. I called Doyle Bramhall, who I toured with Eric, and he came down and brought some tunes, Susan's band came by and we wrote some songs together, Mike Mattison from Scrapomatic and my band wrote some tunes, Warren Haynes also flew down and wrote some tunes, and then Susan and I realized that our small circle of friends are world-class musicians and songwriters. Plus we've created a very relaxed area for people to hangout in, so my dad stops by and cooks out on the grill, the kids have space to do their thing, so it's an inspiring environment to create in. For about a month to a month and half, everyday we were hanging out, writing, and recording, so I'm really happy about how everything came out and I got to produce it myself, too.
BW: Oh wow, good for you!
DT: It feels good that we built the studio from the ground up and produced it all there, other than going up to Electric Lady studio in New York where Hendrix did his thing, and mixed it for ten days. I'm really happy with this one; it feels like we birthed it.
BW: From what you just described it was a birth thing, but it took more than nine months. [Laughs] Will there be any covers on this new disc?
DT: Well, we ended up with twenty-five or so tracks and a handful of covers, a few of those made it, was a Bob Dylan tune, another Paul Pena tune who became a really good friend and we found semi-unreleased stuff of his that are great tunes. Than we did a track Carlos Santana recommended for me and Susan to do, which is an old Soul track. And in this day and age there seems to be more and more bonus tracks on albums, plus the iTunes tracks, etc. So basically we wound up with twenty tunes, a lot will be bonus tracks as the main record has twelve tunes and we are going to press it on vinyl, too. I want it to be an album experience, people don't listen to music that way anymore. We put a lot of effort in making this album flow, with specific long or short gaps between the tunes, so if you get a chance, it's worth listening to that way, as opposed to one track here or there.
BW: Very nice, Derek, people don't listen that way much anymore, plus not many artists make records like this anymore either. Would you call this a concept album?
DT: A little bit like a concept record, but not too much, we did not go into making this with a story line, but once we started recording and got into it we felt that this tune would flow well into this other tune and you realize how it should be sequenced. I also had the good fortune of having some downtime on the road with Warren Haynes and Oteil Burbridge and they would listen to the tracks with me and provide their take as to how songs should sequence, which was a great starting point for me.
BW: Well now you have me licking my chops, Derek. Will the LP version be a double disc?
DT: I think it's going to have to be two LPs, it will be a limited edition on vinyl, plus I just got a new turntable and I'm excited to hear it at home on vinyl.
BW: I'm a bit of an audiophile, which turntable did you buy?
DT: A VPI, which is a nice sounding turntable, I just realized that it feels so much better listening to music on vinyl, it just feels so much better.
BW: Yeah, there's that warm analog glow; that thus far, digital players have not been able to completely capture that warm feeling.
DT: No doubt, I just put on this Joni Mitchell record that I've heard hundreds of times on CD, which my mom used to listen to on LP, and when I recently put it on my turntable it just felt right! So now I'm hoping that for all of our future recordings we do at least five hundred to one thousand pressings on vinyl.
BW: You can count on me grabbing an LP copy for sure!
DT: You've got it.
BW: I have about ten thousand LP's in my house, so yours will make a nice addition.
DT: Cool. I am just getting started with vinyl and now I'm spending all of my per diem on the road on LPs and checking out the shrinking record stores around the county and world.
BW: I'm a big Internet shopper so there's quite a bit of vinyl around and recently even Amazon is selling LPs, too. But I do miss the hang at some of those old records stores where people hung out talked, and sometimes argued about music.
DT: Yeah, but in a way digital killed hi-fidelity and peoples' attention span as to how they listen to music.
BW: I wholeheartedly agree, Derek.
DT: We are all guilty of the digital world.
BW: No question about that, as everything is so convenient now, by throwing a disc in a player or your iPod. But the fidelity is another kind of sad story.
DT: Yeah, man. Plus the other thing I just realized with building the studio in my home was that it's not as social when you throw in a CD into the player, especially when you have friends and family over. So having the vinyl covers spread out all over and then having to get up every fifteen or twenty minutes to turn over the LP, keeps people involved. I've noticed that every once and a while when Susan and I are home together and the kids are asleep, my mom comes over to take care of the kids, and Susan and I go to the studio and just listen to LPs. Just sit down and listen to music, it's so nice, it's a different beast!
BW: It's so cool for a guy your age to see this vinyl thing come into yours and your wife's world. Please spread the good vinyl word around to your similar aged friends, as I'd sure would like to see this golden age of vinyl and the way we listen to music return.
DT: We'll work on it, you can be sure of that!
BW: Might there be a new tune about this LP story somewhere?
DT: I bet there is! [Laughs]
BW: As always, Derek, it's a pleasure to talk with you and for you to share your thoughts with the BluesWax fans, not only about music, but about the social aspects of all of this. Any last thoughts, Derek?
DT: Man, I think we covered a bunch. We are looking forward to this run of shows and breaking out new tunes and all, we are all in good spirits and anxious to get rolling.
BW: Best of luck with the new album and keep on keeping on with all that you do so well Derek.
DT: Thanks, Bob. I hope to see you again real soon.
Bob Putignano: www.SoundsofBlue.com