By Steve Newton
The day before Susan Tedeschi called me to chat about the Tedeschi Trucks Band, her husband and bandmate Derek Trucks celebrated his 37th birthday. Since Trucks is revered as one of the world’s top slide-guitarists, I ask Tedeschi if she bought him a new six-string to mark the occasion. Her answer isn’t all that surprising.
“No, no,” she replies from their family home in Florida. “He has too many of those.”
Tedeschi’s gifts to her beloved this time around included some Jim Marshall T-shirts and a pair of binoculars to use on the boat they keep moored nearby, in St. Augustine, Florida. Trucks is an avid fisherman—and she is too—but there won’t be any reeling in of big ones for a while, because their 12-piece band is preparing for a West Coast jaunt that includes a stop at Vancouver’s Queen Elizabeth on June 28.
The ensemble will be touring behind its third studio album, Let Me Get By, which sees Tedeschi Trucks delivering more of a soulful, R&B vibe than ever before. Or maybe not.
“I don’t know exactly what style of music it is,” ponders Tedeschi. “But I mean, there’s definitely an influence from jazz and blues and folk and rock and R&B and soul. I think we’re just a big melting pot of all those styles.”
Let Me Get By is the TTB’s first studio release to be solely produced by Trucks, who had previously collaborated with noted knob-twiddler Jim Scott (Wilco, Tom Petty, the Rolling Stones). So did hubby having full control mean he got a little bossy at times?
“Yeah,” replies Tedeschi, “but in a good way. I mean, he’s such a great leader and he has such great ideas. And if anybody knows the strengths of the band and what we’re capable of, it’s him, you know.
“Actually, I really like him producing,” she adds, “because I’ve never really been produced vocally that much. Like, people don’t really say, ‘Well, sing it different.’ ‘Sing it lighter.’ Or ‘Belt this part.’ So he gives me a lot more direction than most people ever have, which is nice, ’cause he’s the only one that’s really honest with me, I think.”
Before signing off I mention to Tedeschi that I interviewed her for the first time back in 1998, when she was a 28-year-old solo artist with a debut album. Back then she had said she was “just a singer who likes to write songs and play blues and go out and have fun and meet people”.
“I still enjoy getting out there,” she says now. “I love playing live and meeting a lot of the people and hearing their stories and how the music touches their lives. That’s really special to us.
“But honestly, now, it’s taken on a new element. Now I really am enjoying just being a part of a band that’s so extraordinary. This band really pushes me in a lot of ways where I’ve never been pushed, and I like it a lot.”