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Jeff Moehlis: Tedeschi Trucks Band Slides Back to Santa Barbara

Guitar hero Derek Trucks and the rest of the Tedeschi Trucks Band will perform at the Arlington Theatre in Santa Barbara on Nov. 7. Click to view larger
Guitar hero Derek Trucks and the rest of the Tedeschi Trucks Band will perform at the Arlington Theatre in Santa Barbara on Nov. 7.  (Stuart Levine photo)

The Tedeschi Trucks Band — named after gritty-voiced Susan Tedeschi and her husband/guitar hero Derek Trucks, and filled out with a killer horn and rhythm section — will return to Santa Barbara with a smokin' soulful concert at the Arlington Theatre on Tuesday, Nov. 7. More information on the show is available online by clicking here.

Trucks, who is recognized as one of the all-time great slide guitarists, talked to Noozhawk about the band's latest studio album and his time with the Allman Brothers Band.

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Jeff Moehlis: A lot of people — and maybe you agree — think that Tedeschi Trucks is best experienced live, but I've been listening to your latest studio album, Let Me Get By, which is really great. How did that album come together?

Derek Trucks: That was the first record we had done being off a major label and just kind of doing it all on our own. I think we just relaxed into it a little bit, and we did everything in house. All the tunes were written at home in the studio with the band, and we recorded it all there and mixed it all there. It was just one of those records that come together pretty organically. You know, there's something to that.

I think going forward that's certainly the MO. I mean, with a band this big you have to think a year out, you have to schedule things. But with this one, we really kind of let it happen as it happened, as people were feeling creative, and as tunes were coming we just would set up and record. There was something nice about the tunes being written with the band members instead of just teaming up with a few people here and there. There was a lot of group improvisation that turned into tunes, and things like that. I think this one, more than any other studio record we've done, really represents the personality of the band, and I think it's important to capture that as much as you can.

JM: How does your approach to the Tedeschi Trucks Band differ from the previous bands you were a part of, the Derek Trucks Band and the Allman Brothers Band?

DT: You know, in some sense you approach all of it the same way. You put whatever energy and inspiration you have into it, and you try to make it go [laughs]. But your role changes a little bit.

Obviously in the Allman Brothers when I joined I was 19 or 20 years old, and the band was 30 years old at that time. You're coming in as the kid, and you have to navigate what that entails. So there are certain things you hear that maybe you would tweak if it was your own thing, that you're just going to kind of be along for the ride [laughs]. The longer you're there, the more you voice your opinion, and the more you start steering the ship a little bit. Because that band was very open. There was no full-on leader, I think really since Duane passed. Dickey [Betts] took over for a while, but once he was gone it was kind of by committee. So the longer I was there, the more comfortable you feel chiming in and steering it in different directions.

With my solo band, obviously you're in more of a leadership role. I started that band at 14, 15, so some of that you're growing into as well. I think with the Tedeschi Trucks Band, by the time we put this together I felt much more comfortable in that role. But you're co-leaders with your wife, so it takes a little while to figure out that dynamic, too. But I think at this point everybody's roles are really comfortable and defined. It changes from song to song and from record to record, but I think we have a good feel for the way things go best.

JM: It's sad how many artists have passed away recently, including some that you were particularly close to. To help celebrate their lives, are you willing to share a memory that you have from your time with Butch [Trucks] and Gregg [Allman] and the rest of the Allman Brothers Band?

DT: You know, I loosely grew up around them, and was close and around them from the time I was probably 9 or 10 years old. It's such a big part of your life. It's kind of hard to focus in on any one story.

Just recently we were playing the Beacon Theater with this group, the first time since Butch and Gregg passed. The first show you're kind of running on adrenaline, and just trying to make it go. By the second night you kind of relax a little bit. I don't even remember what tune it was, but we got into that place, where you get into that flow state a little bit. All of a sudden, it just kind of hit me.

I remembered that I'd been on that stage probably 180 shows with Butch and Gregg, and to my back left I kind of felt Butch there, just kind of imagined him there, and the same with Gregg to my right. You know, when you're playing music you get visited [laughs]. Sometimes I feel that whatever bull**** comes and goes over the years, when you're really playing and you're really locked in, I feel like all that stuff falls away and you kind of remember those moments where you really connected. Because there was some magic made on that stage with those guys. I felt like that, in some ways, was kind of a release. And that was just a few weeks ago when we were at the Beacon. Those are the times where you really get to make peace with it, and you remember those guys in a real way.

Same with Col. Bruce Hampton. We were just on the Fox Theater stage in Atlanta where he passed away. We came back and played a show there, and that was a tough one to get through. It's been quite a year. Just today we learned about Chuck Blackwell, who was the drummer in the Mad Dogs & Englishmen show that we did with Leon [Russell]. Chuck was a total bad***. He played on all those Freddie King records, and just tons and tons of great stuff. He was really close with our drummers — they made a great connection when we did those shows together.

The old guard is leaving us, that's for sure.

JM: But it's great that people like you are keeping the spirit alive.

DT: You try, man, you try. You know, when you get to meet people like that and really connect with them, you feel indebted to them. But it definitely steels you to want to keep doing it, to keep bringing that stuff to people. I mean, they were innovators, but they were also carrying on a tradition. Those guys saw James Brown and those bands, and they saw these great drummers and it made them want to carry that on in their own way.

I think in some ways in a band like this you become a link in that chain. You keep doing it long enough, and if you do it well enough, hopefully you'll start inspiring a different generation. And you definitely start noticing when you look around that there's not a lot of people doing it, so it makes it ... I don't want to say that it makes it feel more important, but it makes you feel like you really have to up the bar and keep it there, just to make sure it doesn't go anywhere.

Click here for the full interview with Derek Trucks.

— Jeff Moehlis is a Noozhawk contributing writer and a professor of mechanical engineering at UC Santa Barbara. Upcoming show recommendations, advice from musicians, interviews and more are available on his web site, music-illuminati.com. The opinions expressed are his own.

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