Guitarist Derek Trucks is a cofounder of the Tedeschi Trucks Band and performed with The Allman Brothers Band, whose original lineup included his uncle Butch Trucks. Derek recently spoke with Gambit about his start in music, The Meters and working with the Tedeschi Trucks Band.
What got you interested in playing guitar?
Trucks: The interest started before I ever picked up an instrument. [Music] was always around the house. My parents were always spinning vinyl and the stories of my dad going AWOL from military school to go to The Allman Brothers' Fillmore East shows [and] seeing [Jimi] Hendrix helicopter in at the Atlanta Pop Festival. All that stuff was mythology for me. ...
I got a guitar at a garage sale at 9 years old, and it just happened. At that age, you don't overthink things. If something is fun to do, and it comes to you somewhat naturally, then you just roll with it. ... It wasn't until probably 13 or 14 that it hit me that if [I was] going to do it, [I] should probably start digging in and make it count.
Did being part of a musical family help?
T: I think that family connection made it seem a little more real and, I guess, possible. I wasn't around that scene a lot. When I first started playing, [The Allman Brothers] were on hiatus through most of the '80s. ... I would see my uncle [Butch Trucks] maybe once a year around Christmastime, and I would hear those stories.
Once I started traveling and playing, a lot of the musicians I met really early on became huge influences. Colonel Bruce Hampton was probably the biggest one. The Colonel and Jimmy Herring — I think I was 11 or 12 when I met those guys. They changed things for me. That whole crew with Jeff Stipe and Oteil [Burbridge]. I learned a lot from them, but the Colonel was amazing about turning me on to the right record at the right time and just exposed me to different types of music, whether it was Delta blues or Wayne Shorter, John Coltrane, Sun Ra or Indian classical music, it was just the right introduction to the right music at the right time.
You're familiar with New Orleans music and Jazz Fest. You've covered songs by The Meters with the Funky Meters. What was that like?
T: That was fun. I remember when they called me about doing it. I think George Porter Jr. sent me a 20-song setlist. I did my homework. I showed up and I think we played maybe two of those. ... It hits you how memorable that music is, because you realize you know it already. Whether you've learned it or not, you know it. That was a lot of fun; to be onstage with that crew was pretty amazing.
We're excited about [Jazz Fest]. I think about all the great shows I've seen at Jazz Fest, from Ornette Coleman to just a bunch of people at the Gospel Tent. There's getting to see Snooks [Eaglin] before he passed. I think about that stuff. Jaimoe brought the great drummer Earl Palmer out before he passed away.
How does song writing work with the Tedeschi Trucks Band?
T: We've gone about it in a bunch of different ways. With the first few records we did, I think the nature of us being so busy and the timing of it all — me and Susan [Tedeschi] would get together with friends we had written with in the past. We just spent a few days holing up in the studio with two or three of us writing tunes. We wrote some pretty amazing stuff, and you learn different people's song writing process.
We're in the process of making one ... We've been getting together for rehearsals with the band and writing tunes as a group. We've been recording ideas and sound checks — things that happen spontaneously at the show — and just piling that stuff up. When we get some time away from the road, we get together and delve into those ideas. We have an album worth of tunes of just that stuff, and it's pretty great. Between Kofi [Burbridge] and Mike [Mattison] and J.J. [Johnson], there are some really musical minds in the band. ...
Having the studio here — we've made four or five records here. Every time we get in there, we get a little more comfortable with it. As a band, making the records and the way you perform a song live are two distinct things. It doesn't have to be the same arrangement. It doesn't have to be the same soundscape. We can use the studio for a different thing. My son is 13 and my daughter's 10 and they've been listening to a lot of Beatles records, a lot of Led Zeppelin records, Hendrix and Sly Stone. You realize that they were using the studio in ways that people really don't use it anymore. It was really experimental. A lot of stuff, there was no way you would recreate it live, but there's a beauty to that. That's why you make records.