Band: Tedeschi Trucks Band, Jake Peavy & the Outsiders
Date: Friday, Jan. 13, with doors at 7:30 p.m.
Venue: Saenger Theatre, 6 S. Joachim St., www.mobilesaenger.com
Tickets: $39.50-$76.50, available at Saenger box office and through Ticketmaster
While 2016 was devastating for many, the Tedeschi Trucks Band spent the year enjoying the public’s positive reaction to its latest album, “Let Me Get By.” Recorded in guitarist Derek Trucks’ home studio, this is the first Tedeschi Trucks album produced solely by Trucks, and the first the 12-piece band recorded as a group. The combined effort resulted in an album marked by beautiful Southern roots rock laced with vocalist/guitarist Susan Tedeschi’s soulful voice.
As he was about to listen to the master tracks of an upcoming live album, Trucks took time to chat with Lagniappe about 2016 as well as the band’s endeavors.
Stephen Centanni: 2016 was a pretty rough year for some. For Tedeschi Trucks, it was a huge year. How would you describe 2016?
Derek Trucks: It was a strange year. It was our best year as a band both musically and with crowds. We were glad to get that record out.
We lost a lot of people that we’ve known well and toured with, like Sharon Jones and Leon Russell. It was a strange year. It feels like there was a pretty big shift, but in a lot of ways it makes you dig down a little deeper and take the mission more seriously, not that we don’t.
It’s a little added weight when you realize that there are fewer people doing what you’re doing. It’s hard to see fellow musicians and people who started the genre go away. It was a different kind of year.
Centanni: I think the moment that stands out for me was that World Series jam session that you had with not only Eddie Vedder [Pearl Jam] but also Bill Murray. How does something like that happen?
Trucks (chuckling): That was pretty unique! We were heading out on tour and had a show the next day. I flew to Chicago for Game Four. I ended up sitting with Eddie Vedder and meeting him that night. We ended up at the club across the street from Wrigley (Field). One thing led to the next.
I’ve known Bill Murray for a while. I guess I met him at the “Clapton’s Crossroads” thing. We’ve stayed in touch, and he’s come out to a few of our shows and a few Allman (Brothers Band) shows. I reached out to him and told him where we were hanging. At 1:30, (or) 2 in the morning, he pops in, and it just got crazier and crazier. I had no intentions to play music at 3:30 in the morning across the street from Wrigley, but there it is.
Centanni: Let’s talk about that new album. Last time we talked, Tedeschi Trucks Band had just started using your home studio full time. You were pretty much trying to keep your album production in-house. With those ones that you first recorded at home, you shared the production chair with someone. For “Let Me Get By,” you did it on your own. What was it like doing your first album on your own?
Trucks: In some ways, it was getting back. The first record that I did at home, I produced for my solo band. When we put this band together, I felt like I needed to make sure that it wasn’t too close to what I’ve done with my group. I felt like it was better to step back and jump in with somebody. Jim Scott, who produced the first two records for the band, is a badass. We learned a lot working with him. We’ll probably work with him again.
We felt that it was time to do one entirely ourselves as a band and write all the tunes in-house with just the band members in the studio. We wrote a few tunes with Doyle Bramhall [II], who’s been an honorary band member.
It felt good. I feel like I know this group well enough now that you can tell when there’s a better performance to be had, and you keep going forward, and you can tell when you’ve kind of done it. It’s the same with Susan. I know the way she sings, at this point, to know when there’s a different approach to a tune or maybe there’s a little more in the tank where she can still go.
I enjoy that process. When we get out there making records, I could go for months at a time. It’s a satisfying thing to do.
Centanni: With that said, the production on this album is great, and a lot of people agree with me. What do you make of all this love you’re getting for the production side of things?
Trucks: You know, it’s nice. I feel like you take baby steps every time, and you learn from people who are masters at what they do. You try to take a little bit of that and keep moving. It’s nice having the same studio there. You can evolve with it. Jumping around to different places and having to rethink it every time, you almost have to start from scratch. With this, I feel like we’re building every time.
A lot of that is our engineer, Bobby Tis, who lives five or six houses down. He’s constantly here. Every time there’s a few days off on the road, there’s always ideas of how to make the studio better or brainstorming on different ways to record the band. He’s a huge part of it. It seems like he never stops thinking about ways to record the band. It’s as much him as it is me and the group, as far as the way it sounds or the way it feels.
Centanni: This album is the first that was written as “an ensemble.” With 12 members, what was it like putting songs together?
Trucks: When we have writing sessions or rehearsals, we stagger it. A lot of times, Mike Mattison will come down, who was in my solo group and an amazing singer and songwriter. He’ll come down a few days later, and me and him and Susan will just write tunes together. He’ll have ideas, and we’ll throw bits in, or I’ll have song sketches and collaborate as a smaller group.
Usually, the rhythm section will show. Then, we’ll spend a day or two digging into those sketches that we wrote with Mike or just playing. Ideas will come up from out of nowhere. Somebody might remember a jam that we had at sound check and someone had it recorded. You go that way. Then, the full band shows up, and you add the other touches. Sometimes they’ll have ideas that will spark a tune. Generally, it starts small, and we widen to scope.
Centanni: While we’re on the subject of the band, I was reading a New Yorker interview where you were talking about when you and Susan first met. They were kind of wary about her hanging out with you.
Trucks (laughing): I was on the road with the Allman Brothers at the time. So, I think it had more to do more with their past. I don’t think her band wanted her on a bus with those crazy people. It was kind of guilt by association, really.
Centanni: What do they think of you now?
Trucks: They’ve come around!
Centanni: I’ve also heard about a possible live album in the future. What are the details on that?
Trucks: We’re actually, hopefully, finishing it today. We finished mixing a little ways back. It’s getting mastered by Bob Ludwig, who’s mastered all our records. We’re going down to the studio in a little while, so hopefully we’ll be signing off on that.
We did a tour out West in the fall. We recorded every show with the thought of compiling the best version of tunes. We were also filming multiple nights and the band traveling on the road. It’s not quite a documentary, but there are a lot of those elements sprinkled in.
We’re going to do a film of the shows in Oakland. It turned out the second night in Oakland was as good as any show that we did on the tour. I think the live record will be night two in Oakland. There’s some pretty great stuff on there, and I’m excited about it. We capture the band doing its thing, and I think the film that goes with it is a pretty cool snapshot of being on the road with the group. There’s footage of the band traveling and days off and pretty good interviews.
Centanni: With 2016 being so big, what are the goals for 2017?
Trucks: Man, just keeping the momentum. We’re not really a career goal-minded band. We don’t really think on those terms so often, other than the fact of keeping a 12-piece band on the road and viable. That’s our goal. We keep this bitch treading water, and we’re happy.