Tedeschi Trucks Band: Bound For Glory

Susan Tedeschi by Susan J. Weiand
JamBase: Did you have fun singing on this record? It’s challenging due to the many slow songs, but you come through with flying colors.

Susan Tedeschi: I enjoy singing on everything. I love playing with this band. It’s a joy and honor to play with Derek and Oteil and Kofi and Mike Mattison – one of favorite singers out there – and the horns. It’s just such an amazing band, and the drummers are so great. It’s hard not to enjoy every little bit of it. But, I love to sing ballads, but you always get more recognition for the stuff that’s more upbeat and in-your-face. I guess society has changed a bit, where they need to be constantly entertained.

JamBase: People are stimulation junkies, and the fast stuff tends to get folks faster. But the slow stuff is where real deal musicians really shine. Every element really matters because the listener can hear it and pull it apart more easily.

Susan Tedeschi: That’s true, and it is definitely more revealing for the musicians for sure.

You have a lot of big personalities, musically speaking, in the Tedeschi Trucks Band. But there’s truth to the idea of ‘power in numbers’.

It helps but only if they’re really talented. There’s really no weak link in this band. I’ve been in a lot of bands and there’s almost always one or two people that are not really in it because they love it – they’re just in it for the cash – or they’re just not that great and can’t pull it off every night. But not this band; this band is unique. If everybody had to leave the stage for a while, everybody could hold their own alone. That’s rare! Everybody has a lot of years of touring and recording and performing under their belt. Nobody is a new newcomer.

Is it ever a challenge to harness the energies of that many people working simultaneously? It’s very easy for big bands to sound muddy and this band doesn’t.

There’s a lot of thought that goes into it, and Derek – and a lot of people in this band – have a lot of vision of how to do it. People will step up and say, “I think this is clashing. Maybe we should revisit what the horns and vocals are doing in this part.” It can be anybody in the band who notices something and brings it to our attention, and then we all work on solving problems. Derek is really good at communicating ideas and generating compromises; he’s just such a great natural leader, though one of the great things about this band is it feels like it’s everybody’s band. In a way, it’s like starting over because we’ve all had other things but never this thing. So, we have to convince promoters, ticket sellers, etc.

This is a band of veterans, many of which have led their own bands. But this feels like you’ve collected all this energy for a shared purpose.

It’s true. Everybody in this band knows it’s for the greater good and show everybody off. We love each other and we love doing what we do, and we’re trying to do something different. We’re taking it seriously and not taking anything for granted. We all want to get to that next level, whatever that might be. I don’t know what that is specifically, but we’re always challenging ourselves and writing new music and pushing ourselves. The best way to do that is to surround yourself with people who do that and make you want to do that. It’s the same as school. Put yourself around really smart people and you’ll work harder.

Tedeschi Trucks Band by Susan J. Weiand
The humility of musicians who know when NOT to play is something I really appreciate and see a lot of in your band.

That’s also underrated nowadays. People think it’s all flash and glam and rockin’ solos [laughs]. A lot of times they aren’t saying anything. There’s a big difference between improvising and jamming. The best players, when it’s their moment AND they’re in the moment, they bring a lot of things to bear no matter how much else is going on at the time. They can steer everybody in a new direction and we all follow. The great thing about playing with great people is anything can happen at anytime. Nothing’s set in stone.

I love the look of surprise on musicians’ faces onstage when they discover some new corridor in a familiar song and suddenly everyone is off like a light to explore it.

Those are the moments you live for – the excitement, the unexpected, the fun. They make you smile and welcome in joy. Something else about this band is a lot of the songs are really positive, though not always in melody but in the lyrics, which touch on hope and looking for a better answer to things.

The feel of church without actually dragging folks into church, so to speak.

It’s one thing to be preached at and another to be educated by something or have something revealed. Revelator is about revealing happiness and joy and other ways to look at the world. It’s easy to be cynical; there’s so many things going wrong in the world. There’s no reason for another downer record. Yes, divorce is huge. Yes, unemployment is huge, but that’s not what people want to hear about. They want to hear something that’s going to help them get through that stuff.

There’s even a knee-jerk tendency to ridicule positivity these days.

I know! We gotta nix that. It’s time to get positive. It’s easy to look around and feel helpless, but you can do stuff. You just need to take a breath and try to be more positive.

Continue reading for more pics of the Tedeschi Trucks Band at the Warfield in SF...

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