Preview by Joshua Maloni
While Tedeschi Trucks Band won't be the most famous headliner at Artpark this summer, there is little doubt it will be the most talented group to grace the amphitheater stage.
When guitar virtuoso Derek Trucks teamed with his wife, Grammy-nominated singer Susan Tedeschi, to form this band in 2011, the result was a revelation for music critics. In fact, the band's first album, "Revelator," was called a "masterpiece" by Rolling Stone and "outstanding" by USA Today. The Kansas City Star's review of an early TTB concert centered on "the stunning vocals of Tedeschi and the awe-inspiring guitar" of Trucks.
Taking their blues-rock act one step further, TTB began its "Wheels of Soul" tour, hitting the road with more-than-capable opening acts including The Wood Brothers and Hot Tuna, Los Lobos/North Mississippi Allstars, and Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings/Doyle Bramhall II.
TTB returns to Artpark for a "Tuesdays in the Park" concert on July 17. This time, Tedeschi and Trucks will bring with them Drive-By Truckers and The Marcus King Band.
While just down the 90 in Canandaigua - and fresh from a few days off - Tedeschi spoke with NFP about her band, work on new music, successfully traveling with a fleet of people each summer, working the stage and hanging with Willie Nelson.
Tedeschi Trucks Band (Photo by Tab Winters; provided by On Tour PR)
Susan Tedeschi on forming Tedeschi Trucks Band, and what she enjoys about the ensemble today: "Well, it's such an amazing group of musicians, and also being part of such a big group there's so many variations of music that we can play. It's amazing. Pretty much we can try anything, which is exciting.
"And everybody is so sweet and we all get along so well. There's a lot of appeal there. You know, we're just a big family and love making music together. And everybody's a writer. Everybody is contributing all the time. It's fun. It's really fun.
"It takes the pressure off. Like when you're a solo artist, you know, you have to kind of carry the weight of the band, but with this band, with Derek alone it's amazing. And then Kofi (Burbridge), and then the two drummers, in JJ (Johnson) and 'Falcon' (Tyler Greenwell), and then we've got Tim Lefebvre on bass. He's amazing. And not to mention our three amazing singers; and three horn players. There's a lot going on. And you know, it's just a really exciting band.
"And we're really excited, too, because we just finished making a new record. And it won't be coming out until February, I don't think, but we just finished it. And it's really good and we really want to play the songs, but of course we've got to save them for the record. We've been playing one of songs, which has been really fun. And we've had a lot of nice feedback. So, I think people are going to really like this record."
Tedeschi on succeeding with a summer tour that includes two-dozen musicians, countless crewmembers and a catalog of around 70 songs: "I mean obviously it's sort of like a personality thing. You pick bands that you really can get along with and you pick bands that are talented. And there's plenty of bands out there, you know, you just have to find them. And in the past, you know, some of them were no-brainers just because they're friends or whatever. But this time, really, Derek and I only knew Marcus King. And Derek's known him for a few years through Warren (Haynes) and through Eric Krasno. The two of them sort of pointed him out when he was a teenager, and now he's 22. But he's fabulous. His band is outstanding; really sweet guys. And they're the first slot.
"And then the second slot is the Drive-By Truckers. And they're just one of those bands we've always heard about; we always thought that we would get along; we just kind of wanted to try it out, you know? And they're super sweet, and they're really talented, and it's just a nice fit.
"Because when you're doing the 'Wheels of Soul Tour,' you want to bring some new artists to the crowd that maybe had never heard them. And so far, everybody loves both of the bands. It's been really positive, and we've been having a lot of nice (nights).
"When we do have days off, like we had a Fourth of July cookout in the parking lot in Saratoga Springs, that was fun. The bands bonded and got together and cooked and drink and hang out. It's just really nice. It's a nice way to really get time to know some of your fellow musicians who are also on the road touring all the time. And then we just get together with them and say, 'Hey, you know, what about this tune? You guys want to learn this tune for tomorrow?' And then we have a rehearsal, and then we get up and we play it live. And then maybe we move on to a different tune. So it's just, you know, a matter of just putting our heads together and communicating and just collaborating together, which is really fun."
Tedeschi on what she, or her band, cooks/prepares for bonding time: "Tedeschi Trucks Band, we totally have an amazing group of chefs. You know, everybody has different things that they do. Our drummers are sort of the meat guys, and Mike Mattison, too, so the three of them will - usually JJ, 'Falcon' and Mike will definitely have a plan. Like 'OK, today we're going to do ribeyes and we're going to do you ribs,' or whatever they pick, and then, you know, 'We're going to make street corn.' So they have different things. Or shishito peppers or different stuff. And then I'll see what they're making and then I'll pick some stuff around it. You know, usually JJ will make a kale salad. I usually will make like a banana pudding dessert or something that we can make on the road, because we don't have an oven, but we have, you know, barbecue kind of stuff under the bus. So, we get creative and we'll make different things. I'll make a different kind of salad or side.
"We definitely are into the cooking aspect of things."
Tedeschi on what happens when she steps out on stage: "Well, I mean, literally, I walk out on stage and make sure that my amp is plugged in and working. (Check) my guitar and make sure my mic is set. I have some guitar picks and I just look at Derek and get ready. And, you know, wait for those count-offs and look at my setlist and know what's coming and just try to prepare and just really try to focus on the music. And then also pay attention to the crowd and see where they're at, and see, you know, what I can do to help motivate them to be into it. (Laughs) So, it's a, you know, a little bit of a process of just kind of getting there and making sure everything's set and then, you know, try to be aware, as well as really focused."
No, really, what makes Tedeschi shine on stage: "I think it's my years of experience with being on stage, honestly. Because I think one of the hardest things about being on stage and being upfront is nerves; you know, that can really get people - you know, you can get really nervous and overthink stuff. And I think, just because I've been on stage since I was about 6 years old, I don't mind it. I'm comfortable.
"You know, sometimes I get nervous, but most of the time I don't. I usually only get nervous if it's television; if it's singing an anthem all by yourself in front of 60,000 people ... or, you know, if there's somebody there that I'm really excited about, you know, like Eric Clapton or somebody, then I'll get nervous. (Laughs)
"But for the most part, I think that really helps - just having your composure and not being nervous. And also really realizing that everybody in the band has each other's back. You know, we all are there for each other and, if you're having a bad night, you can lean on somebody else, or somebody else's having a bad night you can really push forward and step it up. So, you know, those are all important things.
"Also, I think, I really feel a connection with the audience a lot of times, and I think I can just look at them and they can feel me. They can see how I'm feeling and, obviously, that changes night to night, but I try to stay positive and just do the best I can do. Not overthink it."
Tedeschi on playing with Willie Nelson this fall: "That's gonna be amazing. So, you know, I've been friends with Willie since 1999, when I first did Farm Aid. He brought me out with my solo band and then I did Farm Aid a few other times. And then we stayed really close. I visited his family, and stayed with them, and we stay in touch. And for the longest time now, Derek and I have been wanting to do something with Willie. And then just recently, you know about a year ago, saw Willie and Annie. And they were like, 'Yeah, we've got to do something together. Why don't you guys come out on the 'Outlaw Tour.' And we were like, 'OK, great!'
"It was just sort of one of those things where, whenever it works for him, we would jump on it. It's Willie Nelson! (Laughs)
"He tours a lot and he works really hard and he loves what he does. He's an American treasure and we need to hang out with him whenever we can."
Tedeschi on Artpark: "We're excited about coming to Lewiston. Artpark is really nice. And actually Kofi was just talking about that venue the other day. He was like, 'Where is that place we play' - and he was describing it. I was like, 'Oh, that's Lewiston.' He's like, 'Oh, yeah.' He's like, 'We're going there, right?' I was like, 'Yeah.' He really liked that venue. I think a lot of the band likes the venue. The people are really nice and it just feels like a family crowd. It's nice."
The Tedeschi Trucks Band "Wheels of Soul 2018" tour, featuring Drive-By Truckers and The Marcus King Band, performs at Artpark on Tuesday, July 17. The outdoor show begins at 7 p.m. For more information, or for tickets, visit www.artpark.net.