photo credit: Dean Budnick
Starting Friday Sept. 27, Tedeschi Trucks Band will descend upon New York City for their ninth annual outing at the Beacon Theatre. As per usual, their six-show run was timed perfectly for the shifting seasons, and while the rock and soul collective find themselves at the end of what they have called a “year of triumph and tragedy” Derek Trucks is in good spirits as he calls from his home in Jacksonville, Fla. Whether the famed guitarist is looking ahead to TTB’s Beacon shows or looking back on their history-making LOCKN’ set, Trucks gives us a peek behind-the-scenes of one of America’s hardest working bands.
This will be your ninth run with TTB at The Beacon. For you, how has the Beacon run evolved and developed over that time?
It’s hard to believe—I guess I hadn’t thought it was nine years [Laughs]. I mean, the band has evolved so much. There’s been a lot of change in the nine years—some were expected, some weren’t, some that will forever change the group.
I feel like the Beacon is the place where we always re-check in as a band and assess where we are. We dig deep into the material, and it makes us look in as a group. I love it—it’s always a challenge to make six nights feel unique, but you never want to sacrifice a night just so it’s different. They all have to reach a certain intensity and a certain level. So it’s always a great challenge for the band, and I feel like we’ve always just gotten better and better at doing that. We look forward to it now more than we ever have.
Do you work harder on Beacon setlists, knowing that there are people who are going to be seeing consecutive nights?
I think last year we did over a hundred and something different tunes over the course of the run. We try to vary it as much as we can, but there’s some songs you just want to play more than one night. Like, “This is feeling really inspired,” and you just want to dig into it more than once over the course of the run, or twice. You factor that in, but we keep track of all the sets we’ve played in any venue. Whenever we get somewhere, they’re always printed out in the dressing room. And, you look back at what we did the last Beacon run, the Beacon run before that, and you don’t want to repeat the script at all—you want to keep it moving. The Beacon gives us the chance to dig into tunes that we don’t play that often—songs from our catalogs, songs from Susan’s solo catalog, or my old band, or bands that we’ve played with, anything that feels related and legit, we feel pretty open to dig into.
Are you tweaking setlists up until showtime, or are they set in stone at the top of the run?
It’s up until showtime. I have a sketch in my head, and we’re thinking about things we want to do on certain nights. But it’s a very liquid process [Laughs]. You never know who’s gonna show up on any given night, or who you’re gonna run into the night before, so there’s guests that just pop up and you rethink things that way. And sometimes, mid-show, you’ll be audibling certain tunes, or even change the course of the whole set, so you have to go back and rethink things for the next night. That’s kind of the beauty of it, and the band is quick on their feet, so there’s no problem with that.
The Beacon has a huge history with not only Tedeschi Trucks Band, but with the Allman Brothers Band as well. Can you talk to me a bit about the first time you saw the Allmans there?
I believe the first time I saw them play there I had just been offered the gig, and Jack Pearson was doing his last run with the Allmans. So it must’ve been 1998. Maybe ’99? But I had heard stories about the Allmans at the Beacon, and they would always talk about how it was as close to the Fillmore as anything they’d ever felt, that they were gonna set up shop and that was their new spot. So, I came along when they were already well into their Beacon history. They had done an 18 show run, I believe, the year before I joined, and they realized that was too much [Laughs]. People went sorta crazy, and shit got weird. So by the time I went, I believe it maxed out at twelve shows, something like that. It was always such a huge part of their year, and a huge part of their history.
We would always plan things for the Beacon. Even when you were working up tunes for the summer tour, you were thinking, “Well, we’ll have to save this for the Beacon.” So when [TTB] got the opportunity to start playing there, it seemed like a natural extension, and I felt like that spirit kind of needed to keep going there, with a few people in the family. But we decided not to do it in March, because that was their time [Laughs]. There was something really unique and special about that, and we wanted to make it different, make it our thing. A huge part of the reason we’ve stayed at the Beacon is that legacy—it feels like home. We know the union guys that work there, we know the guys running the elevator backstage—it’s very much our people at this point.
You’ve got two openers this year, John Moreland, and the Capitol Sun Rays, featuring Luther Dickinson, Amy Helm, Birds of Chicago and Grahame Lesh. Talk to me a little bit about why you wanted to bring those guys along, and why you choose to have openers at the Beacon?
A lot of times, we want to hang out with them [Laughs]. I mean, it leads to good sit-ins. I think it’s nice to have two sets on certain nights. We like playing one long set, as well. So, the weekdays are fun for that. Some of it is, we really want to hang out with Luther and Amy [Laughs.]
Tedeschi Trucks Band’s newest studio output is the High and Mighty EP, which showcases leftover material from the Signs sessions. How did that come about?
When we’re making records, we always go upstairs to the listening room at the end of sessions. When we get a few weeks into making an album, we’ll start going up every night and listening to everything we’ve done. And, we’ll give different people different cracks at sequencing the album and how we think it should go. There’s certain nights where you listen to it down and it just seems perfect. A lot of times it’s because you cut a tune or move a tune around. I think when we landed on where the album finally ended up, we realized that we couldn’t lose all those other tunes—they needed to go somewhere. We play them live; they’re part of our thing, so it’s good to get them out there.
One of the interesting parts of the EP too is that it kicks off “All My Friends,” which was a favorite of Gregg Allman. Do you remember ever playing that tune with him?
You know, we played it with the Allman Brothers a few times—the gentleman who wrote that tune, his name is Scott Boyer, from another Capricorn band from Macon, Ga. back in the day called Cowboy, which wrote some beautiful songs. They recorded that originally, but my dad was really good friends with Scott Boyer, and everyone from that early Allman Brothers scene. Scott was probably closer with my father. Scott passed away not too long before we recorded that—so we were thinking about Scott, and we were thinking about Gregg, who recorded it on his first solo record. So that’s what was in the air when we were recording that tune. It was very much a tribute to those two, and really everyone else, because the lyrics of that tune are pretty powerful.
Well, I’ve put it off long enough, I’m going to ask about LOCKN’. Can you take me back to when the idea to recreate Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs started to germinate?
We were playing at Red Rocks, and I got on the phone with Trey [Anastasio] to talk about what I would play in his set, and what he would play with us. At that point, I think Oteil had a set the day we were playing, and originally it was going to be the Allman Betts band, so I knew there would be a lot of Allman Brothers tunes played that day. And I was like, “I want to avoid those, because it’s gonna already be happening.”
I mentioned “Keep On Growing,” or a few of the tunes that we play already, to Trey to see if it would be something that he’d want to do. He wanted to do a lot of our tunes, but he was really keen on the Dominoes stuff. And then I had a friend who was at the show that day, her name is Julie Mendelson, and she overheard some of the tunes we were going to play, and she was like, “You should just do the whole fuckin’ record” [Laughs], and that’s when the light bulb went off. And I was like, “Oh yeah, that’s what Phish and Trey have done, they’ve done whole records.”
I’ve always wanted to play that material—I’ve played about half of the tunes over the years with either my band, or with Eric [Clapton], or the Allmans, but there’s a bunch of them on there that I just never learned, never played. It felt like the right time. So when I mentioned it to him, he was gung ho, and that was that.
I was named after that record—my parents named me after the Derek and the Dominoes record. And then, when we were in New York for the rehearsals, I was trying to find the history, and the release date came up, and it was Susan’s birthday [laughs]. The album came out on the day Susan was born, day and year. So, I thought that was pretty unique. It felt like, “We made the right call!” [Laughs].
I was named after this thing; she was born on the day. Pretty good stuff!