Susan Tedeschi's Motherly Blues On her latest album, Back to the River, singer and guitarist Susan Tedeschi uses her hard blues style to tell stories of family life. Her own day-to-day existence with husband Derek Trucks (a guitarist with the Allman Brothers Band) and their two children may not be average, but Tedeschi's songs have universal appeal.
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Susan Tedeschi's Motherly Blues

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Susan Tedeschi's Motherly Blues

Susan Tedeschi's Motherly Blues

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It's All Things Considered from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block with new music today from the gutsy blues singer Susan Tedeschi. This song off her new CD is called "Talking About."

(Soundbite of song "Talking About")

Ms. SUSAN TEDESCHI (Blues Musician): (Singing) What if I'd be in your heart? Look this way and I'll never stop. When you can't find the words to say, I know what you mean anyway.

BLOCK: Just imagine how much fun sing-alongs must be at her house. Susan Tedeschi is married to the guitar wiz Derek Trucks, who plays with the Allman Brothers Band. They have two young children, home in Jacksonville, Florida.

(Soundbite of song "Talking About")

Ms. TEDESCHI: (Singing) I tell you somebody knows what you're talking about. I tell you somebody knows. I tell you somebody knows what...

BLOCK: Susan Tedeschi went to Berklee College of Music in Boston to study voice, loved R&B and gospel, and always played acoustic guitar. She didn't dive into the blues until after she finished school and friends invited her to a blues jam. She started listening to electric blues guitar masters - Otis Rush, Magic Sam, Freddie King - and that was it. She was hooked.

Ms. TEDESCHI: I was so inspired by the artists that I was hearing, really, for the first time. So I think it was so fresh and new that I couldn't help but want to play along with every T-Bone Walker lick, every - you know, listen to old Bobby Bland, people like Wayne Bennett and Pat Hare. You know, different guitar players really inspired me to want to learn how to sing on the guitar. I didn't care that my fingers were getting tore up, you know, or any of that. I still get really excited to sit and listen and learn and try to figure stuff out.

BLOCK: Let's play one of the songs on the CD. You play lead guitar in a number of the songs, and this is one where you do. It's called "Can't Sleep At Night."

(Soundbite of song "Can't Sleep At Night")

Ms. TEDESCHI: (Singing) I've got the blues going around in my bed...

BLOCK: Susan, where did this song come from? How'd you come to write it?

Ms. TEDESCHI: It was late one night, and I put the kids to bed, and my husband was on tour, and I was at home. And I remember going down into the garage and just looking at all the messes of things that I should be cleaning. And I was like, I don't want to clean. I think I want to just sit and play. So I pulled out my guitar. I was trying to be quiet not to wake up the kids, and I wrote the song.

BLOCK: Just like that.


(Soundbite of song "Can't Sleep At Night")

Ms. TEDESCHI: (Singing) Where did I mess up? Where did I go wrong? Guess these things I'll never know. As I lay awake going round and round, I keep singing the same old song. Oh, lot's of love and I try, Oh, the (unintelligible) cry. Oh, so why can't I sleep at night? Oh, why can't I sleep at night?

BLOCK: You know, you're describing such a peaceful, domestic scene. And it's a tortured song.

Ms. TEDESCHI: Well, it's one of those things. I probably was going through a hard time that day. Maybe I couldn't reach Derek, and I was frustrated or something. I don't know. I think sometimes I tap into other people, too, around. And if people are going through a hard time, I sometimes write about other things that I see or, you know, just different situations. And I think during that time, I had a lot of friends who were getting divorces. You know, sometimes the people around you really affect what you write.

BLOCK: You've got two young kids. They're what, four and six?

Ms. TEDESCHI: That's right.

BLOCK: What's it like for you to be on the road? The kids are at home?

Ms. TEDESCHI: Yeah, they're at home with Derek right now.

BLOCK: With your husband. How does that work for you?

Ms. TEDESCHI: Well, actually, this is a new thing - him being at home, me being on the road. It's kind of strange. But it's difficult now that they're in school. I can't just pick them up and throw them on the tour bus and go on the road with them. So now it's definitely a lot tougher. And so, I'm like on the phone with them in the mornings, you know, if they're getting ready for school and, you know, just trying to quickly say hi and catch in and just everyday talk to them. Let - make sure that they know that I'm still here. Don't forget about Mom.

BLOCK: The cover photo on the CD is you. This must be your tour bus.

Ms. TEDESCHI: That's my husband's tour bus.

BLOCK: Your husband's tour bus. You're sitting in the back bunk, and it looks a little tight quarters. And then in the jacket there's a picture of an amp.


BLOCK: And kids on top. Are those your kids?


BLOCK: A photograph of your kids?

Ms. TEDESCHI: I think that might be my husband's amp. We both have old pictures of our kids.

BLOCK: Is this - would this be on stage with you when you're playing?


BLOCK: Yeah?

Ms. TEDESCHI: Yeah, our amps always have pictures of our kids on top of them.

BLOCK: Really?

Ms. TEDESCHI: Yeah, Derek and I both.

BLOCK: Why is that?

Ms. TEDESCHI: Well, it helps us think about them. And you know - and it just helps us stay grounded. You know, it's just nice to see them because then when we're singing or playing, you know, we can put that much more emotion into it.

(Soundbite of song "Back to the River")

Ms. TEDESCHI: (Singing) Wake up in a cold sweat...

BLOCK: The title song of the CD, "Back to the River," is all about this really, in a way, isn't it?

Ms. TEDESCHI: It is. And I got together with Tony Joe...

BLOCK: This is Tony Joe White?

Ms. TEDESCHI: Yeah, Tony Joe White.

BLOCK: For folks who don't know who Tony Joe White is, why don't you explain who he is?

Ms. TEDESCHI: OK, well he is a wonderful songwriter and a famous guitar player and singer.

BLOCK: Described as sort of swamp rock - the king of swamp rock.

Ms. TEDESCHI: Yeah, he's - yeah, he's known as like swamp rock. And when we really got down to writing, he's like, well, what do you want to write about? He's like, why don't you tell me where you live and, you know, what your family is like? So I told him about where I live. I live in Florida. I live on a river. And you know, I've got two kids. And before I knew it, he's like, OK, let's write about that.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. TEDESCHI: And then everything was just coming right out. And so the lyrics of that song started talking about how you're on the road and how you need to get back home. Get back to the river.

(Soundbite of song "Back to the River")

Ms. TEDESCHI: (Singing) Back to the river, take my time...

Ms. TEDESCHI: And then, you know, about missing the kids in the next verse and missing their hugs and chasing lightning bugs, and all these silly lyrics that are fun, and then ultimately getting back home.

(Soundbite of song "Back to the River')

Ms. TEDESCHI: Well I miss their hugs and chasing lightning bugs. They make me smile. It's going to take a little while to get back to the river.

BLOCK: You've talked about how having kids affects your songwriting. What do you think the influence of that is? How does that come out?

Ms. TEDESCHI: I think having kids, I really care more about the world. You know, I'm not just caring about myself. And I think that's just a new approach for me. In the past, I never really wanted to deal with stuff. And maybe I would just get it out in other ways, you know, writing about relationships or writing about love or whatever. But now I'm writing about, you know, water and oil and voting. And you know, I'm always trying to write about positive things now. So I think it's less melancholy and a little bit more positive.

(Soundbite of song "People")

Ms. TEDESCHI: (Singing) People, people, what more can I say? Let's get ourselves together. Too much at stake to look away.

BLOCK: Well, Susan Tedeschi, thanks for coming in.

Ms. TEDESCHI: You're welcome. Thank you.

BLOCK: You can hear more songs from Susan Tedeschi's new CD, "Back To The River," at

(Soundbite of "People")

Ms. TEDESCHI: (Singing) People, people, people. People, people. People, people.

BLOCK: You're listening to All Things Considered from NPR News.

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