Tedeschi Trucks Band Balance Being Partners In Music And In Life Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks of Tedeschi Trucks Band talk about deciding to make music as a married couple, relay parenting and channeling grief into art.

Susan Tedeschi And Derek Trucks, Partners In Music And In Life

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Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks are partners in work and in life. They're musicians who married, then married their music.


TEDESCHI TRUCKS BAND: (Singing) Here I am. I did it to myself, but I still don't know what I'm here for.

INSKEEP: That's Susan Tedeschi fronting the Tedeschi Trucks Band. They're linked to some of the biggest names in blues rock and have a devoted following of their own. And they brought their instruments by our studios to show what they do.


TEDESCHI TRUCKS BAND: (Singing) Well, meet me at the bottom. Bring me my running shoes.

INSKEEP: She bends her voice into blue notes, tones between the regular notes on a scale. He bends the voice of his guitar, moving a slide, a glass tube up and down the strings.

DEREK TRUCKS: You know, you can really emulate the human voice with this lad.


INSKEEP: So how do you take the chaos that is the life of a travelling musician and make that your family life? The story starts with the Allman Brothers, a famous rock band. Derek played with them in the late '90s, and Susan was their opening act.

SUSAN TEDESCHI: Derek actually had started with the Allman Brothers in June of '99, right around his 20th birthday. So you were - what? - like, a month into being 20 (laughter) when I met you, and I was 28.


TEDESCHI: So I'm a little older.

TRUCKS: Cradle robbing.

TEDESCHI: And I told him he was too young for me, but everybody knows he's an older soul than I am.


TEDESCHI TRUCKS BAND: (Singing) When you see me streaking by, please don't be late.

INSKEEP: In their first years together, they played in separate bands. Their songs sounded a little more traditional than other artists'. Here is a sign of the choices they made. Susan Tedeschi was nominated for a Grammy as best new artist.

The other nominees, if I'm not mistaken, were Christina Aguilera, Macy Gray, Kid Rock, Britney Spears...

TEDESCHI: That's right.

INSKEEP: ...And you.

TEDESCHI: Who would've thought?


INSKEEP: We're getting at your passion here, I think, because it's probably fair to say that these other four nominees made certain commercial choices, maybe agreed to do the things you didn't want to do.

TEDESCHI: Absolutely. And I was fine with them doing it. I didn't want to do it.


TEDESCHI: I mean, I'm out there to please people, make people happy through music. And...


TEDESCHI: ...The only way to do it is to be true to yourself. And Derek really helped support me through a lot of that, actually.

TRUCKS: And we've been fortunate 'cause we've been able to be incredibly stubborn, musically. And it's still working, you know?


TEDESCHI TRUCKS BAND: (Singing) He's got a mean old woman, and I'm too young to die.

INSKEEP: Their stubbornness makes them distinctive. He's 39 now. She's 48. They're of an age when older mentors, like Greg Allman, have been dying around them. One mentor died with them on stage. He was 70 at the time. And even as they started their latest tour, one of their bandmates died. They say their losses were on their minds as they wrote a new album called "Signs."


TEDESCHI TRUCKS BAND: (Singing) Looking around, I see so many lives falling apart.

INSKEEP: Having merged your personal lives years ago, how did you come about deciding to merge your professional lives?

TEDESCHI: Well, that took a while. It was a good 10 years of being married and having two children. And we could not have done it sooner because Derek was in three bands. I mean, he had his own band, which was touring the world. And then he also was in the Allman Brothers. And for the 2006 and '07, he was playing with Clapton.

TRUCKS: It was a busy decade.

TEDESCHI: So we were very busy, and then it got to a point where, you know, things just started to change.


TEDESCHI TRUCKS BAND: (Singing) But you and me - oh, we ain't giving up now. Oh, we're going to rise above.

INSKEEP: Was there a moment of hesitation when you thought, I hope I don't see too much of this person - I hope I don't drive them crazy?

TEDESCHI: I mean, we both were a little nervous. If anything, we actually like each other better being around each other. We realized because we've been on the road so much our lives, it was nice to not be on the phone so much and to actually just be in person.

TRUCKS: Before, it was a lot of, I'm out. Susan's home.


TRUCKS: Susan's out. I'm home.

INSKEEP: Relay parenting.

TRUCKS: Yeah. And it - that was a big factor in doing this, too - was just a quality of parenting (laughter) and child rearing.

INSKEEP: We have this song on the album called "When Will I Begin," which seems to express that kind of - I don't know - daily frustration of trying to get your life going in the way you want.

TEDESCHI: Absolutely.


TEDESCHI TRUCKS BAND: (Singing) There are papers surrounding me, keeping me buried beneath the sea.

TEDESCHI: Some people ask, you know, why is the lyric, you know, there are papers surrounding me? Well, you know, how many people are just inundated with bills or mail or, you know, paperwork? And you don't get to go enjoy life 'cause you're so inundated with just normal, everyday stuff.


TEDESCHI TRUCKS BAND: (Singing) When will I begin? When will I begin? When will I begin to be free? When will I begin?

INSKEEP: That's beautiful, guys. Thank you.


INSKEEP: You feel it.

TRUCKS: This record, especially, I think, more than anything we've done, happened in a time where there was just a lot in the air - in the world, personally, for the band. And all the lyrics were pretty raw and to the bone.

INSKEEP: It's not too explicit, but they say there is no doubt their song "Shame" is a comment on the news.


TEDESCHI TRUCKS BAND: (Singing) Shame - oh, there's poison in the well. Shame, shame...

TRUCKS: You want to say things. You don't want to shy away. You can't bury your head in the sand. You don't want to pander, but you also don't want to make the chasm any wider than it already is.

INSKEEP: Well, have you noticed that the crowds you play to - are they in some way divided or politicized?

TEDESCHI: So this is interesting.

TRUCKS: Without a doubt - you can feel it in the air. We really felt it right after the last election. We did a tour through the Midwest, and you could just...


TRUCKS: Every lyric you sang had a different meaning. And you could feel it just through the crowd. We opened the first show with a George Harrison tune - "Isn't It A Pity." Just - it just felt right. And you could just feel the portion of the audience that's like, yes. Isn't it a pity? And then you could feel a portion that's like, how dare you play that song first?

INSKEEP: (Laughter).

TRUCKS: And you know - and we - our mentor - one of our mentors, Colonel Bruce Hampton, before he passed away - right around that time period, we saw him. And he said, well, music's important again (laughter). I was like, you know what? He's absolutely right.

TEDESCHI: Music is.

INSKEEP: Because people need it.

TRUCKS: And it matters, and...

TEDESCHI: And music can be revolutionary, too. I mean, it can really, you know, get people inspired and bring people together.


TEDESCHI TRUCKS BAND: (Singing) Makes me wonder, oh, why we're broken. Lord, you got to wonder...

INSKEEP: A grown-up perspective from two musicians who have been growing older together. The latest from the Tedeschi Trucks Band is called "Signs," and you can hear the songs they performed for us at npr.org.

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