Susan Tedeschi of the Tedeschi Trucks Band prepares for Red Rocks
“red rocks is something we look forward to every year,” says singer-songwriter and guitarist Susan Tedeschi. from her home in Jacksonville, Florida, where the Massachusetts native has lived for twenty years. “Red Rocks to me is very Colorado, and you love nature and soaking up everything. If you’re that kind of person, that’s just amazing. We know it’s an honor and we don’t take it lightly. It’s a bit mind blowing every time we go. It looks like a sacred place.
Tedeschi and her husband, all-star slide guitarist and royal Derek Trucks of the Allman Brothers, have been touring and recording with the blues-rock Tedeschi Trucks Band since 2010; the act has happened at Red Rocks countless times. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020 marked the first time in what seems like forever that she hasn’t made the trip to Morrison. In fact, for the first time since the two longtime artists were in elementary school, they haven’t performed on any stage for a solid year.
“The first few months we actually planned to take off,” Tedeschi recalls, “but after about four months we were like, ‘What’s going on?’ It was really weird and surreal, but we kept busy.”
They kept busy mixing the songs of the Tedeschi Trucks Band New albuma 2019 live performance of the classic album Derek and the Dominos Layla and other assorted love songswith Phish’s Trey Anastasio sharing lead guitar and vocal duties, and also surprised their record company with another album which is currently in the works.
After the Layla The album was finished, Tedeschi recalls, “We were like, ‘We have to do something. We have to be creative. We have to go here. We kind of brainstormed with Mike Mattison, one of our bandmates from group, who graduated from Harvard, with a major in English. He had an idea: ‘Why don’t we all tap into the same subject?’ He inspired us with a poem from the 12th century and we all wrote music to and from that theme and we wrote 24 new songs and recorded them so we worked to try and finish that which is a incredible amount of music, and we’re thrilled about it.”
More so than on previous Tedeschi Trucks records, the songs came from many of the bandmates rather than the band’s husband and wife stars.
“It was really exciting to be able to put ourselves forward and all work together,” Tedeschi said, “but it also made us say, ‘We have to do something for our fans.’ It’s also what sparked the Fireside Sessions during the pandemic.
The act’s popular Fireside Sessions, which spotlighted various smaller incarnations of the twelve-member group of Tedeschi Trucks, aimed to lift fan spirits during the more isolated times of the coronavirus outbreak. Now, Tedeschi is excited to take a stripped down version of the band on the road for what has been dubbed the Fireside Live Tour.
The live-streamed Fireside Sessions were “really fun and a great opportunity to show how diverse the band is, that we’re capable of playing as a duo or in fours or fives or sevens or eights or whatever,” says Tedeschi. “It made us realize, ‘Once things open up, we can go out. We can do something smaller. So that’s what we’re doing this summer. We’re going to do that until things open up and we can get back to working as a full group.
Supporting all the musicians in this full band and their families during a pandemic hasn’t been easy, admits Tedeschi, who has two teenagers herself, but making personal sacrifices to ensure her comrades don’t suffer was “a non-brain,” she said. “Since we are a little conservative about having such a large group and spending money, we had saved a lot of money for emergencies, so we had already planned to take three months off and we had saved a lot of money to pay the band. Then all the emergency money…we just put it in and paid the band.
But the money that Tedeschi and Trucks had saved ended up running out. “We’ve been very lucky with some of the PPP loans to help the group. It’s really helped,” she says. “In the end, it felt like the right thing to do. You have to keep people afloat. I was really shocked at how many other bands didn’t do this. You look at the picture in its together, and we’re a family; it’s not Derek and Susan’s show. Our band and our crew, we’re all in this together.”
Some more than others. “Derek, our manager and I have not been paid,” admits Tedeschi. “We haven’t been paid since last March. We live off savings and literally sell baseball cards and things we’ve bought in the past for a rainy day. But it is okay; I feel so blessed to have had this extra time at home with our daughter and son before he left for college. He really got the raw end to the case. He was an honors student and a baseball player. He was only able to pitch a few games. It was really heartbreaking, but really more for the kids – seeing the opportunities they were missing….
“The two things I wanted to do growing up were having kids and playing music,” Tedeschi says. “I can do both, so I feel incredibly grateful.”
Tedeschi has been an artist since the age of five, when her mother involved her in theatrical performances. “For a long time I really didn’t know what my calling was, but when I discovered the blues in my early twenties, it seemed to be more my calling,” she recalls. it’s not like the blues is a regional thing. It all depends on what moves you.
She discovered her husband’s uncle’s band, a small Jacksonville band called the Allman Brothers, when she and her brother went to a garage sale. “I bought a Clash disc, and he found Brothers and sisters. To this day, I still love those two records,” she says. Like the über-talented Trucks, Tedeschi spent time playing in nostalgic bands with legendary American musicians, such as the surviving members of the Grateful Dead — but as Trucks told me when the Tedeschi Trucks Band last visited in Colorado to play Red Rocks in 2019, the couple are thrilled to be part of a band that fans are coming out to celebrate new original music.
“Ultimately it’s about creating your own sound and making your own music and allowing your own expression to come through, and doing that with Derek since 2010 has been amazing,” Tedeschi said. “We feel really lucky and grateful for that, for sure. And he’s absolutely right: there’s something very different about making your own music than when you’re singing someone else’s music. ‘other.
A look back at his career, which began with the 1995 solo album Better days, Tedeschi remembers her 2000 Grammy nomination for Best New Artist, which found her alongside Kid Rock, Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera. “Here I am, a blues artist,” she recalls. “There’s no way I think I would ever be in a category with any of them.”
“People always say, ‘Aren’t you sad you didn’t win?’ And I’m like, ‘No, I didn’t really want to be famous!’ I’m so happy to be able to go to the supermarket and do normal things, like go to my son’s baseball game,” Tedeschi says. “We have a normal life, and it’s so beautiful? I never wanted fame; it’s not about the money and the fame, and it never was for Derek and me, because we really have a real passion for music and making people happy, as well as ourselves. And I got to tour with BB King and play with John Lee Hooker. John Lee Hooker took his guitar away and gave it to me! I feel like Forrest Gump, for real.”
Tedeschi says his heroes – people like King, Hooker and David Hidalgo – gave him not only a love of music, but also a sense of grace, humility and sincerity. All three were reflected in how she and her husband supported their bandmates during the pandemic, and how they support other musicians now.
Could there be a 2000 Best New Artist reunion on stage? Tedeschi is amused by the prospect of Britney Spears sitting down with the Tedeschi Trucks Band at Red Rocks.
“Let’s go,” she said. “Let’s go. I think we should free Britney anyway.
Tedeschi Trucks Band performs their Fireside Live tour at the Red Rocks Amphitheater at 7:30 p.m. Friday July 30 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday July 31; tickets, from $49.95 to $130, are available at axs.com.