Derek Trucks won't slow down as he eases off the road
By Bernie Woodall
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Derek Trucks has been on the road for almost 20 years, which is a real feat for a guitarist and bandleader who hasn't yet reached 30 years-old.
Trucks, whose Derek Trucks Band starts the European leg of its current world tour on Wednesday in London, began playing in clubs near his family's Jacksonville, Florida home at age 9.
A slide guitar prodigy, he jammed with the Allman Brothers Band when he was 11 and shared a stage with Bob Dylan at 12.
In 2003, he was the youngest person to appear on Rolling Stone's list of the 100 greatest guitarists of all-time, and he is considered by many to the best of his generation.
Still Trucks, 29, is not a household name -- not yet.
With his tour schedule slowing and the band's most recent album, "Already Free," showed well in the charts, Trucks could soon see his own star rising. "Already Free" takes his music in a somewhat new direction.
"The first few records...we were doing soul music, latin music, Indian classical and just straight ahead" songs, he told Reuters. "With this most recent record, all those influences are there, but it's much more subtle."
Since 1999, Trucks has been a full-time member of the Allman Brothers Band, and when time allowed, he would join his blues-singing and guitarist wife Susan Tedeschi in a singing troupe they call Soul Slew Revival.
On his own, he has led the Derek Trucks Band (DTB) since he was 15 years-old. At the peak of touring five-to-six years ago, he and his guitar were on the road 275 to 300 days a year. After Wednesday's stop in London, the DTB will head to Germany, France and Italy.
"There was a time when I didn't mind traveling 300 days a year," said Trucks before a recent show in Los Angeles. "Once you have kids, all that changes. It's not you-first anymore."
The father of a 7-year-old son and 4-year-old daughter said he'd like to cut his days on the road to around 100 each year, and spend most of his time at the home that he, Tedeschi and the children share in Jacksonville.
But more time at home won't mean less music or less work, and he has built a recording studio at his house to accommodate a slower touring schedule.
"ALREADY FREE," ALREADY A HIT
"Already Free," which was released about two months ago, was recorded in that new studio, and for the first time Trucks acted as his band's producer -- a role he said he will keep for the next few records.
The album debuted at No. 19 on Billboard's top 200 chart, a huge improvement from the No. 164 opening of DTB's previous release, 2006's "Songlines." It hit No. 1 on Billboard's blues and Internet charts, and No. 4 on the rock chart.
Rolling Stone magazine called the cover of Bob Dylan's "Down in the Flood" the "most accessible blues-rock set to date" from DTB.
Trucks said the songs show a refinement of his influences since he was nine-years-old -- from rock to blues to jazz to music from India and Pakistan, the Caribbean and Africa. He called it, "world soul music."
"I feel like we're just staring to tap into that sound and that feel" that the band has been striving for, he said.
Often, Trucks writes the music and DTB vocalist Mike Mattison pens the lyrics. Bandmembers include bassist Todd Smallie, drummer Yonrico Scott, keyboardist Kofi Burbridge and percussionist Count M'Butu.
While DTB singer Mattison said record sales mean little to him, Trucks is not so sure about that because he knows extra earnings means the band can take longer breaks from the road.
He said he built the studio at his home to spend more time with his kids, and he added that free of the pressures of the road, he can relax to write music.
While he continues playing slide guitar for the Allman Brothers Band, Trucks said that job will slowly take less time as the Allmans cut back on touring in the next few years.
Trucks wants to focus on DTB and a new band made up of his DTB bandmates, Tedeschi and her group, as well as Trucks' younger drum-playing brother, Duane.
"It will be something along the lines of the way Joe Cocker was doing Mad Dogs and Englishmen with Delaney and Bonnie (in 1969 and 1970). I think that idea of a traveling circus -- people coming and going -- would be nice. We know so many great musicians that are all coming from the same places musically.
"It would be nice to get kind of a revolving door of musicians, you know, keeping the flame lit."
(Editing by Bob Tourtellotte