Norwell native Susan Tedeschi reflects on her South Shore roots and music career.By Maria Allen
Grammy Award winner Susan Tedeschi grew up in Norwell and attended Berklee College of Music before forming the Susan Tedeschi band in 1994. In 2010, she and her famed guitarist husband Derek Trucks (formerly of the Allman Brothers) teamed up to form the Tedeschi Trucks Band (TTB)—a soulful 12-piece ensemble known for its contemporary, bluesy roots music. Let Me Get By is the band’s third and latest album, recorded in their home studio in Jacksonville Florida.
It’s really fun and exciting. I have tons of family and friends in the area that I grew up with. I just wish I had more time to visit with people while we’re in town. Sometimes when I’m on stage and I look out and see familiar faces in the audience it makes me feel more comfortable. It’s hard to not wave at people.
Did you have a musical upbringing?
My mom was involved in musical theater so I’ve been performing on stage ever since I was 6 years old. I think that’s one of the reasons I’m so at ease on stage. I’ve run across a lot of musicians who get stage fright and I don’t really have that problem. My dad always played guitar and harmonica and he turned me on to a lot of great blues musicians and songwriters. My dad’s influence helped inspire me to write and perform more.
How does the sound of the Tedeschi Trucks Band compare to the music you played as a solo artist?
It’s very different. In the past I played with bands that had four, five or six people in the group. Now we have a 12-piece band that features three backup singers, who are amazing, a horn section and two drummers that create a really loud and dynamic sound. A lot of drummers can’t play together but our guys have great chemistry and can play together and take on different rolls on different songs. It’s just magic.
I’ve heard the band described as a great “jam band.” What can audiences expect from your live performance at the Levitate Music Festival in July?
The style of our performances depends on the kind of show that we’re doing. When we’re playing a shorter set we tend to have less time for improvisation, but if we’re in a large theater and we have 2 ½ hours to play, we are able to stretch things out. When we’re playing at a festival we want the music to be action packed to get people up and dancing.
What has it been like to play in a band with your husband, Derek Trucks?
It’s interesting; we’ve been married for 15 years and have been playing in this band together for six years. Previously, we were each the leaders of our bands and were very independent. Once we started playing together I had to give up the lead, which honestly, I didn’t mind, and I don’t play my original music in this band so much. My role is to do the best I can at singing and learning my parts. We’ve written so much music together. We’re learning all the time. I actually think we’re closer now than before we started playing together. When we were in different bands we were always going in different directions. Now, when it comes to music or to raising our kids, we can talk about stuff and work things out together.
How would you describe the band’s latest album “Let Me Get By”?
It is a really great record. The sound is a little more orchestral and fuller because we have strings and backgrounds. This is the first record that we’ve written everything in-house. All the songs are original compositions that were written by different members of the band.
When you’re writing songs, do you try to keep a theme for the album?
We think about the feel that we want to have stylistically, but mostly we just try to write good songs.
Do you have a favorite song on the album?
It’s really hard to choose one song. For a while my favorite was “Don’t Know What It Means,” because I get to play a guitar solo. I also really enjoy, “Right On Time,” which is a song that Derrek and Mike wrote that has horns and is fun and old-timey sounding. My mom described it as sounding like it was from the Broadway musical Chicago. It’s a duet and it’s really fun to sing. I also like the song “Let Me Get By,” which is about how we all have things or people standing in our way or holding us back but we don’t have time for that. You have to get stuff done.
Did you ever imagine your musical career taking you where you are today?
I always imagined I’d be in a band but I never dreamed that I’d be playing all over the world and that I would get to perform with musical greats like Willy Nelson and BB King. I think our group is amazing. We’ve been invited to perform at the White House and some huge events so we’re thankful for those opportunities.
Do you have any words of advice for young people dreaming of a music career?
My advice would be, if you love something you have to go for it. No matter if you want to be an athlete or a cartoonist, there are going to be times that are discouraging. You have to be focused on your work and you can’t do it on drugs. Music is a funny thing because some people are born with a natural talent but if you really love it anyone can find a way to work in the industry. Just don’t be afraid to do it. Don’t make up excuses. I say, put the phone down and do it.