What: An Evening With the Tedeschi Trucks Band
When: tonight, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Royal Theatre
Tickets: Sold out
In a group with 12 members, there has to be one acknowledged leader, a person to turn to when the going gets tough. When it comes to the Grammy Award-winning Tedeschi Trucks Band, that job falls on the shoulders of former Allman Brothers guitarist Derek Trucks.
“You’ve got to have a place it all runs through,” Trucks, 37, said recently from a tour stop in South Bend, Indiana. “Otherwise, it gets too messy.”
Trucks leads the rootsy group with his wife, singer-guitarist Susan Tedeschi, also a decorated solo artist. The two combined their talents — and solo bands — in 2010 to form the Tedeschi Trucks Band, which performs a sold-out concert tonight at the Royal Theatre for the TD Victoria International Jazz Festival.
At the time of Trucks’ previous Victoria performance, a JazzFest date in 2009, Trucks said “the plot was hatching in my brain” to make a singular entity out of his and Tedeschi’s groups. It became a reality in 2010, and the following year the group won a Grammy Award for its debut, Revelator.
The band was in “search mode” early on, but found its groove in time for 2013’s Made Up Mind, Trucks said. The process became even more streamlined this year with the release of Let Me Get By, which All Music called “organic, relaxed and free. Let Me Get By is the album this group has been striving for since their formation.”
Tedeschi Trucks Band is booked through October, an itinerary that includes six dates at the Beacon Theatre in New York — site of many iconic Allman Brothers performances during Trucks’ decade-and-a-half with the legendary group. He said the group is still exploring its strengths as a unit, something that comes from playing hard and playing often.
“There have been a handful of tours and a handful of shows where it has been in full form, and everything is firing. But it’s an ever-changing thing. It’s still in the growth state. A year from now it could sound wildly different.”
The assembly of musicians — which includes two drummers, a full horn section and three backup singers — puts an emphasis on exploration, much of it centred on the blues. There’s a fondness for roots music, as well, along with world music. The ingredients are in place for long explorations and jams, which Trucks — who was named to Rolling Stone’s list of the 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time — honed to a fine point with the Allman Brothers, and stints as the go-to guitar player on several Eric Clapton tours.
“It forces me and forces the band to keep throwing coal on the burner,” Trucks said. “You cannot get complacent. The more you mix it up, the better it is. That’s the band I want to be in. This band, the change is what keeps it good.”
The summer run for Trucks and Tedeschi gives the couple a chance to tour with their two children, ages 12 and 14. Trucks used to call in his mother for at-home support when both he and Tedeschi were out on the road separately, so having their schedules align makes it easier for everyone. His mom will still jump in the tour bus on occasion, and his dad is known for selling band merchandise when he’s out on the road.
“It’s a typical summer run in the sense that it’s completely insane,” Trucks said with a laugh. “We hit it hard. With a 12-piece band, when you’re out it makes sense just to go. In a lot of ways, we thrive on that setting. There’s no real sleep schedule. You just kind of roll along and make it happen.”
He was exposed to the family-friendly vibe at an early age. His uncle, drummer Butch Trucks, co-founded the Allman Brothers in 1969; Derek’s younger brother, Duane Trucks, plays drums with Widespread Panic. That he and Tedeschi can make a living while surrounded by family is not lost on him.
“We realize how unique and lucky it is to pull that off. Being around guys like Willie Nelson and other musicians who are able to make that work is certainly an inspiration. We’ve seen the other side of that, where it’s broken families. You can see how certain musicians go down certain paths.
“It’s a crazy life, but we try to make it healthy and make it work and viable and musical and all these things at the same time.”