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“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 native Massachusetts has lived for twenty years. “To me, Red Rocks is very Colorado, and you love the outdoors and you just soak up everything. When you are that person it’s just amazing. We know it’s an honor and we don’t take it lightly. I get mad every time we go there. It seems to be a sacred place. “
Tedeschi and her husband, all-star slide guitarist and Allman Brothers Royal Derek Trucks, have been touring and recording with the blues-rock Tedeschi Trucks Band since 2010; the act has performed countless times at Red Rocks. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020 was the first time in what felt like an eternity that it didn’t come to Morrison. In fact, for the first time since elementary school, the two longtime performers did not step on the stage for a full year.
“In the first few months we actually wanted to take off,” recalls Tedeschi, “but after about four months we asked ourselves: ‘What the hell is going on?’ It was really weird and surreal, but we stayed busy. “
They were busy mixing the Tedeschi Trucks Band’s new album, a live performance of the classic Derek and 2019 Dominos album Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs, with Phishs Trey Anastasio sharing lead guitar and vocals, and also surprised their record label with another album that is in the works.
After the Layla album was finished, Tedeschi recalls: “We thought, ‘We have to do something. We have to be creative. We have to start here. ‘ We put our heads together with Mike Mattison, one of our bandmates who has a Harvard graduate major in English. He had an idea: ‘Why don’t we all draw from the same subject?’ As inspiration, he gave us a twelfth century poem, and we all wrote music that would go in and out of the subject. We wrote and recorded 24 new songs, so we worked to finish what is an incredible amount of music, and we’re excited about it. “
Even more than on previous Tedeschi Trucks records, the songs came from numerous bandmates and not just from the husbands of the group.
“It was really exciting to present ourselves and all to work together,” says Tedeschi, “but it also made us say, ‘We have to do something for our fans.’ That was also the trigger for the fireside sessions during the pandemic. “
The act’s popular fireside sessions, which featured various smaller incarnations of the twelve-piece Tedeschi Trucks Band, were intended to cheer fans up during the most isolating times of the coronavirus outbreak. Now Tedeschi is looking forward to taking a naked version of the band with him on the so-called Fireside Live Tour.
The live streamed Fireside Sessions were “really fun and a great opportunity to show how diverse the band is, that we can play two or four, or five or seven or eight or whatever,” explains Tedeschi. “It made us realize, ‘As soon as things open up, we can go out. We can do something stripped down.’ That’s what we’re doing this summer. We’re going to do that until things open up and we can work as a full band again. “
It was not easy to support all the musicians in this entire band and their families during a pandemic, admits Tedeschi, who has two teenagers of her own, but making personal sacrifices to make sure her bandmates didn’t suffer was “a no-” Sure, “she says.” Since we’re pretty conservative with such a big band and spending money, we saved a lot of money in an emergency. So we had already planned to take three months off and we 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 was used up at some point. “We were really lucky with some of the PPP loans to help the band. That really helped,” she says. “At the end of the day, it just seemed like the right thing to do. You have to keep people afloat. I was really shocked how many other bands didn’t do that. If you look at the whole picture, we are one family; it’s not Derek and Susan’s show. Our band and our crew, we’re all in it together. “
Some more than others. “Derek and our manager and I were not paid,” admits Tedeschi. “We haven’t been paid since last March. We lived on savings, literally selling baseball cards and things we’d bought in the past for a rainy day. But it was good; I feel really blessed to have had that extra time at home with our daughter and son before he went to college. He really got the raw end of the deal. He was an honor student and a baseball player. He was only allowed to put up a few games. It was really heartbreaking, but really more for the kids – to see the opportunities they missed …
“When I was growing up, I really wanted to have children and make music,” says Tedeschi. “I can do both, so I’m incredibly grateful.”
Tedeschi has been an entertainer since she was five when her mother involved her in theater performances. “For a long time I didn’t know what my calling was, but when I discovered the blues in my early twenties it seemed more like my calling,” she recalls. “Just because you’re from the north, it’s not that the blues is a regional thing. It’s all about what moves you. “
As a child, she discovered her husband’s uncle’s band, a little Jacksonville outfit called the Allman Brothers, when she and her brother were going to a flea market. “I bought a Clash record and he found Brothers and Sisters. I still love those two records to this day, ”she says. Like the over-talented Trucks, Tedeschi spent time playing in nostalgic bands with some iconic American musicians, like the surviving members of the Grateful Dead – but as Trucks told me, when the Tedeschi Trucks Band last visited Colorado in 2019, to Playing Red Rocks, the couple are thrilled to be in a band whose fans come out to celebrate new, original music.
“In the end, it’s about creating your own sound and making your own music and enabling your own self-expression, and doing that with Derek since 2010 has been great,” says Tedeschi. “We feel really happy and thankful for that, definitely. And he is absolutely right: it is completely different when you make your own music than when you sing the music of others. “
Looking back on her career, which began in 1995 with the solo album Better Days, Tedeschi recalls her 2000 Grammy nomination for Best New Artist, which she found alongside Kid Rock, Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera. “Here I am, a blues artist,” she recalls. “There was no way I thought I would ever be in a category with any of them.”
“People always say, ‘Aren’t you sad that you didn’t win?’ And I say, ‘No, I didn’t really want to be famous!’ I’m so happy that I can go to the supermarket and do normal things, like my son’s baseball game, ”says Tedeschi. “We have a regular life, and how nice is that? I never wanted fame; It’s not about money and fame, and it never was for Derek and me because we really have a real passion for music and we make people happy and ourselves. And I got to tour with BB King and play with John Lee Hooker . John Lee Hooker took off his guitar and gave it to me! I really feel like Forrest Gump. “
Tedeschi says that her heroes – people like King, Hooker, and David Hidalgo – gave her not only a love of music but also a sense of grace, humility, and sincerity. All three were reflected in the way she and her husband supported their bandmates during the pandemic and are now supporting other musicians.
Could there be a reunion with the best new artists on stage in 2000? Tedeschi is amused at the prospect of Britney Spears joining the Tedeschi Trucks Band at Red Rocks.
“Let’s go,” she says. “Come on. I think we should free Britney anyway. “
The Tedeschi Trucks Band brings their Fireside Live Tour to the Red Rocks Amphitheater at 7:30 PM Friday July 30th and 7:30 PM Saturday July 31st; Tickets, $ 49.95 to $ 130, are available at axs.com.
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Pittsburgh-born Adam Perry is a cyclist, drummer, and alum from the University of Pittsburgh and Naropa University. He lives in Boulder and has been writing for Westword since 2008.