Bound for Glory: Derek Trucks on Celebrating the Garden Parties

Dean Budnick on September 18, 2023
Bound for Glory: Derek Trucks on Celebrating the Garden Parties

photo: Jay Blakesberg


“Sue and I have been spending the last week at the house, listening to things, playing things—kicking around ideas with the band and the guests,” Derek Trucks says, in anticipation of the Tedeschi Trucks Band’s upcoming Garden Parties. On September 27, Trucks and his wife Susan Tedeschi will bring their 12-piece to the TD Garden in Boston for a performance that will include a guest appearance by Warren Haynes. Then, two days later, the TTB will take the stage at Madison Square Garden for a headlining show featuring sit-ins by Trey Anastasio and Norah Jones. Lukas Nelson + POTR will open both gigs and some additional collaborative moments are likely in the offing.

The Tedeschi Trucks Band toured for much of the summer, including an extended stretch with Ziggy Marley. During these dates, the group continued to explore the material that appears on the collective’s fifth studio release—the ambitious and absorbing, four-part, 24-song I Am the Moon.

The TTB has maintained a steady September presence in the Northeast over the years. The group has performed over 50 shows at the Beacon Theatre during fall residencies that stretch back more than a decade. However, this year’s Garden Parties represent the band’s debuts at two celebrated area venues. Trucks acknowledges, “Those are places you always imagine playing. The history and all of the things that go along with it are not lost on us. It should be fun…”

It’s been a steady evolution to the point where this group is now appearing at TD Garden and MSG. What does that represent to you?

It’s exciting, and I think it’s a statement just to take a crack at it. It’s one thing to play there with Clapton’s band or the Allman Brothers. It’s also something special to open for somebody at those places. But to do your own show at Madison Square or Boston Garden is an incredible thing.

Sue grew up there, so you play every small club in the region and then you move up to small theaters and then you play these concert halls and it feels like a natural progression, but it’s one that you don’t think you’re necessarily going to make. So it’s exciting to do it.

We played a lot of different venues over the years, and sometimes you try a place and you come back. Sometimes you play the Beacon and then you do it 50 times. [Laughs.] You fall in love with places, but it’s also fun to do something different and think about it a little differently.

I think for us, a lot of this year is just trying to shake things up and reimagine things. This is kind of the culmination of that.

We’ve been thinking about it for a little while—doing one Garden show instead of a Beacon run—and we finally took the plunge. I think the pandemic years threw off our plans a little bit but it feels like we’re back where we were hoping to be.

Your performance in Boston will be preceded by a day of public service that serves as a prelude to the 3rd Annual Kofi Burbridge Day of Service. Can you talk about the evolution of that event?

We’re still trying to work through Kofi’s passing [on February 15, 2019]. We think about him all the time and we also see Kofi shirts at every concert. It’s nice to know that there’s a tribe of people who are on the same wavelength, keeping him in their minds and in the air.

It’s also something where you want to do something positive on his birthday [September 22] or at least once a year. When the idea to a Kofi day of service was first brought up a few years ago, everybody jumped to it and we started hitting food banks and food kitchens around Jacksonville or wherever we were if we were on the road. It kind of became a thing and fans were doing it around the country. Then we tried to build that into something a little bigger. So this year we’re trying to lean into that a little bit more.

That’s the person Kofi was. It was all give, it was all outward, everything. That’s the way he looked at life. So it’s a small thing we can do—we should do it more anyways—but it’s a nice combo of doing a good thing and remembering a good person with a lot of other people who are also doing good things to remember the same good person.

We feel lucky that we can do it, and we feel really lucky that there’s a huge part of our audience that leans into that too, independently of us doing it. They do it on their own. So we’re just happy to be in the mix with them.

By my calculations that’s a win win win.

There are not a lot of things that are win win win. When you find them, lean into them.

Turning to your latest album, how did the I am the Moon material develop over the summer?

I think this collection of new material has been the most fun ever to incorporate with this band. There’s so many of  them that immediately felt comfortable from the first night we played them, but now having a few tours under our belt, there’s a handful that I think are going to be staples for us until the very end. They’re growing and they’re taking on new lives depending on the run. Tunes like “I Am the Moon,” “Hear My Dear,” “Playing with My Emotions,” “Circles ‘Round the Sun,” “Ain’t That Something,” “Pasaquan”—they’re all a blast to play. “Emmaline” is one of my favorite tunes that Mike has written. Depending on the setting, there are so many different places we can go with them.

There are quite a few new originals that Mike is singing or Gabe is singing or Sue and Gabe are singing. It just helps the variety and the flow of the show. When I’m writing a setlist, there are so many more pieces we can use that are ours.

There’s a different ownership to it and a different freedom when we play those tunes because everybody onstage is on the record.

It’s also starting to bleed over into the older material too, where this version of the band is starting to own it more and more. So that’s all been exciting.

The summer tour really was a blast. It was a little bit of a long run, but we had Vincent Neil Emerson out with us, and then we were out with Ziggy Marley and his band. The collaborations were incredible. The hang was incredible. There were some really magical nights over the summer.

Is there a particular Ziggy moment that jumps out at you?

There were a few. One of the nights in the middle of “Idle Wind” I snuck in the “Rastaman Chant” melody. I guess Ziggy heard it and it was happy yelling about it—“Whoah! What’s that?”

Then maybe a day or so later, we were in the rehearsal room and I started messing with it again with the band. He was a dressing room or two away, and he kind of wandered in and started singing with Sue. He was like, “Do you know the lyrics?” So she started singing the lyrics and it was just the two of them singing together. Then he folded in with us at the rehearsal in the dressing room. It was just incredible.

For me, having recorded that with Rico and Kofi, and played it so many times with those guys and Count M’Butu who are not here, just having Ziggy and that DNA and that sound and vibe was pretty heavy.

I found out later that I think the only time he had really ever performed that song was at his father’s funeral—at Bob’s funeral. So that made it a little extra weighty. Then we performed it a few times with him at the shows, and there was once or twice where you could just feel we got up in it. He was feeling the spirit and it was special.

There was also his drummer, Carlton Davis—Santa—who played on a few Bob records and was with Peter Tosh and is just a total badass. It was a special run and amazing people.

Ziggy’s a little bit of a kindred spirit in the sense that it’s much more extreme and intense for him, just kind of being the heir to a musical throne or having family that changed music.

It’s a heavy lift when you’re Bob and Rita’s son and you look and sound like him and there’s a religion based around it, basically. Then you’re playing similar music and even some of the same tunes. But he carries that thing amazingly well.

It’s fun to be around him and it’s cool to watch. I definitely could sense some similar upbringings in that sense.

Like yourself, Ziggy not only has a legacy but he’s been at it since he was very young. One can certainly see the parallels.

We were just out with Lukas Nelson and I have a similar feeling with him or Duane Betts or Ravi Coltrane, where those are serious legacies. It’s an amazing burden and it’s no joke. I always get extra inspiration when I see guys like that who are not just doing it or pulling it off, but are really thriving and keeping it alive in an honest and real way.

There were moments where Ziggy was singing with us, even in the rehearsal room, and you felt that the music was living and breathing. Everybody in the room had chills on their arms. That’s a powerful source that you’re plugging into.

Looking ahead to the Garden Parties, can you share some thoughts on your announced guests?

With the guests, we thought about it a few ways. We could just roll in there like it’s any other show and just blast it, crush a show or two. Then we thought about having some guests but we didn’t want to have a lot of them. We wanted it to feel like our show. So if we were going to have guests, they had to be people who are family—people we know or people that we have a real shared history with.

We haven’t done a lot of sit-ins with Norah over the years, but Sue and Norah have been friends, I think since ’99, 2000. They kind of grew up in the industry together in some ways. She’s a total sweetheart and a badass.

With Trey, I played with him once or twice early on, but now there’s a lot of shared history with him.

So it just felt like these would be great friends to share that stage with. They’ve obviously been there a few times, so that makes it fun. And they’re in the neighborhood. [Laughs.]

With Warren, there’s something about New York and the Allman Brothers—there’s obviously the Beacon a connection—but there’s also something about Boston and the Allmans history that always felt really special and unique. I would hear stories with the band and Don Law about the earliest gigs they played there at the Boston Tea Party. So when Warren said he was into doing it, that just felt right and a nice way to step into those shows.

And presumably Lukas will join you at some point, as well?

We just did a few shows with him, and we’ve been kicking around some song ideas. We saw Willie and Lukas in the Carolinas [at the Outlaw Music Festival on September 8 and 9].

So Lukas is going to get up there and mix it up with us too, which I’m excited about. He’s super talented and that’s going to be fun.

Sue and I have been talking about this quite a bit and we’re all thinking about tunes.

I just spoke with Susan [for a Relix piece on the 25th anniversary release of her album Just Won’t Burn] and it sounds like she’s doing a fair amount of prep work for these shows.

She’s in training now. She’s either on the Peloton or practicing guitar or writing down lyrics. Currently, she’s in full Sue mode right now. I’ve got to say, I’m feeling a bit lazy watching it all go down. [Laughs.]

Last question: Earlier this month you performed with Phish, as something of a precursor to Trey’s upcoming guest appearance. What was your takeaway from that experience?

I was excited to go up there and do that. It was a benefit they were doing for Vermont, and I was excited going into it, but it even went better than expected. I knew it would be fun, but it was an amazing connection and the tunes were fun to learn. We had a tiny bit of rehearsal in the dressing room before the gig, and if there was any stress of how it was going to go, it started falling away. But until you hit the stage, you don’t know what it’s going to sound like or feel like.

They seemed locked in and their chemistry together is really special and unique. They’re on the same wavelength and from the first few notes, it felt really comfortable and conversational.

When you sit in with a band that has that much chemistry and a lot of improvisation, one of the things I think about is that sometimes when we have guests sit in, they will interrupt the flow. What they’re playing is great, but maybe they’re not listening as hard as they could. I didn’t want to be that guy, so I’d listen and try to feel it out.

There were some great really magical moments where it connected. That’s when I looked around the stage and had a sense of “I think everyone’s enjoying this. Good, I’m not fucking this thing up.” [Laughs.]

There were moments where I could feel that we were all going together and it was a really great energy. I was excited to do it and I had a feeling it would be fun, but it felt beyond that.

Every once in a while you have those sit-ins and moments where for whatever reason, everything lines up and it goes. That felt like one of those. It’s funny, the few times I’ve played with Trey lately, it’s been that way. The Layla thing was certainly that way where you have high expectations for it, but it certainly exceeded it.

So that was exciting and it definitely made me more excited about the sit-in at the Garden.