SALT LAKE CITY — There’s much to unpack in blues singer-guitarist Susan Tedeschi’s 25-year music career, but before diving into talk of her band, touring and the upcoming show in Salt Lake City, Tedeschi is just as eager to share another part of her life she’s passionate about: being a mother.
From her home in Jacksonville, Florida, Tedeschi proudly speaks of waking up at 5:30 a.m. to make breakfast for her family, watching her soon-to-be high school junior excel in AP chemistry and calculus while balancing a demanding baseball schedule and, as of March, watching him take to the road as a licensed driver.
She’d take her two teenagers out of school and bring them on the road when her band is touring if she could, but Tedeschi said it would never happen — and not just because child services would get involved.
“(My son) gets stressed. He’s like, “I can’t miss (school) mom, I have a five-paragraph essay due tomorrow and then I have to do a project and I have to read, like, 700 pages this week,’’ Tedeschi said. “He’s really pretty together.”
Since forming the Tedeschi Trucks Band in 2010, family and music have become deeply intertwined for Tedeschi. Fronted by Tedeschi and her guitar prodigy husband Derek Trucks, former slide guitarist for the Allman Brothers, the band is a musical conglomerate, taking two established solo musicians and their respective bands and creating a 12-piece ensemble. It’s that powerhouse group that will take the Eccles Theater stage Friday, June 22.
A family band
Despite the initial challenges of forming the band — Tedeschi said she had to give up some of the creative control she’d grown accustomed to in her solo career — the effort proved worth the sacrifice when the group’s debut album, “Revelator,” earned a Grammy Award for best blues album in 2012.
“I was my own boss since 1993 until all of a sudden 2010, so that was a big jump. Honestly, it did take a couple years for me to figure out my place (in the band). One of the big lessons with this band was keeping an open mind and trying stuff that maybe I wouldn't have tried before, (such as) giving up control of playing guitar on every song. I don't do that anymore because I play with one of the best guitar players in the world and I sound stupid next to him,” she joked.
Trucks, 38, played guitar with the Allman Brothers for 15 years (his uncle, Butch Trucks, was a founding member of the band). Tedeschi met Trucks at an Allman Brothers concert in 1999 when she opened for the Southern rock band. If there’s anything Tedeschi has learned about her husband since their marriage in 2001 and the past eight years as bandmates, it’s that he sees the bigger picture and always has others’ best interests at heart.
“Derek is a great leader,” she said. “He knows what he's doing, (the band) trusts him and he really is an outstanding musician and very diplomatic. He's really great at listening to people and understanding them and their feelings — and their egos … he would be a great world leader.”
‘The old days’
Tedeschi's commitment to the Tedeschi Trucks Band has allowed the singer and her husband to focus on creating new material, but that doesn’t mean the singer has cut off the solo career life or other collaborations for good. In fact, Tedeschi spoke of a longtime dream to create a gospel record, bringing in legends such as Mavis Staples and Sam Moore from the R&B duo Sam and Dave.
“I need to do it because years ago I used to talk with Solomon Burke about doing it and he was going to do it and then he passed away,” she said. “People aren't here anymore so you have to seize the moment.”
Creating such a record would fulfill what for Tedeschi has been a lifelong appreciation of gospel music.
“The first gospel I really remember as a little girl was my dad playing me Mavis Staples with The Staples Singers, and that was pretty mind-blowing at 3,” she said. “I feel very blessed because I have gotten to know her through the years and been able to sing with her and she’s a huge hero (of mine).”
Perhaps it was this early introduction to R&B gospel music that made Tedeschi feel out of place as a young singer in her Catholic church’s choir in Norwell, Massachusetts.
“I just felt like I didn’t belong and I felt like there was no soul there,” she said. “Like, ‘Come on people, if you’re gonna sing it, let’s do it with some oomph!’”
Tedeschi, who is well-known for her soulful vocals, discovered that “oomph” at 17 when, as a new student at the Berklee School of Music, she starting singing in the gospel choir that performed across Boston.
“That was my first real look at ‘Wow, that’s a real choir!’” she said. “These people were singing, they were sweatin’, they sounded like Aretha Franklin. It was awesome. They had moves, they were all clapping together like Mavis Staples and The Staples Singers.”
Tedeschi’s passionate vocals, combined with her guitar prowess, makes the musician somewhat of a rarity in the music industry.
“Growing up, I didn’t know any female singers who could really play guitar. I didn’t know about (blues pioneer) Sister Rosetta Tharpe until I really started digging in my 20s and learning about some of these artists,” Tedeschi said. “There are (music) heroes out there that are women, but not a huge amount playing guitar. You have to really dig and look for them.”
Tedeschi cites Canadian blues guitarist Sue Foley, Bonnie Raitt and Nancy Wilson of Heart as some of her female guitar influences and said she has noticed an increase in female guitarists in the last 15-20 years.
“I don’t know if it’s because of artists like me and Sue Foley and different women who started really playing guitar,” she said. “… But I have had a lot of girls say that I’ve been an influence, which is an incredible honor — I have no idea how that happened, but I think just the act of seeing (women play) live gives them hope that they can do it.”
More than anything, it’s inspiration and connection with her audience that Tedeschi hopes to achieve when the Tedeschi Trucks Band rolls into Salt Lake City. Following that performance, Tedeschi will return to her Jacksonville home and kick off the band’s Wheels of Soul Tour June 29 — which will keep them on the road through the end of July.
“We do a lot of touring, ’cause it's not just a 12-piece band, it’s 12 people and then we have our crew,” she said. “So if you really count up everybody, it's about 35 people that you have to keep on payroll, so you don't make money staying at home.”
If you go …
What: Tedeschi Trucks Band
When: Friday, June 22, 8 p.m.
Where: Eccles Theater, 131 S. Main
How much: $35-$65