MINNEAPOLIS - Derek Trucks, arguably the best rock guitarist under the age of 30, knows all about the Minnesota Zoo even though he’s never been there.
His wife, singer-guitarist Susan Tedeschi, has performed there twice and told him all about it. They’ll be bringing their children, ages 6 and 3, along when their joint group, Soul Stew Revival, plays there on their current tour.
“She dug it,” said Trucks, 28. “When the kids are on the road and there’s a zoo gig, they get pumped. I’m looking forward to it.”
More and more, Trucks is trying to design his schedule around his kids - no easy task, since he is a fulltime member of three touring bands, the Allman Brothers, the Derek Trucks Band and Soul Stew Revival. He expects to spend less time touring and more time in the recording studio recently built on their property in Jacksonville, Fla.
“It’s nice to get up in the morning, drive the kids to school, get home, write a tune, (record) it and then hang out with your kids. Eat. Put them to bed and go back to work,” he said. “It’s a pretty fortunate situation.”
Trucks gushes about the new 2,300-square-foot, two-story facility, which was designed by the man who built New York’s legendary Electric Lady Studios, where Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Stevie Wonder, the Clash and others recorded. Then Trucks purchased a 1970s soundboard that had been used in the Kinks’ studio in London.
“The gear in there sounds unbelievably warm and organic,” Trucks said.
So far, he has finished recording a new Derek Trucks Band album. “There’s something that feels more honest about this record because it was done at home,” he said, adding that he had several months to work on it instead of the usual seven to 10 days in rented studios. “It feels more like real life - or what I imagine real life to be.”
Tedeschi, 37, has been recording a new solo disc in Los Angeles.
“Maybe the next album cycle we’ll do one together,” Trucks said from New York, where he was mixing his disc.
The couple did some joint recording for Buddy Guy’s new album, due July 22. Trucks also appears on Richie Havens’ forthcoming CD. Earlier this year, his band opened for a Santana tour, and in 2006, Eric Clapton enlisted him as a sideman.
He wasn’t daunted playing with the guitar icons. The only time he was intimidated onstage was the first time he sat in with the Allman Brothers. His uncle, Butch Trucks, is one of the Allmans’ drummers but Derek didn’t grow up around the Rock Hall of Fame blues-rockers.
“For me, that was the music that first moved me and got me playing,” Trucks said. “But I didn’t (personally) know those guys. They were mythical characters to me at that point. At 11 years old, that was the first time I’d been around a crowd that big and a band that loud. It turned out pretty good; they showed me some footage of it recently and it was pretty funny.”
Whether he’s with the Allmans, his own band or collaborating with his wife, every solo is a different adventure. What goes through his mind when his guitar is in the spotlight?
“Sometimes I’m thinking about the sentiment of the tune,” he said. “Sometimes you think about somebody’s tone that really moves you - like by John Coltrane or Little Walter - and you try and head towards that. Sometimes there’s (bleep) you’re going through in life and you try and work through things musically; it’s almost therapy. Sometimes it’s a just a complete blank and you’re just doing your thing.”
In early 2007, Trucks was on the cover of Rolling Stone’s young guitar gods issue with John Mayer and John Frusciante of Red Hot Chili Peppers. This spring, when Rolling Stone picked the Top 100 songs featuring great guitar solos, Trucks’ name wasn’t mentioned.
His own picks for best-ever solos would include one from a 1940s bootleg of a concert by jazz innovator Charlie Christian, something by jazz giant Wes Montgomery and - depending which day of the week you asked - something by B.B. King, Freddie King or Albert King, blues legends all.
For a guy who grew up listening to Duane Allman’s slide guitar solos and toured with Clapton, those are some pretty old-school choices. Does Trucks have time for that newfangled contraption, ‘Guitar Hero’?
“When it first came out, somebody from the manufacturer brought a version to our tour bus. I think we finished the whole game in a day or two on the bus, completely junkie-ing out on it,” he said. “Since then, I can’t even look at it.’
Trucks is pretty good at shifting gears for his different groups. Playing in the Allman Brothers and in Soul Stew Revival are “two different worlds. The band with Susan is a work in progress. It’s instantly rewarding as you see the changes. The Allman Brothers is a legendary musical institution, and you try to keep lighting some fire and help it keep plugging along. This band with Susan, I think, if we tweak it and get it just right, it could be pretty monumental. She has such a powerful thing in her voice and guitar playing and such a great presence.”
That was spoken like one guitar hero about another, not like a husband about his wife.