Longtime fans of slide-guitar wunderkind Derek Trucks are doubtless dismayed to hear that 2014 will be his last with Southern rock icons the Allman Brothers Band. Trucks, the nephew of Allmans drummer and co-founder Butch Trucks, announced his departure from the venerable outfit earlier this month, along with fellow ABB guitarist Warren Haynes, who is also leaving.
But listeners can take heart in the fact that Trucks will still be active, devoting his newfound free time to his other project, the Tedeschi Trucks Band, as well as to raising a family with wife and TTB co-leader Susan Tedeschi.
Trucks says retirement from the Allman Brothers Band, which he joined in 1999, had been in the back of his mind for some years. But he delayed his departure due to his fondness for fellow band members, and for the music he made with them.
"For me, from the beginning, when I got the call to join the Allman Brothers, I was deep into my solo group," Trucks says in a telephone interview on a break from touring with Tedeschi Trucks. "But it was such a huge opportunity, to be part of that legacy. So I was always a bit conflicted about how long I wanted to do it.
"For the longest time, especially before I had kids, I was able to juggle everything and be on the road 320 days a year. It's easy to be a full-on road dog when you're in your teens and early 20s. But having kids makes it more difficult."
And though he harbors a fierce loyalty to the renowned outfit that helped him achieve international guitar celebrity, Trucks says he longed to throw the whole of his creative energies behind a project of his own design.
"You always know that as much magic as you can make onstage with a group like that, it's not your music," he says. "It's not something you got to birth and create. And that's what you want to do as an artist. Being a part of the Allman Brothers legacy—that's more than you could ever ask for. But that band was in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame before I even stepped on stage with them. It's been my thinking all along, wanting to do something fresh and be home with my kids when I'm not out with my group."
Trucks and Tedeschi—the couple met during a tour, when her own solo band opened for the Allman Brothers—founded TTB in 2010, and released their debut album, Revelator, in 2011.
Revelator won a Grammy for Best Blues Album in 2012, and was followed by a live effort, Everybody's Talkin', that same year. Now the couple and the other nine members of their group are touring on the strength of their second studio release, Made Up Mind, which reached number 11 on the Billboard Top 200, and number one on the blues album chart.
Though ostensibly a blues record, Made Up Mind offers a diverse but eminently listenable mélange of styles, from laid-back roots rock to horn-driven R&B to jam-band groove. But even with the rest of the band kicking up a potent ensemble clamor, the focus never drifts too far from the strong center of Tedeschi's smoky verse and Trucks' thick, pungent slide guitar.
On a few cuts, Tedeschi, a fine guitarist in her own right, joins her husband in the six-string spotlight. "She's fearless," Trucks says of his partner. "She's unafraid to go toe to toe playing guitar with anybody. I love that, and live we really try to keep it open. There will be certain nights where I'm playing and I'll think, you know what, it's time for me and Sue to play. And I'll walk over to her and give her a nod and she will throw whatever you throw at her right back, with attitude and tone. And it's fun; I enjoy that. She's a competitor."
Trucks' retirement from the Allmans coincides with the band's 45th anniversary. Right now, the ABB has a couple of big theater gigs scheduled this year, with a few more shows and festivals likely on tap. And though Trucks says he'll miss playing with Gregg, Uncle Butch, et al.—"It's a lot of weight thinking about being in a band like that, and not wanting to leave anybody hanging"—his wistfulness is balanced by excitement for the wide-open potential of his namesake outfit.
"I've never been part of a band where I felt like there was no cap, no boundaries," he enthuses. "I don't see any ceiling on what we can do if we put the time and energy into it. That's the trick. Finding the time. That was a big factor in the Allman Brothers, even though that was only two or three months out of a year.
"When you start out knowing you only have nine months for everything else, then you gotta fill six of those with touring to keep [Tedeschi Trucks Band] together. It doesn't leave a lot of time for writing and recording and being home and having a life. That's kind of the crux of it."