ZRock exclusive! Derek Trucks Interview
by Jarrod Vrazel : zrock.com
Photo by Mike Turner / whereseric.com
Derek Trucks and Eric Clapton – Sheffield, England (May 12, 2006)
Derek Trucks is a gifted 26-year old guitarist who has been touring since before he was a teenager. The nephew of Allman Brothers co-founder and drummer Butch Trucks, Derek is the leader of The Derek Trucks Band, a member of the legendary Allman Brothers Band, and is currently on tour as a member of Eric Clapton’s band.
Eric Clapton and special guests The Robert Cray Band are on the road with a world tour travelling to 13 European countries. Don’t miss your chance to win FREE tickets to see Eric Clapton live in concert on select dates of his Summer 2006 European Tour.
I spoke with Derek earlier today (May 14, 2006) via telephone from the United Kingdom:
ZRock: Good afternoon, Derek. I wanted to check in to see how the tour is progressing so far and see if you could share your experience with the fans.
Derek: So far, it’s been a blast. Rehearsals went great. I think we’re about five shows into it, and it keeps getting stronger. The last show we played was by far the best show we’ve played so far. That’s always a good sign if it keeps building. It’s an honor to be playing with the guys in the group. Not only Eric, but Willie Weeks, Doyle, and Steve Jordan I’ve been a fan of those guys for a long time. It really is exciting to be here.
ZRock: How have the travels been?
Derek: Not bad. We’ve basically been in the UK the whole time. It’s been pretty much the same. We’ve been hanging in the area. But the Royal Albert Hall dates in London are coming up. I’m excited about that I think it’s eight shows this time. It’s similar to the Beacon run that the Allman Brothers do in the States, but it happens to be Royal Albert Hall an amazing room. I’ve been in there once or twice, but it will be a trip to be on stage there.
ZRock: It should be a blast. Especially with all of the legendary Clapton shows that have been there in the past and the anticipation of the fans.
Derek: Yeah, the fans there really know his stuff. They ll be really keyed in. I hope it goes over well. I have a feeling that people are going to be pleasantly surprised. He’s really been playing well the last few nights. He is starting to turn it to another gear, so it should be fun to see how people react to it.
ZRock: That’s what I’ve been seeing in some of the fan comments I’ve posted on ZRock comments such as the guitar hero reawakens and that he’s playing at his best.
Derek: Nice. That’s good to hear. I haven’t seen much feedback yet, but we’ve been talking about it as a group. That’s really the goal if we can get people to see that he’s playing on a different level than he has recently. That’s what we’re shooting for. Because, you know, it’s one thing to get out there and just do your own thing. It’s another thing to really re-energize a group. That’s what’s more difficult and that’s what’s exciting. It’s good to know that that’s the feedback. I feel that it is getting there, for sure.
ZRock: There are people who have said they’ve seen every show Clapton has played in their part of the world, and have seen shows and thought there was no way he could ever top it. But yet here he comes again, and they’re saying this is the best thing I’ve ever seen. One fan even went as far as to say, Wow!!! No bullshit. Just music.
Derek: That’s the goal.
ZRock: Whereas other artists have such high-end production and special effects as part of their stage show. Sometimes you wonder if it’s there to make up for the fact that they may not have all of the musical components to stand on their own. But from what I’m reading in these reviews, with Clapton it’s turn off the lights… turn on the amps… it’s show time.
Derek: That’s pretty much how it’s going. When you have that many talented guys on stage, you don’t need a big light show. It can be done in other ways.
ZRock: I’ve seen a few photos from the shows and some of the shots with you standing next to Eric remind me of vintage photos of a young Stevie Ray Vaughan playing with Albert King at Antones in Austin. It seems that Eric is on a very nice adventure by having you and Doyle on board.
Derek: Yes, he is really gracious that way. He could go a thousand different routes, but he’s choosing to have us guys out there and really lets us open up and, in a way, showcase what we’re doing. It’s an honor to be along for the ride in one sense, but then it’s also amazing that he’s giving us a chance to really do our thing. It’s an opportunity that you can’t get elsewhere. There’s no way that I’m going to be able to travel the world at this stage, with what we’re doing, and get in front of that many people. Especially guitar fans, and be able to really air it out. On a lot of different levels, it’s really an amazing experience. The fact that he’s willing to share the stage that way says a lot about his character.
ZRock: It’s a very unique experience that you are on, in fact, a true world tour. Some artists go on what they call a world tour, but their itinerary consists of Sacramento, Phoenix, Iowa, New York, etc. They go on a world tour but don’t need a passport. The Clapton tour seems to be all over the globe. Literally.
Derek: Yes, this is full on. I’m actually in the middle of filling out my visa application for Moscow. It’s a full on world tour and we’re heading all over the place. If it continues for a solid year, like we think it might, it’s gonna touch pretty much every corner. That’s also exciting I’m getting to see places I never thought that I’d get to go, much less play them. I’m really excited about the Red Square show in Moscow. That sounds like an experience. I ll have my camera for that.
ZRock: Some of those dates could be a once in a lifetime experience.
Derek: I’m sure they will be. You try to soak em up while you’re there.
ZRock: How do you perceive the response from the fans, as far as the energy of having three guitarists on stage?
Derek: Really well. I was a little worried that he’s giving me so many solos during the set that there’d be a backlash from the audience – they’re coming to see Eric and who is this other guy? But so far it has been really nice. We’re only five shows into it, but I think the response will probably stay that way. Everybody has been really positive, and by the end of the show, people are up on their feet and getting going. From what I hear, some of the towns that we’re coming up to next are the real die hard Eric cities, so that should be even more fun. So far everything is on the up and up.
ZRock: How are you enjoying the sit-down portion of the show?
Derek: It’s a nice change of pace. Getting to play an acoustic guitar for a few tunes is really nice. They have the sound pretty dialed in, so you can actually really hear it and feel it right, which is usually the problem with playing acoustic. In a big room, it’s just hard to translate, but they seem to have it figured out. Playing tunes like I Am Yours off the Layla record it’s always been one of my favorite tunes of his, so that makes it really nice as well.
ZRock: I can’t wait to check out the show when it makes it over to the States. I’m sure it’s going to be a true treat for the fans, especially after you’ve had the international experience of performing the songs.
Derek: I know everybody in the band is really excited to make it to the States. All the veterans in his band say that the audiences over in the States are much rowdier, which is something to look forward to. They get into it. It’s a different experience for me to look out and see fifteen thousand really well behaved people during a show. It feels a little odd. But, you know, its going to be nice to get over in the States, whether it’s Madison Square or wherever, and just have people let loose.
ZRock: Some audiences rock out while others seem to sit on their hands, kick back and enjoy the music.
Derek: It’s a fascinating slice of life, for sure.
ZRock: How does your international touring affect the Derek Trucks Band? Is that on hold while you’re on tour with Clapton?
Derek: Well, my guys are coming over on one of the days off during the Royal Albert Hall run we’re doing a show at a club in London. And then the guys are coming over to Paris for a night off, and we’re doing a show in Paris. We’re making it work. This is a long tour the Clapton tour but it’s a month on, a month off. So, on the off time, I’m heading back to the States and working with my guys, trying to keep things rolling. We just released a record and we have a DVD coming out pretty soon. Things are rolling along.
ZRock: I checked out the Songlines CD. It’s very impressive. I noticed that it’s currently Number 282 on Amazon.com. I’m sure there will be lots of interest generated by the Clapton tour for you, so perhaps it continues to grow and you ll get some airplay. With a few strategic fans helping to spread the word, you could definitely have a nice project waiting for you when the Clapton tour is over.
Derek: That’s what we’re hoping for. So far, the record has done far better than any record we’ve ever released, and I feel like it has a lot of legs, too. When the Clapton tour comes back to the States, we can start getting out there and supporting the record a little bit more. It’s been nice. It cracked the Billboard Top 200 the first week it was out, which is something we’ve never done. It was at the top of the Blues Chart for a little while. That’s exciting. It’s a different experience for us seeing a record actually do semi-well.
ZRock: It’s definitely cool. Just by giving it a listen, you can tell it was recorded for the right reasons for the music as opposed to what can you throw together to try to sell some product. It’s definitely quality music.
Derek: I don’t think we’d be very good at that (laughs). We just have to do what we do. It’s nice when it’s actually received well. There are some bands that have the ability to go in and just cut a record with the intention of selling it, or some bands just have a knack for other things. With our group, it’s gotta be felt. If there’s a tune that no one is into, we can’t play it. We’re not very good actors, so that saves us, I think.
Derek: We’re lucky that a lot of our fans are socially conscious about different things. They ll come to the group with ideas and little ways to try to do things. It’s nothing for us to sign a few posters and do that thing, but it really takes people to get out there and do the legwork. We’re fortunate to have people helping out that way. It doesn’t take much to do things like that, but it actually can have a small effect. You know, you do what you can.
ZRock: It’s nice to see that you’re involved in that. I do some work with that same charity with Vince Neil of Motley Crue’s golf tournament. They had one of your posters at the event. The really good concert posters can help fans cherish the memories and enable the music to become a visual art as well.
Derek: Yeah, it’s nice. I have a few concert posters from either shows that I’ve been to or shows that have turned out to be legendary shows from the past. It’s a nice reminder.
ZRock: Have you had any feelings or thoughts regarding the perception of the fans and the full Allman Brothers tie-in, going back to Duane playing with Clapton way back, your involvement with the band, and now your involvement with Clapton’s band?
Derek: You know, I can’t really tell yet. Since I got the offer to do the gig and it became official, there’s always been the talk of the whole Derek and the Dominos thing. I think Eric was just looking for another guitar player to play with him and Doyle, and I happen to fit the bill. Having the name spelled the same way definitely helps people make the association. But it’s a different trip. We are playing a lot of those tunes from that era, but I think that’s just naturally what this band gravitates towards. People are going to make that connection. It’s inevitable from playing with the Allman Brothers, being a slide player, and coming to play with Eric that’s going to happen. But it’s a different trip.
ZRock: From what I’ve seen and the few notes I’ve heard on the internet from one of the shows, it seems that having you on board definitely adds a new dimension to the show and is a nice treat for the fans all the way around.
Derek: That’s good to hear. It’s a great band. Having the legendary Willie Weeks on bass, and Steve Jordan, and Doyle, and Chris Staiton and everyone else. It’s a solid group. I think if everything really gels and the chemistry takes, it could turn into an extraordinary group. Everyone in this group realizes that you have an opportunity in front of you that you’re not going to get again, and everyone is trying to make something happen musically. It’s good to see. I’ve been around groups where people just kinda are happy to be there, but are not really proactive and trying to do anything about it. But I think, in this group, everyone realizes that it’s just a little bit away from making it really special. Everyone cares. Everyone gives a damn. That makes a big difference.
ZRock: : From a fan’s perspective, it’s definitely cool that just as you’re completing shows in the United Kingdom, fans in the United States can already read about the shows, see the concert photos, and check out the set list. The world tour is turning into a true global experience. Fans in Texas, Georgia, New York, or even Russia can see what’s going on with Eric Clapton and the boys.
Derek: Yes, you can check in. I should probably check in to see how we’re doing (laughs).
ZRock: I appreciate your time this afternoon. I hope the rest of the tour goes really fantastic for you and continues to create that nice groove that you have going. Best wishes on the travels.
Derek: Beautiful. I appreciate it, man.
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