Derek Trucks spent most of last year on tour with Eric Clapton. He once shared the stage with Bob Dylan. He was recently named to Rolling Stone's list of Guitar Gods. In March and April of this year, he played 14 shows at the Beacon Theatre in New York with The Allman Brothers Band. Now, he's getting ready to tour with his own project, The Derek Trucks Band. Oh, and did I mention he's only 27?
Call him a prodigy, call him talented, call him lucky or whatever you'd like, as long as you call him hard-working. As he prepares to head out on tour, he's home enjoying a rare few weeks off. In fact, he's been so busy, the upcoming DTB tour will be the first in support of its latest release, last year's Songlines.
"We've been gigging here and there, but really once the record came out I was on the road with Clapton," Trucks says from his Jacksonville, Fla., home. "It's really the least I've ever toured with my group since we've been together. The most I've toured altogether -- it's been non-stop this year, but I felt like I had to, in a way, back-burner our group as far as touring went."
At least he has a good excuse. When Trucks received the call to tour as part of Clapton's band, it was a surprise. "It's not a call you expect to get," he says. While he was first called to appear on the Road to Escondido album with Clapton and JJ Cale, it quickly turned into a touring gig. "There were times that felt surreal, definitely, but we were there to play and make it work," Trucks says of his days on stage with Clapton. "I thought there were definitely some magical moments by the end of the tour." He says he enjoyed touring to cities he's never been to, but learned the most simply from observing Clapton.
"You see someone like him that's been able to maintain his ability to play and being inspired after being through so many different groups and different careers, really," Trucks says. "He's had so many different turns along the way. For him to still be doing it and be healthy and his mind to still be clear is pretty impressive. Most guys from that era didn't make it through and if they did, they were in pretty rough shape. (laughs) I think it's more of a life lesson."
He also learned from the rest of the band -- mentioning Doyle Bramhall and Chris Stainton -- and hopes some of the experience will carry over to his own tour. "Any time you're around that, and for a year especially, it better rub off on you in some way," he says with a laugh. "If not, I think you're in the wrong line of work."
With the Clapton tour over, he'll spend this year focusing on his own band, as well as playing dates in August with the Allmans, a band for which his uncle plays drums and one he's been a part of since 1999. "The last two years have definitely been the strongest since I've been around," Trucks says of playing with the band. "Everyone is in an amazing headspace and getting along and there's a lot of creativity. Somehow they got another rebirth. They've had quite a few along the way."
Trucks also hopes this year will offer him more of an opportunity to tour with his wife, Susan Tedeschi. He says they've played a few shows together up until this point, but both are usually so busy that it "never really made sense." They've got a month of tour dates planned later this year to see how it goes.
For now, his focus is on the overdue support for Songlines. He says the album has gotten a lot of positive feedback and the band feels it's the strongest work they've done in the studio. His own band, as opposed to touring with Clapton or the Allmans, offers him the ability to explore more things musically though it does come with more pressure.
"I think the main thing is that it's good to have the pressure on you when you have to deliver and make it happen and control the flow of the show," he says. "With your own group, from the concept of a tune or the concept of a set is all in your hands -- it's a good thing as a musician. It's made me really appreciate having my own group that much more."
Trucks says he naturally picked up guitar at a young age, mostly because "it was fun to do." He started sitting in at local music clubs at age 9 and was on the road touring shortly after that. Those years of experience, combined with slide guitar prowess, have earned him numerous accolades and mentions on "Top Guitarist" lists. "I don't put too much weight into stuff like that," he says, referring to the recent "New Guitar Gods" list. "To me, it's funny to be on that list. The last thing I thought I'd be doing is playing upside-down on the cover of Rolling Stone with John Mayer."
While at a young age he's accomplished more than many in their entire careers, Trucks isn't ready to look back just yet. "It would be terrible to look back and feel like you've arrived somewhere and then slow down," he says with a laugh. "I realize that I've been really fortunate to get the calls from people I've gotten calls from. Obviously, you have to work for it and earn your place and you have to keep it, but it's still fortunate nonetheless. There's still a ton of work to be done. As long as we can keep playing music that inspires us and feels honest, that's all we can ask for."
The Derek Trucks Band will perform at the Visulite Theatre on May 25 and 26 at 10 p.m. Tickets are $25 in advance and $27 on the day of the show.