Ray Waddell | OVG Media & Conferences
Derek Trucks | Tedeschi Trucks Band
Susan Tedeschi | Tedeschi Trucks Band
Skip Richman | Tour Manager, TTB
Brian Speiser | Production Manager, TTB
Every time someone on this panel cracked open a can of Bored & Thirsty water too close to their mics on the Production Live! stage, Tedeschi Trucks Band Production Manager Brian Speiser visibly cringed and admonished his panelmates.
It was, in a way, a testament to the sensitivity of his ears to the slightest sound imperfection onstage – and also the fact that he can be trusted to make sure it’s corrected.
Even if the can-cracking became something of a running joke, it was a real-time example of the panel’s point.
Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi, the husband-and-wife leaders of their eponymous band, entrust Speiser and tour manager Skip Richman with a lot – considering they front a 12-person band, with techs and other crew members working as a team to keep the group’s touring humming along like the finely tuned machine that it is.
Moderator Ray Waddell led the group in a lively discussion of road life, the band’s history, and what it takes to build and keep a culture o trust.
Derek Trucks told the assembled audience that one of his favorite records growing up was At Fillmore East, a live album by the Allman Brothers Band, which he would later join.
“There’s an incredible picture on the cover that Jim Marshall took of the band on the road cases, but the back cover is of the crew and it’s the guys who look tougher, meaner,” Trucks said. “You know how handsome some of them [in the band] were, so it was always in my head. It’s one and the same.
“Everybody’s out there making the thing happen. One doesn’t happen without the other. But you carry that ethos through the whole thing. As the thing gets bigger, the crew gets bigger. The band usually stays the same size. But in that, you have to work together, you have to communicate, you have to make this thing work. A bad day for the crew is probably a bad day for the band, too.”
Susan Tedeschi, who had a solo career before merging her band with the Derek Trucks Band in 2010, adds, “It’s not just day to day where they are loading and unloading a truck and hanging everything and doing so much. But it’s also all the pre-work that nobody ever sees that these guys have to do months and months ahead of time before tour. So it’s one thing to say ’We show up and we do this now.’ They’re already there. They know more about this building than the people that run the building. … I don’t know if a lot of acts even know what their crews really do for them. … We get really amazing people to do the jobs that are really hard to do. And these guys really do crush it.”
Richman acknowledged that being on a stage but not having a show to do made him “nervous.”
“What I do is music and I have always loved live music, and I’ve always wanted to do whatever I could to support live music,” Richman said. “Somewhere along the line, I realized I have no musical talent whatsoever. So I just started hanging out with bands and next thing I know, in ‘97 I got on a road crew and 17 years later I ended up on tour with these guys — two great people to work for and the crew here is great … “
Speiser: “Open your cans”
Waddell: “See, this is teamwork.”
Tedeschi: “This is what we do. Let’s just take care of this. Open your one or two cans. OK, now continue on… “
“My job is all logistics,” Richman continued. “I’m the guy that will do, ‘How do we get from A to B?’ Timing. A working schedule. Hotels, transportation, payroll, accounting, all that good stuff, which we have back in-house, and people that help out with it. But it all kind of runs through me. Brian handles the more actual stuff that gets him on stage.”
As if on cue, Speiser chimes in, “The stuff that happens in the room where the concert is happening on the stage, and what’s coming out of the speakers and the gear that’s in the room. Everything for the stage and the room where the concert is actually taking place. It’s kind of more my department and everything else that gets us to there.”
Trust isn’t just a matter of knowing that your crew can handle any technical or logistical glitch; it’s also about maintaining relationships, Trucks said.
“I played with some of these bands that have been together 20, 30 years,” Trucks said. “You’d be at a rehearsal, something would come up, and somebody would jump in, ‘Well, back in 1974 …’ How can you hold onto that for 30 years?. But you have to deal with these things head on, if there’s a problem on the road, a well-timed meeting. Calling everyone in a room and dealing with something is generally the best way to knock it out, because sometimes people just need to let off steam, and sometimes you just need to talk through something, realize why the decision was made. And generally you have a drink after and everything’s fine. So it’s important that if you feel the tension on the road building, it’s important to deal with it.”
But everyone agreed that the ones who set the tone for trust in a tour family are the ones the crews support. And Richman and Speiser can’t say enough about Tedeschi and Trucks.
“It’s really easy to do what we do when these are the people that are leading the pack, because the image that they project – kindness – is just really the best word for it,” Richman said. “We make sure to spend time on the road doing things as a whole. They always go out to dinner together. We try and at least have little field days. We barbecue together, because that togetherness from the lowest crew guy to the leaders, everyone’s the same. And it’s a really nice environment to be in. It makes you want to do what you do.
Speiser took that notion a step further. “Like in any job, a toxic situation in a workplace is pretty much always from the top down. And Derek and Susan welcome everyone, to a point where we have people come in and work with us for a day, and they typically ask us, ‘How can I work with you guys every day?’
“It’s the environment that that they create. And so for me and Skip and for our crew, we have to remember when we show up to a workplace that we’re representing them. So the way that they treat us is the same way we need to be treating other people. And so that starts at the top.