Tedeschi Trucks Band Is Taking The Jams To The Next Level


Guitarist extraordinaire Derek Trucks figures he’s been performing since he was 9 years old, and never really stopped until the start of the COVID pandemic in 2020 slammed the brakes on the musical life he’s known since childhood. For his wife and musical partner in the Tedeschi Trucks Band, Susan Tedeschi, it was not just an abrupt halt but a time to take stock of their lives – personally and creatively.

If the pandemic was a shock to their systems, it seems to have also provided the catalyst for ambitious creativity and change. They released I Am The Moon, a quadruple album released in four parts, each including a corresponding short film, released over successive full moons in 2022. Tedeschi and Trucks used the lockdowns as a time of reflection to shake up not only their recorded output, but their touring as well.

They brought in a new manager, Andy Mendelsohn of Full Stop Management, to help give them a new sense of direction and guidance to bring Tedeschi Trucks Band to a new level as a touring force. The first results of those efforts are evident as the band prepares to embark on the summer/fall “Deuces Wild” tour, put together by Mendelsohn and longtime agent Wayne Forte of Entourage Talent Associates.

See: ‘Epiphanies & Musical Revelations’ Tedeschi Trucks Band Hits A Creative Peak

Trucks and Tedeschi have lived the majority of their lives performing and touring, and Tedeschi Trucks Band is considered one of the preeminent rock and soul bands in the live world, with their exquisite musicianship and sense of fun.

They both have been bona fide road warriors for more than 20 years: Derek, a child guitar prodigy, became a member of The Allman Brothers Band in 1999 after gigging as a solo artist and sometimes accompanying blues masters like Buddy Guy, as he did at age 13, and later with Eric Clapton. Susan’s early life centered around musical theater; she appeared in her first play when she was four years old but found her calling in music, particularly the blues, attending Berklee College of Music in Boston, forming her own band and eventually playing with Stevie Ray Vaughan’s band, Double Trouble.

They met at a gig, had kids, married, formed their own bands, and in 2010 decided to merge them together into the Tedeschi Trucks Band. Since then, they’ve reported more than 1,000 of those shows to Pollstar.

Among them were two nights at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta Aug. 2-3, 2019, that moved 7,641 tickets and grossed $617,816; four shows at the Chicago Theatre in January 2020 that sold 13,970 tickets and grossed $960,860; and a three-night stand Jan 27-29, 2020 at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium that sold 6,758 tickets and grossed $614,083.

Three weeks later, there were no shows to play. Livestreamed gigs helped fill the gap a little. But they didn’t play live again until a June 11, 2021, hometown show at Daily’s Place Amphitheater in Jacksonville, Florida, where they sold 1,416 tickets (of a 4,912 capacity) to gross $95,818. It would still be a few more months before shows returned to some semblance of normal.

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DEREK TRUCKS: Performing at Warner Theater in Washington, D.C., Feb. 3, 2022.
Nate Payne Photography

“Just recently, I think in the last year or so, I started to understand how unusual it is, what we do and how hard we run and how we’re able to function doing it,” Trucks tells Pollstar. “I’ve been on the road since I was nine years old. I really never stopped until the pandemic. That was the first time we ever sat down and took a minute.

“I felt like I was fucking up,” Trucks says of the mental toll the pandemic took. “I need to be doing something. Where do we go? We were always moving. I think, for us, we’re just coming to terms with the fact that we have a band and crew and we want to work as much as we can so everyone can do it. Everyone’s making a living wage doing this, but we can’t work so much that we’re not living an actual life. You need to be able to sometimes just sit and not be stressing.” They were just ready for a change. But first they had to figure out what “change” might look like.

“We sat down and we’re like, ‘OK, how much do we want to work? And who needs time off and what do you need off next year?,’” Tedeschi explains. “For example, our drummer, he’s like, ‘Well, my son’s graduating college, I need that day so I can go to his college graduation.’ So you plan ahead and say, ‘OK, we’re not going to work that weekend.’ Our son happened to graduate in December, but now we’re like, ‘Oh my gosh, he’s going to be getting married in September.’ So now we have to plan ahead.”

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SUSAN TEDESCHI: Performing at Trianon in Paris on Nov. 12, 2022.
Photo by Rodrigo Simas

So part of the challenge is finding a happy medium, and another is making it work better than it did before. According to Forte, Tedeschi Trucks Band are true road warriors, typically playing roughly 110 shows a year. In the last three, they have averaged 2,838 tickets sold per show and a gross of $219,245. But that doesn’t tell the whole story – add in travel days and those show dates double to represent a majority of any given year spent on the road.

Mendelsohn joined the team a little more than a year ago, and says he talked with Trucks and Tedeschi about the future when he first signed on.

“Derek and I had been talking about a few things. I think they wanted to shake it up a little bit. They felt like they wanted a change,” Mendelsohn says. “And I thought, ‘We should be in a bigger lane than we’re in. Everybody loves you guys.’ Geoff Gordon, from Live Nation, used the phrase, ‘They’re the best kept secret in the worst possible way.’”

Longtime fans will notice the 2024 “Deuces Wild” tour definitely looks a bit different from past outings. The traditional late September annual residency at New York City’s 2,829-cap Beacon Theatre is reduced from seven in 2022 to two shows Sept. 25-25 (TTB will also perform three shows there Feb. 29 and March 1-2), but the band has added two shows at Brooklyn’s 3,132-capacity Kings Theatre Sept. 27-28. Gone is the regular stop at Boston’s 2,700-cap Orpheum Theatre – instead, Tedeschi Trucks Band will appear at the city’s 5,009-cap MGM Music Hall Oct. 1 and the 3,562-capacity Wang Theatre Oct. 4.

Another minor departure from TTB’s typical summer itinerary is the addition of two festivals: The Sun, Sand and Soul festival is a home turf May 2-4 weekend at Miramar Beach, Florida, where Tedeschi Trucks Band headlines two of its three days and is joined by Teskey Brothers, J.J. Grey & Mofro, St. Paul and the Broken Bones, Blackberry Smoke, Duane Betts and more. The other is a Sept. 20 appearance at the Bourbon & Beyond destination festival, staged by Danny Wimmer Presents in Louisville, Kentucky.

Wimmer considers Tedeschi Trucks Band a perfect fit and represents another example of how important relationships are in helping to give a leg up to Tedeschi Trucks Band.

“The collaboration to bring Tedeschi Trucks Band to Bourbon & Beyond began when Andy Mendelsohn reached out to us … to ensure they were on our radar,” Wimmer says. “During that conversation, I shared my personal connection with the band; I’m from the same city and when I was a teenager my dad took me to see Derek perform when he was just 10 years old.”

In addition, Tedeschi Trucks Band will play more amphitheaters and multiple dates in cities including Portland, Oregon; Seattle, Washington; Berkeley, California; Minneapolis, Minnesota; Saratoga Springs, New York, and Port Chester, New York, where the band will wind down the caravan at the Capitol Theatre Oct. 8-9. Joining TTB on selected dates will be either Little Feat, Margo Price & Joe Purdy, or Greensky Bluegrass.

Not on the itinerary in 2024 is a repeat of last year’s “Garden Parties” – adjacent dates at New York’s Madison Square Garden and Boston’s TD Garden, though they could return in future routings.

See: Tedeschi Trucks Band Announces Pair Of Garden Parties Arena Shows

“The idea was to build [Tedeschi Trucks Band’s touring] organically and consolidate fan bases in each of the markets,” Forte says. “The next step is to bring them up. So, when Andy and Full Stop came on board, one of the things we did the end of the year was decide not to go with the Beacon and Orpheum runs, and instead take the jump and go to Madison Square Garden and [TD] Garden and call them the ‘Garden Parties.’ So that was step one of getting them to the next level. The next thing is to grow them by stepping them up in certain markets, which we’re working on now.”

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WENT TO A GARDEN PARTY: Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi (center) front the Tedeschi Trucks Band as part of the “Garden Party” series at TD Garden on Sept. 27, 2023, in Boston. Photo by Taylor Hill / Getty Images

Mendelsohn has utilized his relationships at Live Nation to consult with Bob Roux, president of North American concerts; and Geoff Gordon, president and talent buyer at Live Nation Philadelphia, to aid in the effort of developing and elevating promotion and production strategy going forward.

Mendelsohn asked Roux what his level of interest might be in working more closely with Tedeschi Trucks Band – the company has worked with TTB promoting individual shows throughout its career, but the band has never had a tour deal. Roux agreed, with the caveat he wanted to get to know the organization better and get a handle on their history, including global touring – in addition to their North American touring, TTB has historically alternated annual tours in Europe and Japan.

Roux has taken the last eight months acclimating himself with the Tedeschi Trucks Band and its team, and emphasizes he’s still learning the ropes. Live Nation has yet to do a full tour deal with them – though he finds the idea not outside the realm of possibility in the future.

“This is something I think could work because, at this stage of the game, I need to take a lot of direction from them instead of providing it,” Roux says. “But I do have a lot of ideas. And they seem to be willing to work on those ideas, on how we can start to set them up for a higher level of touring than maybe they’ve done in the past.”

“But we were always scratching our heads, asking ‘Why are they not bigger? Why don’t more people know of them and love them?’ Because everywhere they go, they make friends; everybody who sees them perform walks away a fan. The people that know, know. But there’s still this moment of discovery that’s happening 12 years into this band and 20-plus years into their careers.”

It helps, when considering big changes, that the band is much bigger than Tedeschi and Trucks. Any change to the strategy affects not just them, but 10 other band members and their staffs. The band, made up of virtuosic musicians in their own rights, includes Mike Mattison (guitar, vocals), Gabe Dixon (keys, vocals), Brandon Boone (bass), Tyler Greenwell (drums, percussion), Isaac Eady (drums, percussion), Mark Rivers (vocals), Alecia Chakour (vocals), Kebbi Williams (saxophone), Ephraim Owens (trumpet) and Elizabeth Lea (trombone). That’s a lot of people to keep working while trying to maintain a semblance of a life without constantly being on the road. Fortunately, Tedeschi, Trucks and their band and crew have built a long, happy and trusting relationship that fosters buy-in and cooperation.

Roux is helping change the game for Tedeschi Trucks Band, using his experience and many relationships to find compatible yet high-profile opportunities for the band with other artists where that works. What does a collaboration, in whatever configuration, bring to the table? Can 1 plus 1 equal 3? Does that come by sharing a stage, or with support?
For example, he had a hand in placing TTB on an upcoming Chris Stapleton stadium bill, June 15 at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas, as well as two nights last fall, Nov. 2 and 4, in Atlanta’s State Farm Arena opening for the Eagles.

“From what I’ve learned in a fairly short amount of time, Derek and Susan are very flexible and they want to be smart about what they do,” Roux says. “It’s not necessarily one-size-fits-all where you buy just an opening or supporting act; but it’s finding the right, compatible artists. It’s more about who they are – do they have a credible fan base, are they great musicians? Would Tedeschi Trucks’ fan base find the combination exciting and appealing? I think that’s where we are in the picture. It’s always a lot of conversation. I don’t like dictating one bit.”

Some of the changes are already reflected in how Tedeschi Trucks Band toured in 2023. For instance, last year’s summer tour was extended by two days to add the arena-sized Garden Party series. And, if the Garden Parties were an experiment, they certainly provided proof of concept: Tedeschi Trucks Band was joined onstage at Madison Square Garden by Phish frontman Trey Anastasio; at TD Garden, by Warren Haynes, known for his work with The Allman Brothers Band and Gov’t Mule, took the stage. Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real opened both shows, which moved 12,142 tickets ($1,201,920 gross) at MSG and 7,443 ($702,350) at TD Garden.

“It was a team effort. It was Geoff Gordon, president of Live Nation Philly, who actually came up with the idea for the Garden Parties and then to connect the two together,” Mendelsohn says. The two arenas are the largest rooms Tedeschi Trucks Band has headlined, but also represent two markets with solid fan bases for TTB: New York, where the band has a following for its annual Beacon Theatre multi-night residencies, and Boston, where Tedeschi first made her mark as an artist.

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TEDESCHI TRUCKS BAND: Gathering for a colorful group shot.
Photo by David McClister

“The purpose of taking [TTB] to the next level is, in my opinion, twofold,” Gordon says of the Garden Parties. “One is to get them to some bigger rooms, but also to have the availability of that size of capacity to have a broader reach of folks be able to enjoy the shows, too.”

Randy Fibiger, Madison Square Garden’s SVP of bookings, explained what an appearance at the World’s Most Famous Arena can bring to a career.

“Selling out Madison Square Garden is a remarkable achievement for any artist, Fibiger says. “We have a longstanding relationship with Tedeschi Trucks Band – with the band having performed at the Beacon Theatre more than 50 times – so welcoming them to The Garden for their first headlining show was very special.”

Tedeschi Trucks Band is embarking on a new phase of its career, and it’s certain to be undertaken strategically and thoughtfully but, like the rest of Tedeschi’s and Trucks’ career, slow and steady. Thinking back on the earliest days of TTB, Trucks reminisced about the days in a van, with Tedeschi doing the books, and how much its grown.

“There are the growing pains when, because our careers have grown incrementally, there’s been a few jumps,” Trucks says. “But as it was with my solo band and with this band, we’ve had like 20 straight years of growth, but it was slow and steady growth.”

Tedeschi adds, “We’ve honestly been so blessed though, Derek and I. … But it’s all about choices, you know? Different opportunities that you’re given. Some people take every opportunity. And then sometimes it’s like, well, is that really the right fit for me? And is that really what I want to do? And is it really just about fame and selling records? No, it’s about doing what you love and try to connect with people and do what you can.”