Entertainment is filled with tragic tales or prodigies. Brilliant children who grew up too fast, were tempted too early or failed to live up to their early brilliance as adults.
At 32, Derek Trucks is an example of just the opposite. A guitar prodigy from the age of 12, Trucks jammed with Buddy Guy, Johnny Winter, Joe Walsh and the Allman Brothers, and toured with his own band. But Trucks, who sounded like a normal kid when he 13 and didn't take all the offers who came his way, is a happily married adult with two kids, a studio in his home and enough clout that Eric Clapton asked him to play with him on tour. Most recently, Trucks and his wife (and fellow guitar great) Susan Tedeschi created their own band, so they could work and tour together.
"It's been a pretty incredible run, I gotta say," says Trucks. "There's an ebb and flow to everything, but if I could go back and could plan it out I wouldn't do it much differently! It's been a nice, slow, steady climb. I think part of it is being in it for the right reasons and never wavering off of that."
All along, for Trucks, it's been about the music ever since he bought a guitar for $5 at a yard sale when he was 9. His father, Chris Trucks, who is the brother of Allman Brothers Band drummer Butch Trucks, taught Derek as much as he knew, but Derek was a special case. He became known as a whiz kid on the Jacksonville, Fla., music scene, even if his schoolmates had no idea.
Trucks says he always recognized music was about something more important than fame:
"Watching my dad listen to an Allman Brothers record or a B.B. King record, that really was his religion listening to that music. Once you start playing it you realize that that is the reward — the music, the work. Whether success comes or not is absolutely secondary. Once you get that bug early on you kinda make that decision: 'If I'm broke for the rest of my life, if I'm eating and got the gig, that's great!' The only people I know in life who are content, full, happy, human beings and keep growing are people who just never end that search. Whatever their job is, whatever their gig is, they're just full-on. To me, that's what's inspiring and you gotta instill that from the beginning."
Trucks says part of the reason he built a studio in his home was so that he and his wife could spend more time with their kids rather than be off somewhere recording when they weren't traveling to shows.
"Even when you're doing everything right, you wish you had more time with them," he says.
The studio has also meant that the two didn't have to worry about a studio cost when making their own albums. That was a big help when the two put together the Tedeschi Trucks Band.
He says it is definitely the couple's primary concern. The two put their regular bands on indefinite hold. For Trucks that included his own group, his involvement in the Allman Brothers, along with side-projects:
"We didn't want to have any safety nets where we'd continue to do our other projects. Whenever you do something like that I feel that it's easy to mentally tap out if it's not going perfectly at first. It's going to take a while to get as good as the other things you're doing. If you have other projects you can always go 'Well, this is fine, but I'll be back doing what I want to do soon enough.'"
As for his art, Trucks says he's happy with the way things are going.
"I'm still early in my career, hopefully, but I've felt the shift in the last 5,10 years where you can hear your sound aging in a good way. I don't feel the need to show people what you know musically. It's just, say what you want to say. It's such a subtle thing."
Trucks says he was watching a documentary on a 85-year-old sushi chef and it really hit him.
"The first 90 percent of learning your craft is really the easy part. The next five is harder and the next five is what separates everybody else. Getting good is not that hard. It's getting great and moving beyond that. Even if most people don't understand the refining process, people can feel it."
© 2012, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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