how to cut a record by accident: Tedeschi Trucks on Let Me Get By...
Derek and Susan on the downtime that turned into their new album Let Me Get By...
"It started without any real push, we weren’t planning on doing a record yet, we were just getting ready for a tour,” says Derek Trucks about the genesis of Let Me Get By, the superb new album from the Tedeschi Trucks Band. At home in Jacksonville, Florida, Trucks and his wife Susan Tedeschi are catching a rare break when they talk to The Blues Magazine. “It was a long, crazy, chaotic year,” says Trucks looking back at 2015. “It was a great year, but it was pretty intense, so it’s nice to have a few weeks to breathe.” Not that the lull will last long. “It’s going to be another crazy year,” says Tedeschi. “We’re actually already booked all the way through the summer. I guess we’re not getting a year off.” “We wouldn’t know what to do with it, though,” adds her husband.
There’s no danger of the duo developing cabin fever though. Out back of their house is their very own Swamp Raga Studios, where they’ve recorded all three Tedeschi Trucks Band studio albums, although Let Me Get By is the first one they’ve produced completely by themselves. It all began in the middle of winter.
“January last year we were getting together here in our studio to rehearse the band for a tour, and we realised just an hour or so into rehearsing that there seemed to be a lot of new ideas floating around so we pivoted,” says Trucks. “From rehearsing for a tour we went, ‘Let’s scrap that and let’s write some new tunes.’”
Making the decision to produce the album themselves, the band were in and out of the studio through spring and into summer during breaks from touring. With 12 members in the line-up, much of the writing is done in smaller configurations. “A lot of times we’ll do rehearsals with the core of the band first, that’s the drummers, Tim [Lefebvre, bass], Kofi [Burbridge, keys], Mike Mattison [vocals], me and Sue,” says Trucks. “So we do small group rehearsals a lot of times when we’re writing. Sometimes Mike will come down a day or two before the band and me and Mike and Sue will talk about song ideas or things we want to do on the tour, just brainstorm.”
Some songs are recorded with the full band, others with just a handful of members first. “Then you have a day with the horns, a day with the singers,” says Trucks. “When we break it up like that it seems to flow a lot better.”
Likewise, the songwriting process is a fluid one. “Sometimes Susan will start with a lyric or she’ll have a chord change, and sometimes Mike will show up with a skeleton of a song and we’ll piece it together with him,” says Trucks. “Sometimes the band will just fall into something at a soundcheck and you break out your phone and record the groove for a minute. Some of them stick with you; six months later, ‘You remember that soundcheck in Richmond, Virginia?’ ‘Oh yeah! That was a good groove!’ We’re pretty wide open to letting the process be whatever it needs to be.”