After a difficult 2017, which included the deaths of several close friends, Derek Trucks is learning to look ahead.
The Tedeschi Trucks Band guitar whiz lost two of his Allman Brothers bandmates, vocalist-keyboardist Gregg Allman and drummer Butch Trucks, who was his uncle. Colonel Bruce Hampton, his mentor, also died last year.
“It was a lot to take,” Trucks says while calling from Foxboro, Mass.. “I was very close with all three of those guys, and for them to all die within months of each other was a lot to deal with but I’ve moved on.”
The family man has plenty to preoccupy his mind. Trucks, 38, who leads a band with his wife, Susan Tedeschi, 47, are touring and recently finished off an album, which is slated to drop in 2019.
The Tedeschi Trucks Band, which will perform July 13 at the Coastal Credit Union Music Park at Walnut Creek, has yet to mix the album but will preview a few songs in Raleigh.
“I like playing the stuff we just wrote,” Trucks says. “It’s always fun when you perform fresh material.”
The couple are also focusing on their teenage children. “Our son, who is 16, has been a starting pitcher for his (high) school team,” Trucks says. “Both of our children are doing well. Even though we lost some people we love, Susan and I have the kids. They’re the future.”
The tandem also have each other and a flourishing group. The bluesy jam band is on its Wheels of Soul tour, which also features the Drive-By Truckers. It headlines and sells out large theaters, an impressive feat for a band that doesn’t get much airplay.
“It’s so true that we don’t receive much air time,” Trucks says. “It’s difficult for a band like ours to get on the radio and it is amazing how well we do in terms of the fans coming out to see us.”
The Tedeschi Trucks Band, which won a Grammy Award for Best Blues Album in 2012, has released three studio albums and two live discs. The concert documents are incendiary.
“We love writing and going into the studio but we’re a live band more than anything else,” Trucks says. “If you see us, that’s obvious.”
The interplay between Tedeschi and Trucks can be unpredictable. “We have a lot of fun with each other,” Trucks says. “We know each other as well as you can know anyone. That helps us in the studio and onstage. We have no problem taking some chances.”
Not many husbands and wives are in the same band. “For us it helps that we were together for a decade before forming this band,” Trucks says. “We were already married with children. We had our own careers. The best thing is that we didn’t have to do this.
“We did it because we wanted to and now we’re nearly a decade into it and we don’t want to stop,” he said. “We create well together and we have fun, particularly when we’re on a tour like this with the Drive-By Truckers. We didn’t really meet them before this tour but we love hanging out with Patterson Hood and the rest of those guys from that band.”
There’s a misconception that Trucks, who was a guitar wunderkind out of Jacksonville, grew up wealthy. His uncle played with the Allman Brothers, but Trucks led a blue collar existence as a child.
“My dad was a roofer,” Trucks says. “We lived hand to mouth every week. I remember going up and working some jobs with him that inspired me to want to do something else. To be a roofer under the hot Florida sun, well that wasn’t for me.”
At 14, blues guitar legend Buddy Guy let Trucks jam with him on a tour of America. “Buddy was so gracious to let me go up there with him,” Trucks says. “I learned so much from Buddy Guy, who is one of the all-time greatest guitarists.”
Rolling Stone magazine would agree with that assessment. Guy was ranked number 23 of all time when the longtime rock publication released its 100 greatest guitarists of all time list in 2015. Trucks was ranked 16th of all-time ahead of such seminal guitar monsters as Neil Young, Frank Zappa and Carlos Santana.
“It’s just a list,” Trucks says. “There are some great players on it and some hacks. Yes, it’s cool to be where I’m at on that list. But there’s nothing cooler than playing in our band.”
Who: Wheels of Soul tour with The Tedeschi Trucks Band, The Drive-By Truckers and The Marcus King Band
When: 7 p.m. July 13
Where: Coastal Credit Union Music Park at Walnut Creek, 3801 Rock Quarry Road, Raleigh
Cost: $18.75, $25 and $65.
Info: 919-831-6400, walnutcreekamphitheatre.com