Music News & Reviews

Susan Tedeschi belts out the blues in Paso Robles

Husband-and-wife musicians Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi will perform with Tedeschi Trucks Band at Vina Robles Amphitheatre in Paso Robles.
Husband-and-wife musicians Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi will perform with Tedeschi Trucks Band at Vina Robles Amphitheatre in Paso Robles.

It’s confidence, Susan Tedeschi says, that helps her belt out those powerful, emotive vocals whenever she sings the blues.

But when Tedeschi began singing at the White House a couple of years ago, that confidence was weakened by the fact that she was performing just a few feet from the president of the United States.

“I was not looking at the president when I started singing,” said Tedeschi, who will perform Saturday in Paso Robles with her husband, guitarist Derek Trucks, and the rest of the Tedeschi Trucks Band. “I was very nervous in that moment.”

As Tedeschi continued to perform with her husband, soul legend Booker T and blues artist Warren Haynes at a concert honoring the blues, the singer began to work up her courage.

“Then I looked over at Michelle first,” she said, referring to first lady Michelle Obama. “And she was smiling so that made me feel confident. So thank you, Michelle. She’s a badass; I really do look up to her.”

Eventually, Tedeschi was able to watch President Barack Obama’s expressions as well.

Confident or not, Tedeschi admits there are still times when she gets nervous.

“One of the scariest things I find nowadays when I perform is when I sing the (national) anthem,” she said. “Because I’m all by myself, and it’s 30,000 to 60,000 people.”

Luckily, Tedeschi has had plenty to time to build her confidence. As a child, she performed in roughly 60 musicals. 

“I’ve always been into sports as well,” said Tedeschi, who often sings “The Star-Spangled Banner” before Major League Baseball games. “I wasn’t just a drama nerd. I was actually a cheerleader three years. I played basketball three years. I did track and field and other sports.”

While she has always made her living through music, Tedeschi comes from a family of supermarket and convenience store founders. Her great-grandfather started what is now the Tedeschi Food Shops, a chain of more than 200 convenience stores in the New England area.

Tedeschi, who lives in Jacksonville, Fla., typically doesn’t see the stores unless she’s in New England on tour. 

“But they are awesome,” she said. “They have a good deli.”

However, food sales were never in her future. Instead, she made her theatrical debut at age 6 in a production of “Oliver!” 

While Tedeschi’s mother influenced her to pursue acting, she eventually grew fonder of music, leading her to perform in cover bands as a teen. 

As high school wound down, she considered studying acting, music or science. But she eventually attended the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston.

It wasn’t until after college that Tedeschi became fond of the blues. But she was a quick study.

By the time she was 22, Tedeschi, who had recorded a combination of covers and originals, was nominated for a Grammy Award for best new artist in 2000, alongside Britney Spears, Kid Rock, Macy Gray and eventual winner Christina Aquilera.

Although Tedeschi doesn’t think the Grammys necessarily gauge who the best performers are, getting that respect was important.

“It made me realize, hey, this is a big deal — don’t focus on anything else,” she said.

Opening for the Allman Brothers Band, she met guitarist Derek Trucks, himself a former child performer. They married in 2001.

The performers continued to have separate bands, though, even after they had two children.

“It was chaotic at times,” Tedeschi said. “Derek was always very calm and focused. He’s a Jedi. I was kind of like that 22-year-old girl that was like, ‘I don’t take crap from boys.’”

The Susan Tedeschi Band had success opening for The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan and John Mellencamp. 

Meanwhile, Trucks, considered one of today’s top guitarists, continued to perform with the Allman Brothers while collaborating with Eric Clapton and leading his own band, The Derek Trucks Band.

In 2010, Tedeschi and Trucks took hiatuses from their respective bands so they could form the Tedeschi Trucks Band — merging their favorite members from the Susan Tedeschi Band and the Derek Trucks Band into one 11-piece group.

“It really takes the pressure off any solo artist,” Tedeschi said.

It also makes family life a little easier. When their children, ages 12 and 10, are out of school, tours become summer vacations.

“We used to do zoos when they were little,” Tedeschi said. “Now we go to baseball games. Or we’ll go on a nature walk.”

In between tours, the Tedeschi Trucks Band has put out two studio albums. Its most recent release — “Made Up Mind,” a cross between blues and 1970s soul — reached No. 11 on the Billboard Top 200 album list in 2013.

While the songs on that album represented a collaboration of the band members, Tedeschi said she hopes to contribute even more as a writer. 

“I do feel like I need to write more and maybe present some of my stuff to the band more,” she said. “I’m still learning to do that. I get kind of shy (around the other band members). They’re all so amazing.”

If you go

Tedeschi Trucks Band

With special guest Jackie Greene

8 p.m. Saturday 

Vina Robles Amphitheatre, 3800 Mill Road, Paso Robles

$40.80 to $71.60

227-4812 or www.vinaroblesamphitheatre.com

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