Born in 1970 to Italian-American parents in Boston, it didn’t take Susan Tedeschi long to discover that Catholic Mass couldn’t compete with the holler-and-stomp of the local Black Baptist church.
That formative influence flowed into an appreciation of the blues giants and sparked the singer/guitarist’s solo career in the early 90s, before the acclaimed Tedeschi Trucks Band (co-fronted by slide maestro and husband Derek Trucks) led the charge for post-millennium roots.
The first music I remember hearing
My dad would always play guitar and harmonica at home, so some of my earliest memories are him playing Black Cadillac by Lightnin’ Hopkins.
The song that reminds me of adolescence
The Eagles, Life In The Fast Lane. I had a lot of friends in high school whose dads owned car dealerships, and we would race cars. And we would listen to a lot of classic rock, like the Eagles and Zeppelin. I was actually very well-behaved, but all my friends were tearaways, so I had my share of getting into trouble.
The first song I learnt on guitar
I started singing in the crib, but it wasn’t until I was 13 that I started playing acoustic guitar and I didn’t pick up an electric until my twenties. I remember learning T-Bone Walker’s Here In The Dark, and of course I had to learn Freddie King’s Hide Away. That’s a tricky one.
The first song I performed live
I was in rock bands from the age of thirteen. We had a gig at the local yacht club dance, and I think the first song we played was Magic Man by Heart.
The greatest album of all time
Let’s go with Layla And Other Assorted Love Songs from Derek And The Dominos. We recorded that entire album live with Trey Anastasio from Phish, and then it became a record [2021’s Layla Revisited]. I just love Eric Clapton so much.
The guitar hero
It seems kinda silly to choose my husband, Derek, but he really is up there as one of the greatest guitar players I’ve ever heard or played with.
I went through a huge phase of listening to Linda Ronstadt, Aretha Franklin, Bonnie Raitt – you can really feel their soul in what they’re singing. And then, y’know, Billie Holiday, Donny Hathaway, Gregg Allman, Ray Charles, Etta James. But Mahalia Jackson might be my all-time favourite singer, if I had to pick just one. Songs like Walk In Jerusalem and Move On Up A Little Higher just blew me away.
My number one is Bob Dylan. Honestly, it’s always been him. He’s such a good storyteller of the times, and he writes so many songs, too, it’s kind of mindblowing. I love songs like Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again, that kind of storytelling song.
The best live band I've seen
I was lucky enough to tour with the Allman Brothers, and they were dynamite. I got to see them fullforce – other than with Duane. They were on fire. I was blown away by the chemistry between Butch [Trucks] and Jaimoe [Johnson] on drums, and then, the intricate guitar playing and the soulfulness of Gregory’s singing and organ playing.
The best song from my breakthrough album
Looking For Answers is a song I’ve always been very proud of. It’s a song I wrote in open-D tuning, and when I met Derek he was like: “Whoa, you wrote a song in open tuning.” Because he plays in open-E all the time, and it’s really meant for slide. So it was almost like I meant to write it for him. It’s a simple enough song that is asking all the questions of the world that nobody knows the answers to. I know that other songs from Just Won’t Burn were bigger hits, but I think that’s the song I’m most proud of.
My guilty pleasure
I actually did go see Harry Styles with my daughter and I loved it. I thought he was fabulous. I get it. He’s sorta like the male version of Taylor Swift, I guess, connecting with kids and telling a story they can relate to. I hear a Bowie influence in his solo stuff. That’s the stuff I like, I don’t really like the boyband stuff.
The song that makes me cry
Donny Hathaway has this song called Giving Up. The lyric is: ‘Giving up is hard to do when you really love someone.’ He also does an amazing live version of Leon Russell’s A Song For You. That’ll kill you too.
My cult heroes
A great band that I really enjoy, and they’re a lot of fun, and it’d be cool if they were more famous, Greyhounds. They have a lot of talent and their own sound and style.
We Are The Champions by Queen. I mean, come on.
The song I want played at my funeral
It’s a strange choice, but Petit Pays by Cesária Évora. It’s just a gorgeous song, and her voice on it is just beautiful. It’s her talking about her lovely island where she’s from [São Vicente in Cape Verde]. It’s a song I could hear over and over.
The 25th anniversary edition of Susan Tedeschi's Just Won’t Burn is out now.