Musical prodigy Derek Trucks grew up on the road, touring with one of the world’s greatest rock bands. Now the gifted guitarist is making his own music and living the dream -- from the comfort of his own swamp.As I step into Derek Trucks’s backyard studio, situated off Durbin Creek, on the south side of Jacksonville, Florida, it takes a moment for the eyes to adjust. The smack of air conditioning is jarring, and the darkness is almost disorienting. Just ahead, the control-room glass reflects a waning wedge of sunlight as Trucks closes the door behind him, shutting out the warm autumn afternoon and momentarily rendering the 29-year-old guitarist a silhouette.
In the soft interior lighting, a massive mixing console comes into focus. A classic Neve 8048, shipped in from London via California, stretches the length of the wall beneath the glass. It’s a marvelous piece of recording history, the one Ray Davies and the Kinks used in the mid ’70s. Trucks dotes on it like an adoptive father, pointing out that it’s all original and completely restored.
A few paces through a set of doors next to the console is a massive recording area stocked with vintage guitars, amps, microphones, and keyboards. In the far corner, to the left of the window that offers a magnificent view of the dense wetlands beyond, hides a pair of timpani. Trucks glides over to them, almost giddy. “I got these timpani from Elvin Jones’s wife after he passed,” he says, lifting the dust covers on the gorgeous brass beasts. “He played these on [John Coltrane’s] A Love Supreme.”
Relative to the relics that surround him, Trucks seems but a child. Yet when you consider his personal history, his lineage, and his depth of knowledge of these instruments and the music they have produced, all your notions of inexperience fall away. Trucks is a virtuoso slide guitarist who began jamming at age 12 with legendary rock group the Allman Brothers Band, which was cofounded by his uncle, drummer Butch Trucks. By the time the younger Trucks was 20, he was a full-fledged member of the band and well on his way to building a name so reputable that Eric Clapton would later call on his talents. Among his many accolades is being recently named one of the “new guitar gods” by Rolling Stone magazine, which featured him on the cover with John Mayer and Red Hot Chili Pepper John Frusciante.
Yet he resides in a nondescript two-story home in the Northeast Florida swamp, far from the million-dollar West Coast studios and elite music scenes of New York and Chicago. He flies well below the pop-culture radar, too, living in domestic anonymity with his wife, accomplished blues guitarist Susan Tedeschi, and their two young children. Trucks says he likes it this way. He’s beholden to no one, able to hop from Allman Brothers tours to gigs with his own Derek Trucks Band without having to clear it with some empty suit in an L.A. high-rise. It’s the freedom he’s toiled to achieve since picking up his first guitar at the age of nine.