Get your mind out of the gutter. The "it" in the headline that Susan Tedeschi, currently on tour with her husband and bandmate Derek Trucks, is talking about is saving the planet. This is a family blog! But it's a great title, don't you think? Maybe if we're lucky, she'll make it the title of her next song.
Susan told me that it was time to stop talking about the planet and start doing something about it during a long, forthright, and at times very passionate interview at Rothbury on July 5. She doesn't pull any punches, and as you'll see, she tries very hard to practice what she preaches, setting up recycling stations on the tour bus, getting her home off the grid, and leading the charge for biodiesel on her tour. What she lacks in a sophisticated green touring campaign she more than makes up for in enthusiasm.
In fact, Susan's so excited about green stuff that before I could even get my first question out, she jumped in to tell me about her solar-powered home, which she shares with Derek and her two children. And when I tried to wrap things up, thinking she must be tired of talking, she turned the tables on me, asking me questions about how she could improve her touring practices. I'm still swooning!
Susan and Derek getting it on.
Susan Tedeschi: Derek and I have a solar powered home now.
Jason Turgeon: Excellent! Well, tell me about it.
ST: Derek actually is the one that knows. We looked at a bunch of different companies, but he's the one who ended up deciding because I had to go out of town. They came and they put 22 panels on the roof, at 31 degrees.
JT: Fantastic. Where is this in Florida?
JT: Is it off the grid, or partially solar powered?
ST: It's tied in to the grid, so we use what we need, and the town puts it in a bank, so...
JT: So, it provides more power than you need?
JT: Fantastic. So how about your touring--have you been doing any green touring?
ST: We have been doing a lot of discussing about it. The problem is having 23 people on tour on these buses and not having space. A lot of these buses are already pre-organized, the way the trashcan is or whatever. Our new idea is that we have a couple of drawers at the front, and I'm trying to turn those into recycle drawers. The one thing that drives me nuts more than anything on the road is water bottles and people just throwing them in the trash. Drives me nuts. I'm like, no, we're not doing that. We're putting them in the drawer, and then we're putting them in the [recycling bin]!
JT: Have you guys thought about doing the Rothbury thing where they just took away the water bottles and everyone has to bring a Nalgene?
ST: Well, we would, but we don't have time to go shopping, so people wouldn't be able to drink. You have to have water. But something else I've been thinking about is how to do biodiesel for the buses. I'm friends with Willie Nelson and his wife. Annie is really big on biodiesel. She has it for all her cars and for the tour bus. And I know Dave Mathews does, too, because I do Farm Aid with those guys. Every little bit, though, helps, anything.
JT: [Your publicist] told me that you were interested in Florida rivers.
ST: Yeah, the watersheds. I grew up in Massachusetts, and I was always part of the North River, that was the watershed [group] that I was always involved with and doing work with. And I've been getting involved with the St. John's Riverkeeper, and trying to keep that river healthy and trying to do whatever we can. Trying to write letters to everybody, mostly senators.
JT: Have you done any benefits?
ST: I have, I've done some benefits at the Cummer Museum in Jacksonville for [St. Johns Riverkeeper]. They have an oyster festival that I have done a few years. I'm trying to get more involved in it, I'm just really not home at all. I've been so busy, I haven't been home. But Derek and I have always been so curious about environmental things, always trying to look into it, that we've inspired his little sister to actually get on the phone and write letters to everybody from the mayor and governor as well as to the TV stations. She's trying to get all the public schools to recycle and also Alltel stadium, [which] doesn't recycle. So we're working on it.
JT: Have you worked with any of your other venues to get them to try and recycle?
ST: A lot of them actually have been. A lot of the venues are, and if we mention [that a venue doesn't recycle], then we'll get a trash can together and people at least start to try.
JT: Do you get a different kind of fan at your [solo shows] than you do in the festivals? Are they more of a traditional blues fan?
JT: Are they into this stuff the same way that [this audience] is?
ST: Not as hip as the college kids or the younger kids.
JT: If you try to bring it up are they receptive to it?
ST: Some of them are, and some of them get all weird on me. "Why are you spreading your politics on me?" I get that a lot. Whenever I start talking about how we need to save the environment or be more aware. If everyone would take care of their own backyard, we wouldn't have all these problems. I try to get people to read Rachel Carson books. I'll turn 'em on to whatever I can. It's funny how people will try to label you all of a sudden, like "communist"...You're talking about things that are important and good for the planet.
JT: It sounds like you get a lot of resistance. Is it a generational thing or a regional thing?
ST: I do [get resistance]. It tends to be generational, I've noticed. It tends to be sixty and older, they're more set in their ways.
JT: So the message hasn't really sunk in.
ST: They don't believe in it. They don't think that global warming exists, they have their own arguments. It's just a different way of thinking, and I feel like I'm always trying to go up against these people that just aren't open-minded enough to it.
JT: What about when you tour with the Allman Brothers and those folks?
ST: Oh yeah, it's way easier. You know, the Grateful Dead and the Allman Brothers, they've been out pushing for these causes for 35 years. When I was out with the Dead, I remember one day [Bill] Kreutzmann [said] we've worked 30 years to get these things in place and George Bush comes in and in 2 years knocks out all the work we've done.
JT: Sometimes things have to get worse before they can get better. Sometimes that's how you get to the people who wouldn't believe it if it wasn't...
ST: Yeah, but all the way worse? Give me a break! But you're right. Some of the people who used to give me a hard time, now they're at least not...
JT: Would you say that the tide is starting to turn?
ST: I would, especially because of the George Bush years (laughing). I think that has made people rethink things.
JT: In your songs, do you have any kind of environmental message?
ST: Big time. I don't know if all of my songs are going on my record or not, because I've written a lot of songs. One song is called "Until the Earth Runs Dry." That's a song about everybody wanting it, always having it, needing it, but then all of a sudden in our life, in our generation, it's not always going to be there and it's not always affordable. Whether it's oil or water. It's one of those kind of songs. A lot of my songs are kind of political. One is called "Pack our Things and Go." It's about packing up our troops and having 'em come home and trying to take care of our own country.
JT: That's courageous. You're out there pushing that stuff even though your fans have said they don't want to hear it.
ST: Yeah, they don't want to hear it. I don't care. I have another song called "People." It's about people having a choice. One of the verses is "TV screens/corrupt magazines/a man on the radio who thinks he knows what you need/planting seeds/that just mislead/that can't be taken back." Because you have all these people that plant seeds in your head, and people start believing it. And it's not factual. You can't believe everything you read, unfortunately. You have to know who you're dealing with, what your source is. But people aren't even educated enough to know who to vote for.
JT: Do you do any stuff with Headcount or any of those groups?
ST: We used to do the Rock the Vote. We used to say come on and come to our shows and set up a table. Anybody environmental or trying to educate people to vote, that's all good.
JT: How about this festival, what do you think?
ST: I was so impressed, because when I went to catering, [they had] the utensils I love! They have the ones that are compostable, and everything was pretty much compostable or organic. It seemed like they had put thought into everything.
JT: Was that a consideration when you were booking this festival?
ST: I always want to be part of festivals like this, absolutely.
JT: Is Derek on the same page?
ST: Oh, big time. He's always picking on me, like, "OK miss environmental, you left a light on!" He's really big on making me practice what I preach. He doesn't let me get away with anything. Which is good, I like it.
JT: Anything else green you wanted to talk about?
ST: Well, I always have four or five [reusable bags] clipped onto my pocketbook. Look at China, they don't have plastic bags anymore, for a reason. I think it's good for us to be aware, but it's more important for us to actually start putting it into action. Once you start learning about what's good and what's not, let's do it. Let's stop talking about it. Let's get on it!
JT: What's the one thing you're not able to do right now that you wish you could?
ST: In my touring habits, I wish the trash, everything from the utensils--I wish we could get those on the riders. The problem is, we have to get whatever people have in their town. It would be way cooler if we could just [buy in bulk], but there's no room to store it. It would be cool if we could actually get some of those earth-friendly products in every town. I would really love it if we could make all the festivals like [Rothbury]. Some of the artists like Dave Matthews that have a big enough draw, they can make a difference if they start asking for it. It would be good if it was made more mandatory by the artists.
JT: So I think that's it.
ST: Well what can we do, as artists, to help?
JT: Keep putting the message out there. You have a lot of influence with people. Especially, you deal with an audience that's not used to it, you're not preaching to the choir. So if you can find a way to get through to them without upsetting them...it doesn't have to be a left wing/right wing thing. We all have to live on this planet.
ST: I try to move them.
JT: And if you can demonstrate things...if you do a show with refillable water bottles and a five gallon jug, and people see that you're not throwing away water bottles, even if they don't know it, you're having an influence on them.
ST: I have a jug that we got from Montana. Maybe we could get some for the whole band and we could do that.
Let's hope that next time you see Susan, she's got the whole crew switched over to refillable bottles. But even if she doesn't, make sure you see her--she puts on a great show! Here she is, belting out "Hey Jude" at their Rothbury set.
This is a great article YET nearly one year later her husband is scheduled to play a concert at a venue owned by a big time Pa coal guy that plans to build another coal fired power plant and fly ash dump in a farming community. NOT very Green!!! Boycott the event in Burgettstown Pa.
posted by Anonymous : February 9, 2009 at 3:30 PM