Melody Trucks was born into one of the “first families” of blues and Southern Rock. Her father was Butch Trucks, one of the two drummers for the Allman Brothers Band. Her cousin is Derek Trucks, of the Tedeschi-Trucks Band. Melody, meanwhile, not only listened and played music, including that from the Allman Brothers as well as from her father’s side projects like Butch Trucks and the Freight Train Band. She also found an interest in music as a career, carrying high school music classes into a serious college-based music endeavor. These days, she has several music projects going, some which will be shown at The Blue Jay Listening Room near her home in Jacksonville, Florida.
Melody Trucks took some time to talk to The Boise Beat about her own Melody Trucks Project and some of her full band projects, as well as growing up with music around her and the Allman’s one-two drummer combo.
Q: Hello, Melody and thank you for telling us about your story. For many, such as myself, we grew up with the Allman Brothers Band and many of us were not only inspired to play music because of them, but many of us in the late 60s and later were turned onto Southern Rock and blues by your father and his bands.
A: My name is Melody Trucks; and we have more than one band, so I have my solo project which is Melody Trucks, I have a band with my brother [Vaylor Trucks], which is called Brother and Sister. I also have a concert series which I do with my brother as well called the Blue Jay Sessions. Plus, I’ve started going out on the road a couple times a year with the Lee Boys, so how’s that!
Q: What was it like growing up with so much music in your life?
A: My mom and dad split when I was very young. I don’t remember my parents boing together, I think I was maybe a year and a half or two years old when they split. Music has always been a part of my life—I grew up with my mom, so I wasn’t as immersed in it as if they had stayed together. But I got to see both sides of the coin growing up, because my brother and I moved with our mom to her home town, which is this very small town in central Florida called Wauchula. We lived a very humble and low-key life in a small town. Then I’d go visit my dad, we’d ride around in limos and hang out with Charlie Daniels. Lord only knows who else was in the studio at that time! So I got to see both sides of the coin growing up, which I really feel helped me have a much rounder perspective on life in general.
Q: It must have been fascinating……
A: It was. I started playing flute when I was really young. I was the total marching band geek; and loved playing music all through elementary, junior high and high school. Once I got into college I started studying ethnomusicology. That’s where my love for percussion really started. I studied Balinese gamelan and Brazilian samba in college, and that’s where my real love of percussion came in, at Florida State. Marching band stayed in high school, but college was all about ethnomusicology.
Q: You’re headlining at the GABBAFest, the Georgia Allman Brothers Band Association. What’s a set like from there?
A: I’m headlining with Brother and Sister. This is the Allman Brothers Family Tribute Band that I’m in with my older brother Vaylor. Vaylor is the little boy on the cover of Brothers and Sisters. I’m one of the babies on the inside picture. We named the band Brother And Sister, not just because we are obviously brother and sister; but also because of the fact that Vaylor is the iconic little boy on the front cover and I’m in the middle.
It’s an Allman Brothers Family Tribute Band so we’re only playing Allman Brothers songs. We try to do as much a mix of those expected standards that everybody loves, as well as bringing in some of the deeper cuts that are a little more surprising. That’s actually where Vaylor and I love to sing is in those deeper cuts, so while we don’t try to do a set of just the deep cuts, we do try to make sure to bring some of them in as well.
Q: What about Les Brers in A minor?
A: Actually, we don’t do Les Brers with Brother and Sister yet, but there’s a song I wrote about my dad that’s called Freight Train, but we actually tag the hook from Les Brers at the end of that song as an homage to the Allman Brothersand everything they’ve done—everything that they musically stood for. So while Brother and Sister doesn’t actually do Les Brers yet—not saying that we won’t—the one that we’re really having fun with is High Falls, off of Win, Lose or Draw. We haven’t really played Les Brers out as Brother and Sister quite yet.
Q: Do you do originals also, or is that usually with different projects?
A: That would be my solo project. I used to have a thing called the Melody Trucks Band. It was my first band that I put together on my own. That particular project has kind of dissipated with the pandemic, because everybody has to make a living; and there was no “make a living” in live music obviously during the pandemic. So when things started to come back around again, we all found ourselves in such different places that it didn’t make sense to keep moving forward. People had moved away or gotten full-time jobs, or dug into other projects. Every single guy in that group I adore—they’re amazing, but once that dissipated, the Melody Trucks Band is no longer. So now I’m just out under my own name, Melody Trucks; and that’s where the original music comes in.
Q: What’s your upcoming solo project going to be like?
A: This is where I’ve got a lot of excitement around this new project. It’s kind of tying in with Roots Rock Revival. Roots Rock Revival is a music masters camp that my father started, years before he passed away. It was one of the things that he was most proud of. The founders were my dad, Oteil [Burbridge] and Luther Cody Dickinson from the North Mississippi All Stars. It’s at the Full Moon Resort up in the Catskills. It happens the first week in August every year, so we just had it. It’s a fully immersive musical experience. Basically, we have musicians that come in; and we give master classes to the attendees about where our influences came from and where their influences cane from. Stage etiquette, how to build a groove and all of these different things that…it gives them a lot of one to one time. The attendees get a lot of time with these musicians that are their idols, their icons, the people that when they go see their concerts, and the next thing you know they’re in a jam with them at 2 o’clock in the mornings, because it’s time to play!
One of the ways that I try to carry on what my father started is I’m actually starting to bring some of the younger kids from this music masters camp out on the road with us. I had a tour not too long ago through the Midwest all the way out to Lincoln, Nebraska for the Zoofest; and I actually took two of the kids from Roots Rock Revival plus one of the interns; and it’s just amazing what these younger kids are doing, and it’s really exciting at the prospect of starting to bring these kids on tour with me. It’s going to be a whole lot of fun! You would not believe the amount of talent that comes through that camp, especially with the younger kids. Brandon Niederauer, “Taz”—he was there from year one, and now he is one of the people that gives the classes instead of taking them. So I’m really excited about that aspect of my solo project.
Plus, I’m in the middle of writing my next record too!
Q: Growing up, did you have a favorite Allman Brothers tune?
A: Oh wow! I guess it just depends on my mood. There’s so many—when I wanted to hear something happy, Jessica”s the go-to. One of my favorite songs to play and sing, just because it’s a little different, is Leave My Blues at Home. It’s not one of the deepest cuts, but it is not one that everybody knows. Please Call Home has always been one of those—that’s one that gets you in the fields. There’s also, when you think of Allman Brothers songs, they have their catalog, but I grew up with their entire catalog. The Duane Allman Anthology, all of those things that Duane did in the studio before the Allman Brothers were really a thing. Stuff that Duane and Gregg did together—their musical catalog is just so deep and so incredible and expansive that it’s hard to pinpoint. It really just depends on my mood, what my favorite is.
Q: In his own way, your father went a ways in breaking the race barrier in places like Georgia. Did you find that it affected your life or your family?
A: There shouldn’t be barriers. That is what music teaches you. We’re all human beings. The only thing that separates us, other than our own shortsightedness, is how close our ancestors were to the equator. The fact is, that is what people will use as a reason to separate us from someone else. I think it’s rather shortsighted. All of humanity has something to offer to this world, and music is written in such a way that you bring in other ideas. The fact that my father and the other Allman Brothers are a shining example of what you can do when you look past that, I’m very proud of that.
Q: How was his relationship with Jaimoe?
A: They were brothers. They loved each other. Even though my dad isn’t here any more doesn’t mean he doesn’t love Jaimoe as much as he always did. They love each other. Period.
Q: What’s going on with the concert series you have coming up with Vaylor in Jacksonville?
A: We’ve got the Melody Trucks Project going and we have the Brother and Sister project going. There’s a little club down here called the Blue Jay Listening Room, and it only seats about 80 people. Vaylor and I are inviting some of our closest and dearest friends to come and play with us there. So far, we have Jimmy Hall and Luther Dickinson. We also had one night when we had Victor Wainwright and Pat Harrington, from Victor Wainwright and the Train.
Getting people to commit to a one-off show in the middle of festival season has been a little challenging, so we’ve been on a bit of a hiatus, but we’re going to be coming back in strong at the end of this year. It’s one of those opportunities that people have to see somebody do—once again, it’s the same thing that I said about Roots Rock—-there’s people who you pay to see at the big venues, but you get to see it on a small, intimate stage with just a few other people. It only seats about 80 people. So this particular concert series I’m really excited about, I’m really proud of, because we get to invite some of our closest and dearest friends that we’ve grown up listening to their music, playing music with them; and now we’re bringing it to a very small and intimate venue where you can have a very memorable musical experience. That’s one of the things I’m most excited about right now is that concert series.
Q: Thank you so much, Melody. I can’t wait to hear your new projects!
Melody Trucks will be appearing at the GABBAFest on Saturday, September 24.
Photos courtesy of Doug Deutsch, Doug Deutsch PR