Singer Melody Trucks talks about her new band, the late great Butch Trucks, Balinese and Brazilian music

"Music is an emotional catalyst. It can soothe or incite the soul. I see music as a way to break down boundaries and stereotypes. Music is supposed to make you happy. It’s truly the universal language that crosses all barriers."

Melody Trucks: The Melody of Trucks

Melody Trucks is a life-long student of music. Being born into a musical family, she was surrounded by incredible musicians from the start. She began studying flute at the age of  7, but expanded to all woodwinds as she progressed through high school. She switched to percussion in college, studying ethnomusicology with a focus in Balinese and Brazilian music. While she did sing occasionally with her brother, Vaylor Trucks of the Yeti Trio, it was not her main focus. After deciding to surprise her father, Butch Trucks of the Allman Brothers Band, by singing at an open jam hosted by Hub Chason at the Bradfordville Blues Club in Tallahassee, Florida, Melody was invited to tour with his latest group, Butch Trucks and the Freight Train. The Melody Trucks Band emerged as a way for her to carry on the legacy he began, as well as a way for her to voice her own musical ideas.        MELODY TRUCKS / PHOTO BY FRANK ALLEN SR.

After touring with Butch Trucks and the Freight Train, Melody Trucks immersed herself in the increasingly rich and diverse music scene in Jacksonville, Florida. The Melody Trucks Band came together in early 2017 as she encountered each member within this extended musical family. Their individual styles and influences run the entire span of every music genre: rock, blues, jazz, funk, classical, country, thrash metal, and even world music. This has culminated in fresh and unique interpretations of iconic songs from the genre of Melody's extended family. In addition to Melody Trucks on vocals and percussion, the group includes Westbrook (slide guitar), Brady Clampitt (guitar & vocals), Isaac Corbitt (harp), Willis Gore (guitar), Shane Platten (bass & vocals), and Shaun Taunton (drums).

Interview by Michael Limnios

How has the Rock n’ Roll Counterculture influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

This counterculture you speak of is my family. They have influenced me the way your parents, uncles, aunts, cousins, grandparents would influence you. There is not a breath I have taken, a step I have made, that was not influenced by them.

How do you describe Melody Trucks sound and songbook? What characterize your music philosophy?

We play what makes us happy. Of course, the sound is going to be heavily influenced by what I was raised in – Blues, Jazz, Funk, Rock, Soul – but we all bring such a unique voice to the band. I am really excited about what we are doing.

What were the reasons that you started World music researches? What touched (emotionally) you from Balinese and Brazilian music?

After I graduated from high school, I lived in Tallahassee and was fortunate enough to know quite a few people in the FSU School of Music – which has one of the top Ethnomusicology departments in the country. I attended the first concert of the Balinese Gamelan at FSU and was mesmerized. I spoke to the professor the next day and he allowed me to audit the class. I ended up studying with Dr. Michael Bakan, one of the leading scholars in Balinese Gamelan in the country, for 4 years and was able to go and study in Bali for a summer. My time with Dr. Bakan expanded my view on music exponentially, and I could never thank him enough. Because of my introduction into the FSU Ethnomusicology department, we were part of their Annual Rainbow Concert, which showcases all of the different ensembles within the school. It was there that I first heard the Brazilian Samba group. This group focused on Batucada style Samba – the music of Carnivale. The percussion was so energetic… it really moved me. I began auditing that class as well. Both the Balinese and Brazilian styles that I studied were solely percussive, but the feelings they both invoke are completely different. Balinese is an intricate melodic style that is unlike anything I have ever heard before, while Brazilian called to my more primal musical instincts.

"I guess I miss the raw emotional aspects of older music. Most times, it was the subtle flaws in the music that gave it character and feeling. With things like autotune, you lose the humanity of the music. It’s almost too perfect now. I really fear completely losing that humanity." PHOTO BY STEFANI LOVE: Melody Trucks on vocals and percussion, Westbrook (slide guitar), Brady Clampitt (guitar & vocals), Isaac Corbitt (harp), Willis Gore (guitar), Shane Platten (bass & vocals), and Shaun Taunton (drums).

Which meetings have been the most important experiences? What was the best advice anyone ever gave you?

I know you would think that I would highlight some celebrity meeting with this question, but the most important person I have met in my life (other than family) was my band director, Mr. Bob Shayman. He changed my life forever. He was my band director for 8 years, and taught me so much about music, life, and the type of person I want to be. The best advice – If you are early – you’re on time; If you are on time – you’re late, and if you’re late…just don’t be late!

Why do you think that the Butch Trucks and Allman Bros music continues to generate such a devoted following?

When they began playing together back in ‘69, they were unlike anything else that was out at the time. They blended several different styles of music – blues, jazz, rock, country – and helped pioneer a new genre. This translated to a very devoted following, which has been passed on to a new generation. They also fostered a very tight family atmosphere with their music and let those who loved them know that they were part of something bigger, something special. This family still exists today.

What has made you laugh from Butch Trucks & The Freight Train? Are there any memories which you’d like to share?

There was one day during sound check… they were going over a Dylan tune that Dad would come out from behind the set to sing, and Justin Headley would play Dad’s set. Dad noticed I was filming and broke out into an Old Soft Shoe dance that had us all laughing. I still have it on video somewhere.

"Being relatively new to the working music scene myself, I find it hard to comment on this. I have not had the time to truly understand the hardships and struggles of my peers in this aspect. In my brief tenure, I have seen a few things that give me pause.  It just seems sometimes it’s a bit harder to be taken seriously as an artist. That being said, I have been very fortunate so far. I do hope to see more inclusion for women in general, though." (Photo by Butch Trucks Archive: Butch Trucks with Melody & Vaylor)

What do you miss most nowadays from the music of past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

I guess I miss the raw emotional aspects of older music. Most times, it was the subtle flaws in the music that gave it character and feeling. With things like autotune, you lose the humanity of the music. It’s almost too perfect now. I really fear completely losing that humanity.

What does to be a female artist in a Man’s World as James Brown says? What is the status of women in music?

Being relatively new to the working music scene myself, I find it hard to comment on this. I have not had the time to truly understand the hardships and struggles of my peers in this aspect. In my brief tenure, I have seen a few things that give me pause. It just seems sometimes it’s a bit harder to be taken seriously as an artist. That being said, I have been very fortunate so far. I do hope to see more inclusion for women in general, though.

What is the impact of Rock, Blues and Jazz music on the racial, political and socio-cultural implications?

Music is an emotional catalyst. It can soothe or incite the soul. I see music as a way to break down boundaries and stereotypes. Music is supposed to make you happy. It’s truly the universal language that crosses all barriers.

Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really want to go for a whole day?

January 23rd, 2017 (Blues.gr comment: The day before her dad, Butch Trucks, died)

Melody Trucks Band - Home

PHOTO BY STEFANI LOVE

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