Susan Tedeschi sings the blues with a smile

RENO - Take a pretty much unknown white chick belting the blues on an independent record label and you have the makings of a CD that's likely headed for the discount bin. But throw in a Grammy nomination for "Just Won't Burn" and suddenly you have a debut album that surpassed gold.

A second album produced two more Grammy nominations in different categories and consecutive years.

Susan Tedeschi (pronounced teh-DES'-kee) still shakes her head at her 2000 nomination for best new artist, going against Britney Spears, Macy Gray, Kid Rock and Christina Aguilera. Aguilera got it.

The next couple of years produced some studio work, a lot of concerts and a son, the 33-year-old's only child.

In 2003, "Alone," the first single off her second album was nominated for best female rock performance. She joined Bonnie Raitt, Melissa Etheridge and Avril Lavigne as also-rans behind Sheryl Crow.

This year, the album "Wait for Me" was up for best contemporary blues. That went to mentor Etta James.

AP: Was the success of your first album a surprise to you and your label, Tone Cool?

Tedeschi: I'll say. They had predicted maybe 100,000 records ... I said, "I think we can sell a little more than that," but I really didn't think we'd sell 500 or 600 (thousand). But they got really behind the record and we did a lot of press and toured a lot. It's kind of like politics.

AP: You spend a lot of time on the road. Couldn't you just stay home and cash royalty checks?

Tedeschi: I love touring. I love performing live. I love playing live more than I do making records. I like the energy. I like the feel of the band. I like the people. It's a nice release emotionally, spiritually.

AP: Your husband, Derek Trucks, tours with his own band and the Allman Brothers. You tour with your band and your 2-year-old, Charlie. Is it hard for all of you being on the road so much?

Tedeschi: I stay home a lot considering I used to tour all the time. I think the goal for me is to keep working and support the record and get to the point where the band can still work each year.

AP: How's Charlie with all this?

Tedeschi: He loves to tour. He's a great little traveler. He knows how to walk on the bus - not that I let him - at 11 months he started walking.

AP: Is he ready for the band?

Tedeschi: He plays drums. At 15 months old, he would just sit there and try the cymbal and then he'd hit the snare. We all play everything. Piano, keys, drums, guitar, whatever.

AP: You have toured with Etta James. How do you compare yourself to her?

Tedeschi: I think I'm more like Etta in a lot of ways after hearing her set. She would do an Al Green medley, then she would do torchy ballads, and then she's so some blues straight up. She's very versatile and she can sing anything.

AP: You come from the Boston area, which is rich in the blues. Where did you get caught up in it?

Tedeschi: I started going to a blues jam on Sundays. I had some friends who were hosting that and they invited me to come down and play. And then I started listening to some blues records - Rev. Gary Davis, Lightning Hopkins, Mississippi John Hurt - more folk blues. Then I started hearing these records. Electric blues ... this whole Chicago scene. I was 22, 23, and I was now addicted.

AP: And gospel?

Tedeschi: I grew up on gospel. I am influenced by a lot of different things. So I think the style comes across by whatever I am being influenced by. If I'm in a gospel mood and I'm listening to a lot of Mahalia Jackson, I'm going to write something like "The Feeling Music Brings" (from "Wait for Me").

AP: Any plans for more gospel down the road?

Tedeschi: I love gospel, but I can't really make money at that. Blues is the secular version of gospel.


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