I Am The Moon — Tedeschi Trucks Band

I Am The Moon

The latest project of the Tedeschi Trucks Band is as ambitious as any you will find in the world of the blues. In fact, its approach is unusual and nearly unheard of for any musical project regardless of genre. The origin of the 24-song set/movie series released between early June and late August dates back to classical Persian legend, an epic poem that has served as the inspiration for another blues-rock classic album by Eric Clapton.

Source material aside, the I Am the Moon project began in 2020 with the lockdown sparked by the Covid-19 pandemic. Forced off the road, the band plotted their next move with an email sent by backup vocalist/acoustic guitarist Mike Mattison. In it, he mentioned the possible use of an epic poem 12-century epic Layla and Manjun as a creative springboard. 

If the epic’s name rings a bell, it’s probably because it served as the inspiration for the Derek and the Dominos song, Layla, as well as the album Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs. Mattison’s original idea was a tribute to the Derek and Dominos classic. The result was the 2021 Tedeschi Trucks Band album, Layla Revisited, a track-by-track live recording of the album.

But soon after, yet another idea came to Mattison. “The Clapton album is one point of view” he says.,” Layla as a love object: I want you, I can’t have you.” The new project was an effort to express Layla’s point-of-view. And thus was born, I Am the Moon. In the words of the vocalist/guitarist, “Well, what does Layla think about all this?” This set into motion yet another key part of the process.

Collectively penned by the band members, the recording process began in January of 2021 in the home of bandleaders Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks, with Derek in the role of producer. He says, “The project came together quickly and organically. “It’s amazing because we wrote most of this music in a pretty short time span.”

But the recording was not without its pleasant surprises. “There are chord changes that mirror other tunes — themes and variations, lyrical allusions that pop back up. The decision to expand the project beyond the length of a standard LP came to them naturally. “You always want to do something bigger and thematic.”

Tedeschi Trucks Band with I Am The Moon, live at Red Rocks in Morrison, CO.

Why sequence and release the album in four distinct episodes? Once again, inspiration came from the world of classic rock/blues. “We started thinking of records we love.” Chief among those beloved albums was the Jimi Hendrix Experience’s Axis: Bold as Love. Derek adds, “It’s thirty-six minutes long. That’s the way to digest a record.”

Soon, the new album blossomed into a film project that could be best described as a trippy marriage of surreal, otherworldly images and performance footage, all of which flawlessly accompanies the epic album. And yet, for all the celestial images of the film, the project’s true focus — the music supplied by the Tedeschi Trucks Band — remains front and center.

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Tedeschi Trucks Band’s Epic Project "I Am The Moon" Soars to New Heights With Groundbreaking Music and Innovative Structure.

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I Am The Moon

The space travel theme of the film seems to have been rooted in the music itself. Appropriately enough, Derek Trucks describes the early jam sessions that birthed the project with these words: “We felt like we were on our own planet. Susan Tedeschi adds, “It was magical.”
And yet the magic vividly on display on the album didn’t all fall into place without serious effort and planning. A key part of that planning unfolded when Mike Mattison took the bold step of assigning the band members “homework” to prepare for the writing and recording of the album. According to Derek Trucks, “Mike had this great idea of getting the songwriters and the core of the band to read the same source material so we had something to all be thinking about, something to chew on. In the beginning it was just kind of a thought exercise, but it really just took on a full life of its own.”

Bruce Mississippi Johnson - Years, Tears

Interestingly enough, the band had the Covid-19 virus to thank for such a process. As Trucks says, “If we didn’t have that time, there’s no way we’d have written twenty-four songs that were all connected to the same thing.”

To describe this writing and writing process as unusual would be an enormous understatement. In fact, the unusual nature of it was crucial. “Every record we’ve ever made,”Trucks says, “you write a few songs, everyone’s in the same mindset, you hit the road, everyone goes home, with all the troubles of your world and everybody’s mentally in a different place. When you reconnect, you’re starting from a totally different vantage point. So records are often disjointed that way, where with this, we were there every day, everyone was in the same situation.”

In this case, “the same situation” meant the band members were — thanks to the pandemic — living amongst themselves for an extended period of time. “Once people were down here and everybody was staying on the property and we were living together, I’d wake up every morning and make coffee, Sue would make breakfast, I’d sit around with an acoustic guitar and you just stumble across something.”

In time, the band stumbled across so much material that it became clear their new word wouldn’t be an ordinary release. Trucks adds, “When we had, I don’t know, 14, 15 tunes together, we started listening and realizing, “This is too much, this is not a record anymore.”

And in the end, I Am the Moon wasn’t just a record. It would become a twenty-four song set of four new albums released across a three month cycle. The names of each album, Crescent, Ascension, The Fall and Farewell provide a clue to how ambitious a project it was. Simply put, this was an album whose aspirations couldn’t be contained by the planet earth.