INTERVIEW- The boys are back: DMB come home to finish up

The Dave Matthews Band's last album sold more than 20 times as many copies during its first week of release as the number of people who will read this issue of the Hook. Tickets for this week's two-night stand at UVA's John Paul Jones Arena sold out almost immediately after it was announced. 

But through it all, the boys have kept their feet on the ground when there's really no earthly reason for them to do so. Boyd Tinsley granted an interview to the hometown press, the band kept trucking with hurricane relief benefits well into 2006, and they only grudgingly agreed to release the greatest hits compilation due out November 7 once they realized they were obligated to do so under the terms of their record contract. 

Even beyond their charitable aims in support of Live Arts, the John Paul Jones Arena concerts testify to the band's humility: even when the hysteria around town seems completely deranged, they still manage to love us back.

The Hook: DMB was supposed to be the grand opening event at the John Paul Jones Arena, but several other acts were added to the schedule ahead of your show. Did you want to christen the new venue?

Boyd Tinsley: Not at all. We're just happy to play in it. I think it's a great thing for the town to have a venue where we can have these national acts. You don't have to go to Richmond or DC to see a great show anymore.

The Hook: What do places like the Charlottesville Pavilion and the John Paul Jones Arena mean for places like Miller's?

Boyd Tinsley: I think it's good. The whole Charlottesville music scene has really sort of come on in the past few years with the Paramount and some of the others. The major acts coming through Charlottesville are looking like some of the major acts coming through San Francisco and other major cities. And people come out and support it, that's the main thing.

The Hook: Does that open the possibility for more DMB shows at home?

Boyd Tinsley: Charlottesville seems to be the spot for a lot of national acts, and I think that we will be included in that. I think we'll be playing more shows in Charlottesville now that there are venues that can hold us.

The Hook: At this time last year, everyone was amped up about the Rolling Stones. You're opening for them next month; did you ever think about getting involved in their Charlottesville show?

Boyd Tinsley: No, not really. We had just gotten off the road when they played. I think everybody was pretty glad. Our tour was probably about 60 dates last year, so everyone wanted to be home and relax. We pretty much didn't discuss that at all. I think some of the guys went out to see them, though.

The Hook: What are your typical pre-show and post-show activities and rituals? Will they be any different when you're at home?

Boyd Tinsley: Everybody has their routines. I usually like to spend the hour before the show listening to music and just sort of being alone, having some space. That's my way of getting pumped up for the show. Afterwards, we usually chill for a little bit, come back to my bus, and probably listen to a little bit more music, go out and meet some of the fans. I don't think it's going to differ a whole lot. The great thing about being at home is that I won't be coming out of a hotel room; I'll be coming out of my house. But we'll take our buses over to the gig, and we'll probably have our normal routine.

The Hook: DMB has always put out a lot of live albums, but in 2004 you also started with the "Live Trax" series. What does it accomplish that the regular live albums didn't?

Boyd Tinsley: I think that we've always just tried to put out as much live material as possible. Our songs are very different from show to show. Definitely, our live songs are a lot different from our studio cuts. We just try to make as many avenues as possible to get the music to our fans.

The Hook: What determines whether a given show will be in the series or a standalone album?

Boyd Tinsley: I don't know, honestly. I'm not as involved as far as how they're released. We have a crew of people on our staff who go through all our live shows, and we try to pick the best one and release them to the fans. Whether they're a series live show or a regular live show, I don't know the difference.

The Hook: What are your thoughts on MusicToday being sold to Live Nation?

Boyd Tinsley: I haven't thought about it at all.

The Hook: Well, doesn't it have ramifications for your merchandise sales?

Boyd Tinsley: Not particularly, no. That's more a business thing that relates to our management. I haven't even thought about it.

The Hook: You've been pulling out new songs from your 2006 recording sessions at other shows this summer. Can you introduce them to our readers?

Boyd Tinsley: We have probably six or seven songs that we've been working on in the spring. "The Idea Of You" is one that we've been playing a lot this summer, as well as "Break Free," and "Kill The King." A great song that we've really been falling in love with for the last month or so is "Can't Stop." They're all great songs, and we're all excited about getting in the studio and recording. It's great taking them out in front of a live crowd, because they get the chance to evolve.

The Hook: When you compare them to material from four or five albums ago, what are the biggest differences you see?

Boyd Tinsley: First, they sound like Dave Matthews Band, that sound that we have that I can't describe in less than 500 words. But they're different, they're evolution. I'm playing mandolin a lot more than I have in the past, Dave is playing a guitar that's half the size of a normal guitar, and it has a sound that's between a guitar and a mandolin. We're experimenting with different sounds and different grooves. It's pretty exciting to go on to the next step of our music.

The Hook: You're currently working on another album with Stand Up producer Mark Batson. What's different the second time around? Are you more at ease with each other?

Boyd Tinsley: No, the great thing with Mark was that it started off relaxed. It started off very comfortable– everybody pretty much knew what Mark was about, and he knew what we were about from the very beginning. We get in there, and it's a very free flow of ideas.

The Hook: Are you doing anything different on these sessions?

Boyd Tinsley: So far, it's been going pretty much the same way.

The Hook: So do you think it will end up similar to Stand Up?

Boyd Tinsley: I think it'll be an entirely different record, but I think the process by which we're going about it is the same.

The Hook: In addition to the new album, you've kept busy with other projects. What was it like being guests on the new Jurassic 5 album?

Boyd Tinsley: Well, you don't want to screw up the song, for the first thing. It was a lot of fun, they're a great band. We did our recording here in Haunted Hollow, and we had a blast playing on it. We did the same thing that we do in the Dave Matthews Band– we find our musical place in the song and try to add something to it.

The Hook: You recently composed the theme for Wimbledon, too.

Boyd Tinsley: Wimbledon being such a distinguished musical event, I couldn't go up there and just do a rock song. I took more of a classical approach and tried to make a composition that reflected the tradition and glory of Wimbledon. Towards the end I added a little solo to it and put in my little rock flair, but I tried to make it more of a classical piece than a rock piece.

The Hook: Comparing that to your solo album, True Reflections, which was more enjoyable?

Boyd Tinsley: They both were. They were very different; I can't really compare, because they were two different things. One was a singer-songwriter kind of thing, and this was writing music for a sporting event, which is me coming from a whole different place musically. I was very flattered to be associated with something as distinguished as Wimbledon.

The Hook: Did your compositional process change?

Boyd Tinsley: I pretty much always write starting with a drum groove. I did that on a lot of stuff on True Reflections, and I did that on Wimbledon. The way they started was very similar, but the way they evolved was different.

The Hook: You recently participated in the filming of Live From... The Hook, a film about the music scene in Charlottesville in the 1980s. What do you see as the major difference between that era and the one DMB sprang from?

Boyd Tinsley: I think that DMB to some extent came from that era of music. There were a lot of great bands, a great music scene in Charlottesville in the '70s and '80s. A lot of musicians had a big influence on a lot of the guys in the Dave Matthews Band. We re-embody some of that, as a band, still to this day.

The Hook: This is the last stop of your tour. What symbolic meaning does that have?

Boyd Tinsley: We're going to be coming home anyway. I think it's a great way to end the tour.

The Hook: And a great way to jump-start the Arena.

Boyd Tinsley: You know, it's something that we've really never done before– an arena show in Charlottesville. 

The Hook: It's a bit on the small side for you, isn't it?

Boyd Tinsley: We mostly played outdoor shows this summer; 25,000 seats on average. This would be one of the smaller ones.

The Hook: What are you expecting from it?

Boyd Tinsley: I think we expect to go up there and play like we do every night– give everything we've got and have some fun. Everything else will take care of itself from there.

File photo by Barnaby Draper