So much to write: New DMB book debuts

About a year ago, Boston-based author Nikki Van Noy called to ask questions about the early days of Dave Matthews Band in Charlottesville, based on a story we did in 2004 about the band's connection with Haines Fullerton, an early Matthews mentor who just missed rock stardom himself in the early 1980s with another local band called The Deal.

Now Simon & Schuster is releasing Van Noy's new book, So Much To Say: Dave Matthews Band, 20 Years On The Road on June 7. The Hook also had a chance to catch up with Van Noy.

The Hook: What did you set out to achieve?

Van Noy: It's part biography, part oral history. I wanted to tell the story of DMB’s first twenty years, but I wanted it to somehow convey the unique sort of energy and intensity that surrounds the band and its fan base.

Hook: That must have been difficult.

Van Noy: I spent the better part of two years reading through submissions and extensively interviewing a wide range of DMB fans. The final number of people quoted in the book doesn’t come even close to capturing the number of people I spoke with. In 2010 alone, I attended shows all over, including everywhere from Washington State to Italy.

Hook: How did DMB's decision to stop touring in 2011 affect the book?

Van Noy: In some ways, this changed the tone of the manuscript that was already well underway because, for this particular fan base, a year off the road represents a pretty significant deviation from the norm.

I originally planned for the book to open with a glimpse into DMB’s September 2010 Wrigley Field show, which would presumably be the final show of 2010. Of course, in the wake of the 2011 announcement, a lot of things were rejiggered, including the addition of a fall tour in 2010. This meant that, really, the book should now open with the final fall tour show in Charlottesville. From a story arc standpoint, it was great to be able to bring the band’s first twenty years full circle back to Charlottesville like that, but these last-minute changes also meant dropping in a lot of information well after the manuscript’s official deadline.

Then the Caravan was announced in January 2011, which required adjusting the copy once again. All of these changes were somewhat stressful, but I feel it was ultimately very true to the DMB experience in general—you sort of know what to expect, but, at the same time, they keep you on your toes.

Hook: The book reaches back to DMB's early days. Was it difficult to bring those early days to life?

Van Noy: Yes. The whole concept was to incorporate memories of fans who had been at key DMB events over the past twenty years into one overarching narrative. From a biographical standpoint, I felt like this was my best shot at bringing the more intangible elements that really draw people to DMB to life on page. Once I started writing I realized that, while there was an abundance of information from about 1996 on, identifying people who had been around for the early days (and especially from 1991-1993) was much more difficult, for obvious reasons.

The other problem with those very early years when DMB was still a regional act is that I didn’t witness that period myself. For most of the book, I felt fairly confident that I could supplement and authenticate information from interviewees because I was actually around for those periods and had a first-hand understanding of at least the gist of it. These early years were much more intimidating to write about because I was attempting to explain something I had no true knowledge of.

Hook: So what did you do?

Van Noy: I began to realize the only way to really obtain this sort of insight was to talk to Charlottesville locals and journalists who were on the scene during those early years. That’s where people like you, Bill Ramsey, and Mark Roebuck came into play.

One of the most enlightening and unexpected things I heard throughout this whole process was you describing how the whole celebratory vibe of DMB shows was really in place from the beginning and, you believed, a huge part of the reason people continued coming back for more from the very offset.

I tend to think of 1991 as the starting point—but, of course, there’s a bigger picture than that. Gaining an understanding of where DMB and its members fit into the timeline and bigger picture of the Charlottesville music scene really clarified a lot for me.

Hook: What did you learn about the bigger picture?

Van Noy: I find their ties with The Deal fascinating, and was turned on to that by your article about Haines Fullerton, which I first read several years ago. Most DMB fans know everything about the band, but I feel like this is one portion that may be new information to some. It’s interesting to see the little overlaps and the very different hands fate dealt to two bands that dwelt in such a relatively small circle.

Ultimately, I got even more out of these interviews than I expected. Though my original intent was to fill in information gaps about those early years, speaking with locals also gave me an idea of how DMB’s success affected Charlottesville over time and how surreal it must be to see people you know on an everyday sort of basis go on to achieve the sort of success they have.

Read more on: dave matthews band


There was no Nikki Van Noy in The Deal.

D'OH read the text Biff.

It should be named "How to Lower Your Musical Standards to appeal to Hippies and Morons and Clean Up at the Bank"

cruncher...lower musical standards? Have you listened to the radio lately? Show me a drummer that can out perform Carter. ( that isnt gonna happen)show me a volinist that can jam as hard as boyd. roi moore on the sax is one of the greatest sax players ever, not to mention a quality jazz musician. Dave..well i will say he is not one of the greatest gutair player in the world, nor does he claim to be BUT....he has a unique voice and an incredable song writer with great talent on the guitar. In a live show he is a true showman. Im a musician and im around a lot of others and not many of them even attempt to pull off a DMB tune because of their complexities. To not enjoy thier music is one thing, but lower musical standards?...boy you just aint listening

daberrion, commercial radio is probably at its worst in all of the time it has existed. If that's what you use as your standard, no wonder you think DMB is great.

Carter is a phenomenal drummer by rock standards, and even by jazz standards he's pretty good, but amazing jazz drummers aren't rare at all. Ronald Shannon Jackson comes to mind first because of the rock jazz crossover. Tony Williams is dead, but he too did the crossover fusion thing and was probably the best drummer I've ever seen live although Amin Ali is neck and neck in that category. Bill Bruford, Anton Fier, and so many other's come to mind. Michael Shreive doesn't really do too much rock drumming any more, but he pretty much schooled the world in how it's done in a single performance when he was just a 20 year old kid Find me a DMB performance that rocks like Santana did at Woodstock, and you'll make a fan of me. I'm afraid it just ins't going to happen though.

Billy Bang, Jean Luc Ponty, L. Subramaniam, Jerry Goodman, Leroi Jenkins,not to mention a nearly endless string of bluegrass fiddlers could easily blow Boyd Tinsley away on the violin. You don't really have to go to that level even, I'd say Charlie Daniels is powerhouse enough. Local musician Morwenna Lasko is also much more enjoyable to listen to that Boyd, not to mention being considerably easier on the eyes.

Gerry Rafferty's "Baker Street" comes to mind when I hear sax in a DMB tune. Listenable is how I'd describe the sound. Coltrane, Wayne Shorter, Albet Ayler, et al. never seemed to bother themselves too much with aiming for that.

No need to go on with vocalists obviously and I'll skip the bassists for the sake of space. The point is that DMB is alright, but if they're your gold standard, you've been fooled by electroplate.

Cruncher...Please...which musician is better than the other, this could be argued all night, with no one agreeing in the end. The point is, the thousands upon thousands of DMB fans that turn up year after year, travel the country to catch as many shows as possible, can't be THAT wrong, nor would they be willing in this economy to spend their hard earned money on tickets and travel if the musicianship were not of unprecendented levels.
And the comment "How to Lower Your Musical Standards to appeal to Hippies and Morons and Clean Up at the Bank" I beg to differ. Hippies? Yes, there may be some at every show. There are also entire families, older folks like myself, and the next generation of college kids. Morons? DMB gained their initial fan-base playing to college audiences. The majority of those college kids have grownup and have successful careers, hard to do when your a moron.
As for cleaning up at the bank...good for them. It allows them to give back, to their community, and others around the country. Which they do often.
You don't care for their sound. That is your choice. But,there is no need to be rude and disrespectful to the multitudes of those of us who do. No one is judging your musical choices or calling you names.
I would bet you have yet to attend a DMB show. You should give one a try. You might just enjoy yourself. In spite of yourself.

I love Country Music !