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