Solo swim: Dave's debut disc due soon
Three days after the 54-show Dave Matthews Band summer tour comes to a close in Atlanta on September 20, a new odyssey will begin. RCA, the band's record label, releases Some Devil, the highly anticipated debut of David Matthews as a solo artist and his first collection of songs without the band.
Already the first disc's first single, "Gravedigger," has been handed over to radio stations and is getting heavy play, including on Charlottesville's WNRN.
"A screaming loud rock song it's not; it's a little dark," says 'NRN general manager Mike Friend, who predicts that the song will be popular on alternative and modern rock stations.
"Gravedigger" is supported by the obligatory video (shot in Montana and directed by Mark Pellington, whose credits include Pearl Jam's "Jeremy" and U2's "One"). The song has also become a staple of DMB's live shows this year and is one of four on the album also featuring Trey Anastasio, leader of Phish, the DMB's closest rival for "jam-band" supremacy. Number one in tour revenue last year? DMB.
A tour featuring the trio of Matthews, frequent collaborator and "soul mate" Tim Reynolds, and Anastasio is expected later this year. With all this support, Matthews' maiden recording is expected to burst onto the charts with the full force of the million-selling status his band's albums have achieved in the past.
Fans of the band have long speculated that Matthews, who continues to dabble in film, would eventually abandon his band in favor of a solo career. The rumor was fueled largely by the controversial 2001 album, Everyday. Discarding recordings cut in Charlottesville, Matthews blindsided both his band and fans by huddling in L.A. with veteran hitmaker Glenn Ballard to produce an album that yielded several hits and a Grammy nomination while earning the scorn of his cult-like following.
As if to redeem himself, Matthews recruited Stephen Harris, the band's longtime engineer (and protégé of Steve Lillywhite, revered producer of most of the DMB catalog prior to Everyday), to guide the follow-up, 2002's Busted Stuff, which was salvaged from the Charlottesville sessions. For Some Devil, Harris is again in the producer's chair, a factor that doubtless instills confidence among Matthews' legion of fans.
Recorded in his Seattle basement studio this spring, Matthews teamed with Reynolds, Anastasio, bassist Tony Hall (of the Bob Dylan Band), and Brady Blade Jr. (drummer for the Indigo Girls). Also making contributions are the Seattle Symphony and the Dirty Dozen Brass Band. The 14-track album, according to recent interviews, is a collection of stories, a series of songs "that didn't really fit with the band," he told MTV News. "I started with those, and it just grew into a full record. I kind of thought it would be fun to put out.
"Writing in my garage," Matthews told Rolling Stone recently, "1,000 miles away from anyone else, ideas started coming songs that were away from the sound of the band. After a while, it started taking on a personality. I figured, why not?"
Not surprisingly, Matthews dwells on the themes of loss, both of loved ones departed and those no longer among his personal relationships. "It's all pretty personal," Matthews told the magazine.
The release comes on the heels of the flop of True Reflections, the debut of DMB violinist Boyd Tinsley. While Tinsley's distinctive fiddling helped define the DMB sound, his solo album– released in June– was a critical and popular failure (nancies.org said it sold just 10,500 copies in its first week).
Increasingly, Matthews has been residing in the Washington State suburb of Wallingford, where his wife, Ashley, studies homeopathic medicine at nearby Bastyr University.
Mr. and Mrs. Matthews recently celebrated their third wedding anniversary (they were wed at his mom's Albemarle estate, "Blenheim," on August 10, 2000) and the birthdays of their twin daughters Stella and Grace (born a year and five days later).
From all accounts, Matthews is a familiar figure around Seattle, and his comings and goings are frequently documented in the town's alternative weekly, The Stranger.
But DMB fans need not fear this solo outing signals the end of the band. In almost every press report, Matthews clarifies that the group he put together in June 1991 at Eastern Standard restaurant (now Escafé) remains the focal point of his interest and inspiration.
"The experience of working on this album has been great I've learned a lot," Matthews said in a recent RCA press release. "I can't imagine a time when my life doesn't revolve around the band, and I think after making this album I'll have even more to offer as a member of DMB."
While both Matthews and Tinsley have tentative plans for solo tours in support of their respective albums this fall, sources indicate a new live DMB album is set for release in early November.