Sipping a beer at Heathrow International Airport in London last month, Dave Matthews took some time to chat with me. The front man for one of the most successful touring bands in history was relaxed, mellow and soft-spoken while he discussed this summer's tour, the band's new recording studio in its hometown of Charlottesville, Va., and plans for a new album set for a late '06/early '07 release.
This interview was originally done for the Associated Press in story format, but you can read the entire un-edited back-and-forth below. Or, just stream it and have it on in the background while you're working.
Q&A with Dave Matthews:
SomethingGlorious: How long have you been in England?
Dave Matthews: About a week. We have a new record deal. We got all the territories outside of the U.S. back from BMG. We have a fresh outlook here and I've been coming over and meeting people and talking and introducing myself to promoters and publishers over here. I did a few shows and some recordings. I took advantage of being here and did some small solo acoustic shows.
SG: Why don't you tour England and Europe that often?
DM: It's just more than anything because what has driven our career is touring touring touring. It started with a van. It did focus very much on the U.S. and Canada. Our relationship with the record company came out of that. We've always been off kilter a bit or on a different page with BMG International for obvious reasons. There's always been this strange attempt or methods of trying to get us over here. It's always made us hesitant. Now I think we're all much happier with the way the approach V2 records is dealing with us here in Europe. We're still with Sony/BMG in other areas. Now it's more of a humble approach to let people discover us as opposed to coming in with trumpets blaring. Some music works well that way. Our music, it makes me feel kind of gross. IT didn't work in the states that way so ...
More Q&A after the jump...
SG: How's your fan base over there?
DM: There's a lot more than I expected. We've been here so little there's a lot more eagerness in the shows - just these solo shows - sold very quickly and all over Europe. It was mainly English people and a handful of yanks. I've been doing a lot of press with people all over Europe. It's just a new thing. I'm not expecting the world. But I think I'll be pleasantly surprised.
SG: You're recording a new album - how's that coming?
DM: We're in the studio and we've been writing and playing a lot. We're going out on the road and hopefully play some of the music that we've written - not sure which ones yet - and let it develop in our hands so to speak. We want to drive it around and get used to it. [Our studio] is such a good environment. It's a renovated house. It's our place. There's no pressure. We can show up at the studio and just sit around and eat and talk and not do a thing and not feel that we've wasted an exorbitant amount of money. That, in a strange way, creates an environment ... the lack of pressure creates an environment that is even more creative. We just slide into it.
SG: Do you still have a place in Charlottesville?
DM: We've made a home there and in Seattle. I absolutely love Seattle for so many different reasons. The core of the band - Stefan has a house in California. And Boyd...we still have this as the center.
SG: Why aren't you releasing it this year?
DM: It'll probably come out early next year, late winter, early spring. It'll be the first album in a long time that will be released in Europe simultaneously. That's the album that we're thinking about for the rest of the world. I'm excited about it. We're having a blast. Things seem to be going very well.
SG: Who's producing it?
DM: We're working with Mark [Batson] again. We had a great experience with him in the studio last time. We had a very limited amount of time and so our relationship hasn't paused since then seeing as how much we enjoyed the experience. Now knowing we don't have the time constraints, we have the opportunity to get more of the an aggressive live sound in some circumstances and in other circumstances being able to exploit technology. We've only scratched the surface of what might come with working with mark. There's a back and forth between the band and Mark that I think is probably very surprising and very rich.
SG: Any guests?
DM: No decisions yet. I'm expecting that Rashawn Ross will appear n the record (he plays trumpet) and Butch Taylor who plays keyboards. Aside from that, no enormous plans. Those kinds of things are so often last minute. You never know - we have a whole summer of playing tunes.
SG: I understand that DMB raised $1.5M for a challenge grant
for the Habitat Musician's Village in New Orleans. How much of the
challenge has been met so far?
DM: [Dave had to ask his manager how much]. It was just announced in the last week but we're very optimistic we'll meet it. From when we put the challenge up we're pretty confident that it will be met that it will be the $3 million we anticipated.
SG: DMB is one of the most active touring bands - do you ever get tired of being on the road?
DM: [We tour] winter and summer and we have the spring and the fall usually off. We love playing music. As long as we can keep it fresh and it's not a labor. We do change the sets and let the music evolve and we do sort of look for spontaneous moments in what we're doing. Maybe I get tired of not being in one place or by your house and not having the same pillows every night, but we live very well on the road. As long as we like playing it sort of makes all the other bullshit more bearable. It's like anyone's life. If you're lucky enough to find something you enjoy you put up with the traffic jams.
SG: Do you foresee ever taking an extended break from touring, like Phish and Widespread Panic did?
DM: There's always time to do other things. There's a month here or there when we're not on the road. There's time to do other things. Obviously I'm not planning on doing this for the rest of my life. At some point I'm expecting it becomes sort of bizarre, but I hope I know when that happens. Having said that, I think one of the qualities of this band in a strange way is that we come together. I feel like last year was really one of the best tours we've ever had. I can't anticipate this year it being any different from that.
SG: What do you do to pamper yourself on the road or on the tour bus?
DM: I think everyone has different things. I travel with my family most of the time, that's a luxury that I really don't think I can do without now. I take a bath. Those are my two things. It's a whole different thing that I can have my wife and twin daughters with me.
SG: What are your plans for the summer tour?
DM: I hope the fans are excited, really, I think it's going to look beautiful. The set designs have some beautiful images. The music will change and the sets will change and the songs will evolve when they do and we'll have different musicians sitting in with us. We'll hopefully have Rashawn Ross out with us for a good portion of the summer. We expect to put on a damn good show. Just judging from how things are going, this summer is going to be a good one. We're talking about bringing old tunes back and playing new tunes. The band is in a very good space.
SG: What old songs?
DM: Certainly "JTR" is one that we haven't played in awhile, The rest I should just keep to myself.
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