You can almost picture Dave Matthews settled into the comfort of a big armchair, a cup of
warm coffee in hand, a sleeping cat at his feet.
He's on the phone from his temporary home in Seattle, and if his voice is any indication,
Matthews is downright happy. Considering that he's rightly earned something of a finicky
reputation among interviewers -- stories of the groggy, marble-mouthed Dave are notorious --
this might as well be a new guy on the line.
And maybe it is: Matthews has twins on the way in
September. His expectant wife, Ashley, has come to
Seattle to study naturopathy, a form of holistic
medicine. There's an air of domestic tranquillity
wafting about the Matthews household.
Meanwhile, his band's latest album, 'Everyday', recorded with producer Glen Ballard after botched sessions with Steve Lillywhite and released in February, has swept past the 2 million mark. And
the group is engaged in another summer tour of America's big venues. The tour will stop in Virginia Beach on Friday. The Dave Matthews Band is the biggest modern rock act out there. And here's Dave Matthews, sounding
like one content modern rock star.
Well, fatherhood is on the way. What kind of transformation do you see happening personally and professionally?
DM: I can't wait. I'm a fairly grounded person -- I mean, I sometimes take sabbaticals from
that -- but I enjoy being grounded. I think this will be more than I can imagine. It will really
cement a natural foundation for me.
Fans have speculated that you've permanently left Virginia for Seattle. But I understand
that's not the case.
DM: Home is where my wife is.
We love it (in Virginia). But that doesn't mean we can't also have a home up here. Because
Virginia and its opinions of progress in medicine are somewhat closed-minded, we had to
come here because of the kind of medicine she's studying -- naturopathy. Then we can go
back to Virginia and improve the health system. (Laughs)
So here we are again: Another summer and Dave Matthews Band is the only contemporary
act that can play the stadiums. Can you pinpoint a particular moment from these last few
years when it hit you just how big this thing had gotten?
DM: There were different times that it hit me. I think the first time we played Earth Day (in
1991 in Charlottesville) was one of them, because we'd never had an audience react to us. It
wasn't a big audience, but they reacted to us right away. That was really surprising, and at
that moment there was an elevation of excitement among the band members. That
sensation happened a few times to us -- the first time we played H.O.R.D.E., to an audience
bigger than we had ever played. The audience still wasn't full yet, but I remember that as a
time when that electricity level went up inside of us. There have been moments where it was, ``WOW!'' The first time we played Giants Stadium, it
was terrifying. Oddly, that feeling makes for an amusing performance, when you're scared to
the very center of your being, or at least confused. ... Does that type of anxiety ever abate? I
am still amazed by the size of this thing at the moment. But oddly it's still very similar (to the
early days) in our sense of the stage, where we are onstage. Maybe there's a little more
elbow room up there now. But obviously moving to amphitheaters or arenas or stadiums for
the first time, the initial move is somewhat intimidating. But you relax into the situation. You
learn how to breathe while it's going on.
It's ironic -- ``Everyday'' has earned good reviews from crit.ics who disliked your previous
work, and not-so-nice reviews from some longtime fans.
DM: You know, if we hadn't made this change, I think it would be far more detrimental to the
10 albums that are still coming. Or maybe they wouldn't be coming at all. Because what we
were really dealing with was a personality thing with the five of us, where we wanted new
blood. We wanted to work hard at something, to be challenged, to be taken aside and told,
``This is what you're going to do.'' There was an awkwardness about it, but also this real
professional side to it -- a focused side that was really great for us. ...
When you talk about needing to find that focus, would you characterize the scenario as one
of writer's block?
DM : I don't think it was writer's block. Some of best songs (from the Lillywhite sessions) --
``Bartender,'' ``Digging a Ditch'' -- are some of best songs I've written, I think. But I think it was
the environment that was the problem.. It wasn't the producer, it wasn't the record company,
it wasn't the engineers, it wasn't the band. What was coming up repeatedly to me was that we
weren't coming up with the goods. . . . And then the response, from the management to the record company, was, ``This album's not
good. It's not good for what you want.'' The more you hear people saying this album isn't
what you should be putting out, you start saying, ``Well, OK.''
But it's not like we didn't make the painting. We just decided to put that painting away and
show something else.
In your most un-humble moments, what do you chalk up your band's success to?
DM: That we're a (expletive) great band. Whatever you can say about this band, if anybody
gets on stage after we get off and can feel as proud as we do, they're a minority.