Dave Matthews’ recent announcement that his hugely popular group would take all of 2011 off probably seemed like an ominous sign to some of his fans.
But Matthews says the fact that he and his bandmates — drummer Carter Beauford, violin player Boyd Tinsley and bassist Stefan Lessard — will go their separate ways next year is actually a sign of how positive things have gotten in the Dave Matthews Band.
Matthews, who closes out the Mile High Music Festival on Sunday, Aug. 15, says taking 2011 off might seem “counterintuitive,” but taking any of the past three or four years off would certainly not have felt right.
“Now I can say I’m taking a break and I have every intention of coming back to these same people [in the band],” Matthews says. “That’s my plan, is to come back to these same people and reconvene, just having taken a little time to stare at the stars and stare at our kids.
“[Now] I can come back with this group of people that I’ve played with for 20 years and have something more, you know,” he says. “And that’s been really my whole goal because I feel so strong about the band at the moment that I think it can withstand a year of not working.”
Clearly, the Dave Matthews Band has seen some trying times over the past few years, beginning with a point about three years ago when the group nearly broke up altogether.
“I think it was a really rough few years,” Matthews says. “I think we sort of, the small things started to drive us crazy about each other, and we stopped talking [to each other]. … And then a year or so before we started Big Whiskey [the 2009 CD Big Whiskey & the GrooGrux King], especially [Beauford] and [saxophonist LeRoi Moore] and I sort of had this kind of, I guess, confrontation, kind of explosion. But the result was that we wanted to stay together and that we love each other and that we can acknowledge that we don’t, we’re not exactly the same, and that we’re part of a puzzle and not the same piece of it.”
Facing up to their differences as people and recognizing what they each contribute to the Dave Matthews Band gave the group members an opening to rediscover their chemistry.
“When we finally sort of let go of our … frustration, it kind of gave — it was this great relief,” Matthews says. “When you’re in a situation that has a certain unspoken tension inside of it and you release that, it really is a rebirth, and that, I think, is what happened to the band.”
Of course, the band’s emotions took a whole other type of hit a short time later when on June 30, 2008, Moore was in a serious all-terrain vehicle accident in Charlottesville, Va. Moore, 46, was initially expected to make a full recovery. Instead, he succumbed Aug. 19 to complications from his injuries that had surfaced a month earlier.
To be sure, it was a heavy loss for Moore’s bandmates. But Matthews said it actually became a positive force within the group.
“In a strange way, I think as a result of that rebirth, his death brought us even closer together, or at least inspired us to move forward honoring him as a unit rather than running away from his death and from each other, which is, I think, certainly some people might even still think would have been a fine response,” Matthews says.
The Dave Matthews Band responded by making one of the strongest albums of its career, Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King. The CD, which was dedicated to Moore, topped the Billboard magazine album chart and was nominated for two Grammy awards.
“I feel good about all my records,” Matthews says.
“But there’s just at this point in our career, this far down, I’m truly proud of the concise and clear way that Big Whiskey came out, and I think it’s a testament to that healthy response from a very difficult situation.”
A few Big Whiskey songs could well ring out through the night as the Dave Matthews Band does what it has done most every year since forming in 1991 in Charlottesville, Va. — a summer tour.
The fact that the band has such a large and loyal following was part of the reason Matthews announced the 2011 hiatus this spring.
“I wanted to give everyone a long heads up,” he says. “I certainly feel an obligation to the people that have supported the uniqueness of the band’s career and have made it essentially what it is. … It would be in a way, I guess, ungrateful to not say anything.”
On the Bill
Dave Matthews Band plays the Mile High Music Festival on Sunday, Aug. 14. Set starts at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $99.50 for one day, $150 for the weekend. For full line-up, see page 25. Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, 6000 Victory Way, Commerce City.