The group we know today as the “Dave Matthews Band” automatically conjures thoughts of skill, talent, and massive commercial success. But did you know that the band started out as a Trio? Actually, it really started out as a solo act. You see, initially, Dave was just looking to record some songs on a demo and was never happy with the sound he got. So, at the suggestion of a friend he started looking for people to help him fill out his sound in the studio. But as you’ll see, it didn’t end with the recording sessions.
In 1991, Dave was in Charlottesville, Virginia when he decided that he wanted to record the songs that he had written. Dave wasn’t satisfied with simply recording himself and his guitar. He sought after a much fuller sound. So, he enlisted two local talents: Carter Beauford on the drums and Leroi Moore on the saxophone. These two musicians were already accomplished and carried heavy reputations of their own.
But still, the sound wasn’t quite complete. Upon the suggestion of a local jazz legend by the name of John D’earth, Dave asked Steffan Lessard, a 16-year old musical bass prodigy to join in on the fun. Interestingly enough, things didn’t immediately pop. Dave recalls that the sound they produced wasn’t anything to listen to. In fact, Dave says he’s surprised they made it to a second rehearsal.
Only a few weeks later, Boyd Tinsley was asked to add his talent on the violin. Boyd is a classically trained instrumentalist who combined his formal instruction with a complete immersion into jazz and progressive music on the violin. The combination was something fresh and creative. In addition to Boyd, Peter Griesar joined with his keyboard and began making music with Dave and the guys.
The best of what’s around
Though Dave wasn’t exactly thrilled about their first rehearsals, he knew that everyone he had surrounded himself with was a top-notch talent. His philosophy, that exists to this day, is to surround himself with the best players he can. Even now, he feels that the members of the band are the best he could play with.
The band’s sound may not have been exactly what they wanted at the time, but from the first gig, it seemed that they had “it”. The songs and the instrumentalists combined to form a unique musical perspective that people wanted to hear. And hear a lot. They quickly began to build their popularity in the area and soon they were playing regularly at local mainstay clubs.
What’s in a name?
Organic. Natural. Grassroots. These are words that have been used to describe the Dave Matthews Band experience. Even the name is reported to have happened naturally. Robert Trott of the Associated Press once asked Dave how their name came about. Dave said, “Boyd (Tinsley), if memory serves, wrote ‘Dave Matthews Band’ [on this flyer for the show]. There was no time when we said, ‘Let’s call this band the Dave Matthews Band.’ It just became that…”
Admittedly, there’s another tale as to how the band got its name, but it still promotes the idea that it just happened. No one sat down and said, “let’s call it Dave Matthews Band”. Certainly, Dave didn’t seek that. In fact, every member of the band states that their favorite quality about the group is that there is no “head”, or “supreme leader”. They’re all free to voice their opinions and be as creative as they would like. This allows for the liberty to produce some truly inspiring music.
It’s just who they are
Sometimes, when we try and force something to happen, it doesn’t. The Dave Matthews Band worked hard at their craft, but they didn’t perpetually push a square peg into a round hole. The greatest strength the group has had, stems from the fact that they’ve always let their music and their career proceed naturally. Nothing was ever manufactured. This is the story of a true, grass-roots musical movement.
When you’re wondering where to go next, it might be right around the corner. The musicians you need to play with may be next door. Maybe your best break is going to come from across town. Perhaps you won’t have to kick doors down to make things happen. Let your music unfold naturally. Allow it to grow and mature in its own time, its own way. Maybe one day you too will be mentioned in the same sentence as the Dave Matthews Band as an all-natural success story.