Dave Matthews' first solo album, ''Some Devil,'' is a success -- but here's why he wants to get back in the studio with his namesake band

By Chris Willman
October 16, 2003 at 04:00 AM EDT
Dave Matthews: Joe Pugliese/Corbis Outline

On Dave Matthews’ first solo album, ”Some Devil” (released Sept. 23), he sets aside his band’s signature sound for something a little less stadium-suitable. But setting aside the band itself? No way. Matthews can scarcely talk about his satisfaction with the new album — greeted with positive reviews and a No. 2 debut on Billboard’s album chart — without plugging his future adventures with the Dave Matthews Band. So rest easy, all you Dancing Nancies: As Matthews recently told Entertainment Weekly, going solo hasn’t spoiled him.

With ”Gravedigger,” did anybody say, ”Gosh, Dave, are you sure you wanna put out a song about death as the album’s first single and video?”
Well, it’s not really about death as much as it is about remembering. It’s me imagining what the past was, but kind of imagining it with a certain amount of historic detail. We tend to forget the past, especially in a society that leaps so quickly and so eagerly into the future. So the idea of a shallow grave is the idea of somehow staying alive after you’re gone. At the same time, it’s about remembering the people who have already gone. Our spotted past, our speckled, dotted past — it’s important to remember it. I think it’s kind of a positive song.

You perform ”An’ Another Thing” as a soprano! Even though you sound a little like a castrato, it proves you have balls.
There are no words there. But it was a really inspired performance, as far as I was concerned — I mean, as far as my abilities go. We never thought we could improve upon it, so I decided to leave it with no lyrics, leave the little soprano performance.

The last time you made a really different-sounding album, it was with the Glen Ballard-produced ”Everyday,” and a lot of fans got nitpicky, saying ”I can’t hear Boyd [Tinsley, DMB’s violinist]” and that sort of thing. Was that why you decided to do a solo album with these songs? To identify it as something different from a regular DMB album right up front, and pre-empt any such complaints?
No, it wasn’t that at all. The idea initially wasn’t necessarily even to make an album. I had a few songs that, in my opinion, weren’t for the band. It wasn’t that we tried them. The initiation of it was me starting to record some of these tunes just to document ’em, and then it grew up into something much more. It was really awesome fun, with all these different people that I admired that hadn’t been on records with me before. So it became it became its own thing, a sort of sabbatical.

But I can’t say enough how much it inspired me to want to go back in the studio with the band. Because all of us know, and probably have known for a while, that we haven’t ever [truly exploited] the studio — that we’ve gone [for a] live [feel]… Wait till the next DMB record, because that’s gonna be the phat one.

But don’t you get spoiled in a way, doing a solo album, not having to answer to anyone?
When I was by myself, it made me think, ”Now I can really bring more to the table with the band.” Because it made me see the band in a different way, stepping away from it for a little while. Even going on tour with the guys this summer after finishing the solo thing, it made me want to get all those personalities back in. In the studio I missed not having to think in some ways about [the other musicians’] parts.

It’s like five people painting a picture. You throw some paint on the wall, and then you walk away and then come back and it’s new. And if you have a respect for what the other person is doing and you’re open, then you know what they’re gonna bring to it is gonna be great. It may not work for everyone, but the reason we’ve been able to be together for 13 years is because we love what the other person does. So if I walk in and you did something and you love it, I’ll probably love it too. And if it sucks… because I love you, I don’t think it sucks.