Dave Matthews has a lot on his mind.
When asked “What inspired the new Dave Matthews Band album?”, he pauses for a moment and then unloads. By his account, “Walk Around the Moon” (out today, via RCA) touches on: his children; “the futility of our struggles” as a human race; gun violence; love; modern political discourse; gratitude.
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But then he backs up, and mentions how he’s been considering “The sheer magnitude of how impossible it is that we’re here, that we exist. What an awe inspiring event it is, and that this planet is so hospitable.”
It’s a sentiment that’s been at the core of Matthews’ songwriting for decades. One of his earliest hits — the gentle fan favorite “Satellite” — has the singer marveling at the titular device swirling through the cosmos: “Look up, look down, all around.” It’s a curiosity for life that’s guided him into becoming one of the most successful rock artists of all time.
“Moon,” the tenth DMB studio album and their first in five years, is the group’s pandemic record, as social isolation and slow pace of life allowed Matthews to harness what he refers to as “selfish time”: “To wander a little bit further before someone else said, ‘That’s great.’ I could finish some ideas a little more before some other highly-qualified person got involved, so that gave me a little bit of freedom.”
From there, the group spun new tunes together with old bits of songs that were kicking around, and synthesized the mix into “Moon.” It’s a process that Matthews jokingly refers to as “very disorganized.” Yet he subscribes to a mantra from Prince about the creative process, paraphrasing the pop mastermind by saying, “When you finish something, that’s when you know it’s right.”
Even before the record was released, Matthews has been testing out his gut instincts in front of audiences, playing new material to see what will hit most with fans. Dave Matthews Band is consistently one of the nation’s top live acts, even between album cycles, and the frontman says he can already tell that some of the fresh tracks light a fire that can land them a spot on always-changing setlists.
“[Debut single] ‘Madman’s Eyes,’ the first time we played it, the crowd went quiet and it has an ominous thing to it as well, but it’s funny how the energy of the movement of that song gets people,” he said. “I’m excited for ‘After Everything,’ because I think it’s going to be dramatic live, because there’s so many turns in it that I think where the visual part of it and the sonic part come together, things seem almost impossible.”
The pursuit of meshing Matthews’ hopes for the world with a dynamic experience for fans is core to DMB’s existence. Their 2023 summer tour will be produced in partnership with REVERB — the green-touring non-profit that DMB has collaborated with for many years — and the Nature Conservancy, in order to work with fans to plant one million trees and offset all of the carbon emissions from the trek. And beyond delivering new tunes to audiences, Matthews is ready to keep them dancing and happy with old favorites.
When asked the impossible question of which DMB song he thinks will define his legacy, Matthews can’t help but throw out a few in order to not pigeonhole the musically adventurous septet.
“What I want to bring to people is joy,” he said. “Now, I think a song like ‘Rapunzel’…that’s a great example of of us, I think. I had a friend once ask me what do I think the best songs I ever wrote were, because I was feeling a little glum, and I said, ‘Don’t Drink the Water.’ And he said, ‘Well, every time you doubt yourself, just remember that song.’ Another song that resonates like that for me is ‘Gravedigger.’ It’s the idea that everybody has a a remarkable life story.”
At that, Matthews pauses again, perhaps thinking of the remarkable life story he’s made for himself.
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