Former Dave Matthews Band Violinist Boyd Tinsley Sued for Sexual Harassment
Trumpeter James Frost-Winn says Tinsley would make frequent sexual comments and masturbated while touching him when he was a member of the band Crystal Garden.
In the lawsuit, obtained by Billboard, Frost-Winn accuses Tinsley of sexually flirting with verbal sexual comments, physically touching and sexting, including communications wherein Tinsley told Frost-Winn that he provided the trumpeter with "this life" and "these things" and that Frost-Winn "owed him" for bringing him into the band, which Tinsley produced and managed.
The lawsuit explains Frost-Winn first met Tinsley at a cafe in 2007 when he was 18 and living on the streets of San Francisco, trying to make it as a musician. They struck up a friendship and Tinsley began supporting Frost-Winn's musical aspirations. In 2009, the Dave Matthews Band violinist gave Frost-Winn backstage passes to the San Francisco festival Outside Lands, where his band was performing, after which Tinsley invited Frost-Winn back to his hotel room -- an offer that was declined. Frost-Winn later messaged Tinsley, he claims, making it clear he was only interested in a friendship and nothing more, to which Tinsley said he had "nothing to worry about."
Their relationship continued on over the years and in 2014 Tinsley broached Frost-Winn with the idea of joining a "boy band" that he was creating for a documentary, which would chronicle the group's rise to fame. Frost-Winn agreed to take part in the project. The following year, the idea began to further materialize with other band members under the name Crystal Garden and Tinsley began bringing them out to his home and recording studio compound in Charlottesville, Virginia, to record.
One day, after staying up all night working on music, according to the suit, Frost-Winn fell asleep in the studio and woke up to Tinsley touching his leg, "putting his feet on his buttocks and rubbing his back." Frost-Winn claims he told Tinsley to stop and fell back asleep, after which Tinsley resumed his behavior. Frost-Winn woke up again and allegedly told Tinsley to stop, this time moving to a couch upstairs before he fell asleep again. When he woke up the next time, Frost-Winn claims it was to find Tinsley "ejaculating right next to him" with one hand on Frost-Winn's buttocks. Frost-Winn says he ran off then and hid from Tinsley, feeling "humiliated and scared." Later, after confiding with some others involved in the band, Frost-Winn demanded a flight home and Tinsley flew him back to San Francisco, later telling him that he was "messed up," had "confused his pills" and would do whatever he needed to regain his trust.
In 2016, the Crystal Garden band members moved to an apartment in Seattle rented by Tinsley, paying them a monthly stipend and covering their living expenses. But, according to Frost-Winn, Tinsley's inappropriate behavior did not stop. He says that Tinsley would ask Frost-Winn and his bandmates for their dirty socks and sent Frost-Winn text messages saying he wanted to "sexually exploit him for the band's success," calling him a "a sex symbol" and said he was "masturbating at the thought of a sexy photo shoot of James." Frost-Winn claims he tried to keep their relationship professional.
Further uncomfortableness continued when Frost-Winn started dating an ex-girlfriend again, which clearly upset Tinsley -- according to the suit -- as he tried to demand soon after that none of the band members should be dating. As well, Frost-Winn claims Tinsley continued to send inappropriate text messages, often commenting on his "dirty socks."
Things came to a head in August 2016 when Tinsley spontaneously began talking with Frost-Winn and one of his bandmates about "the time he had masturbated next to James" according to the suit, and said that "the reason he did it" was because of "the way James looked while he was sleeping" and that "he could not stop himself." At this, Frost-Winn believed Tinsley had lied to him about mixing up his pills and couldn't remember what he had done, prompting him to immediately fly home to San Francisco. Shortly thereafter Frost-Winn announced he was leaving the band.
Since then, Frost-Winn claims he has been subject to depression an unable to perform a musical show of his own. He also says the experience caused him and his girlfriend to break up and brought him to become suicidal.
With the filing of Frost-Winn's suit on Thursday, he also gave an interview to Consequence of Sound. "In retrospect, he was absolutely grooming me," Frost-Winn said. "I considered him like a brother, my family, especially after my mother passed -- he was one of the positive role models in my life. I invested a lot into a relationship that was ultimately very bad for me. I first met him being homeless and 18 and new to experiencing the world. I felt very betrayed at the end of this."
Frost-Winn decided to seek legal counsel and earlier this year attempted to settle his claims against Tinsley out of court, initially issuing a demand letter on Feb. 2. That same day, Tinsley announced that he would be taking a break from Dave Matthews Band, while his representatives responded to Frost-Winn asking for an extension and additional documentation. They also claimed Frost-Winn was just a "session musician" and not Tinsley's employee.
He is now suing Tinsley, who left DMB in February, for "loss of enjoyment of life, pain and suffering, mental anguish, emotional distress, and humiliation in an amount to be proven at trial."
Some of Frost-Winn's claims echo a lawsuit from 2015 filed by Getty Andrew Rothenberg, convicted embezzler and the former financial advisor who pled guilty to wire fraud for stealing millions from Tinsley. It alleged a range of lurid behavior by Tinsley, citing "starry eyed fans drawn to Tinsley's cult of personality" and a "dark side that Tinsley has gone to great lengths to hide." The lawsuit was eventually dismissed.
Earlier this week, Dave Matthews spoke about Tinsley's departure from the band for the first time in an interview with Vulture. He said, "I have a deep love for Boyd, and he has to deal with his stuff. In many ways I'm sure it would've been a lot easier for him to just say, 'I'm good. Let's go play.' But you can't just throw yourself away, your wellness away, because you play violin in a band. It doesn't make any sense to do that.
Matthews continued, "I can't say, 'I can't wait till he comes back,' because I don't know what's going to happen. But right now being away is better for him. Nobody is happy about this situation. Except that we're happy he can figure some stuff out. I hope he does. But I'm going to miss having that whirling-dervish Adonis-Muppet over there on my right. I know the audience is, too. But we can't serve that desire.
When reached by Billboard, a rep for Dave Matthews Band shared a statement distancing Tinsley from the band.
"Though Boyd is no longer a member of the band, we are shocked by these disturbing allegations and we were not previously aware of them," the group's statement reads.
Billboard reached out to Tinsley's rep for comment but did not hear back at time of publishing.
Update, 1:30 p.m. EST : This article was updated on to add clarity regarding Tinsley's departure from Dave Matthews Band earlier this year.
Update, 3:20 p.m. EST : Tinsley has issued a statement denying the allegations promising to defend himself and fight the claims in and out of court. Read it in full here.