The DMB has achieved its Rock Hall nomination in its first year of eligibility, coming 25 years after its major label debut album Under the Table and Dreaming. During the interim the Charlottesville, Va., group has released nine studio albums, won a Grammy Award and has become a touring juggernaut with a strong philanthropic bent, via its own Bama Works Fund as well as Matthews' involvement on the Farm Aid board of directors.
Matthews says he's had to temper a default "sense of being unqualified or undeserving" in the wake of the nomination. "I don't want to overuse a word, but it certainly is an honor," he says. "I was very happy to hear about it, and it is overwhelming. I do feel undeserving and flattered as well by the whole thing, and I think the whole band does, too. We all reached out to each other to say, 'How bizarre is this?'"
Matthews was also surprised the nod came so quickly. "It's not something I thought would happen this fast -- it's not something I ever thought about, really," he notes. "We've just become eligible, it seems like. So it's unexpected." Matthews also acknowledges a bit of validation in the nomination, given the criticism and skepticism that DMB and others in the jam band community have routinely experienced over the years.
"I'm sure every band gets its fair share of belittling, dismissal, and I'm sure everybody on the (nominations) list got their version of that," Matthews says. "But it does make me thing that we've been around for a while, and that they noticed. We made a big enough noise that’s hard to ignore us, whether they like us or not. It's a very pleasant acknowledgement, if that's a polite way to put it."
Matthews adds that some of his thoughts since the nomination was announced earlier this month have gone toward Leroi Moore, the DMB saxophonist who passed away during 2008. If inducted, meanwhile, the occasion may also lead to a reunion with violinist Boyd Tinsley, who took a break from the band in 2018 and was subsequently fired in the wake of sexual harassment allegations by another musician; Tinsley has denied the allegations. Matthews has no apprehensions about what might happen, however. "He should be around, if he's up for it," Matthews says. "I don't have any ill will. The fact that we're not doing it together now doesn't mean we didn't do it together. Boyd's not with us in the band anymore, playing, but it doesn't mean he wasn't there when we made our first record. There might be an awkward moment, but I hope that we're all old enough to let it go -- although maybe it would make more papers if we came to blows up on stage. But that's not really my style."
While Rock Hall voting goes on through Jan. 10 -- inductees will be announced shortly after that for the May 2 ceremony in Cleveland -- the DMB is plotting out its 2020, which already includes a run of duo dates by Matthews and guitarist Tim Reynolds in Cancun and some Australian shows for the full band. Matthews is also hot to take the group back into the studio for a follow up to 2018's Come Tomorrow, which will be the DMB's first with keyboardist Buddy Strong officially on board.
"I've been writing," Matthews says, "and there's a new spirit in the band right now, the last couple of years. Having Buddy Strong with us has really elevated our sense of purpose and our devotion to each other. It seems like we're rejuvenated. I think everyone's excited about the prospect of going in the studio and all being in a big room together and trying to make some new noise together."