Dave Matthews Goes Solo

Excerpted from the magazine for Billboard.com.

Dave Matthews seems to be perpetually in motion, but even he is never sure of his course.

That's the only way he can explain his first solo project. It happened by accident earlier this year during a break from his band in what began as a writing exercise. The end product was "Some Devil" (RCA), which debuted at No. 2 on The Billboard 200.

Working in the studio with Stephen Harris, producer of last year's Dave Matthews Band (DMB) set "Busted Stuff," he developed the new songs alongside a few that he had played during his acoustic tours with longtime collaborator Tim Reynolds -- songs that, for one reason or another, didn't jell with the band.

"Going into it, it just seemed like good therapy, you know?" Matthews explains. "And then it started to really take on some personality. [After a few months] we started thinking, 'We might be making something worthwhile here.'"

The fans agree. "Some Devil," issued Sept. 23, sold 469,000 copies in the U.S. in its first week, according to Nielsen SoundScan. First single "Gravedigger" -- featuring electric guitar swirls courtesy of Phish's Trey Anastasio, who guests on five "Some Devil" tracks -- is No. 15 on the triple-A airplay chart published by Billboard's sister publication Airplay Monitor.

The new solo album features some of Matthews' most tender and grandiose recordings. It also includes two of his finest songs yet -- the deceptively sweet "Oh" (with the repeated line "I love you oh so well/Like a kid loves candy and fresh snow") and the melancholy title cut.

On the latter, Matthews slowly slides up and down the neck of an electric guitar; without any additional instrumentation, he sings in the heart-tugging chorus, "You said, 'Always and forever'/And I believed you, baby."

The somber tune, which Matthews says is about "vast emptiness," is the barest on the album; it's arguably his most definitive solo statement, one that reveals a side of Matthews the masses have previously only glimpsed.

Reynolds is featured on the record, as are drummer Brady Blade and bassist Tony Hall -- the rhythm section in Emmylou Harris' live band. A few weeks of shows with that unit begin in early December. The tour will break for the holidays and pick up again after the first of the year.

The title cut aside, how much of a change is "Some Devil" from Matthews' work with the band? Hardcore fans will recognize the difference right away in such songs as the sweet, hooky "Dodo" and the string-laden "Stay or Leave." But these are not drastic departures; each track has Matthews' voice at the core.

Despite the solo turn, Matthews stresses that the release of "Some Devil" in no way jeopardizes the future of DMB. The band is likely to return to the studio in January 2004 and that has Matthews excited: "This band is like my family. You can go out to dinner with friends, but you always come back to your family.

"There is no way I will find another group of people that I'll play music [with] the way I play with this band. It's not possible. And it grew again, that appreciation inside me, doing this solo project... As long as I'm playing music, I want to play with this band. It's just terrifying for me to think of the band not being there. Just terrifying. I can't imagine what would happen to cause it to not be there."

Excerpted from the Oct. 11, 2003, issue of Billboard. The full original text of the article is available in the Billboard.com Premium Services section.

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