Steven Cantor was not a Phish fan three years ago when he began working on the Trey Anastasio documentary Between Me and My Mind — whose trailer is premiering exclusively below. But after many hours spent with the man, Cantor assures us he’s been converted.
“I really didn’t know Trey’s solo music very well at the beginning, either,” the director tells Billboard. “At a certain point I started to understand the music and understand how important they are. I became a huge fan of Trey, and of Phish. I didn’t see that coming. But he’s such an amazing guy, it was only natural that happened.”
Between Me and My Mind tracks Anastasio through the writing and recording of his deeply personal new solo album Ghosts of the Forest, which came out in April, as well as preparations for Phish’s epic 2017 New Year’s Eve concert at Madison Square Garden. The film debuted at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival and will have a one-night-only screening in more than 300 North American theaters on July 17 through Trafalgar Releasing (theaters at www.BetweenMeandMyMind.com), while its future beyond that is up in the air, according to Cantor, who was working on the current cut of the film up until about three months ago. “I think there will be some sort of direct-to-consumer special project product,” he says, “but I’m not sure what that’s going to be yet.”
Between Me and My Mind was birthed from a suggestion by Cantor’s Stick Figure Productions partner Jamie Schutz, a lifelong Phish fan who’d been courting the band about a documentary for years. Anastasio, according to Cantor, showed the most enthusiasm for the idea, “and what was supposed to be an hour meeting turned into a six-hour meeting” and shifted the focus from the band to Anastasio. “He was in a sort of mid-career reflecting on things at this point in his life and was going to be doing a very personal album,” says Cantor, who has directed documentaries about Willie Nelson, ballet star Sergei Polunin, photographer Sally Mann, boxers Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield and more. “We thought that would be great to follow, whatever that process turned out to be. He wanted to do things more intimate and revelatory than he had been before.”
Cantor and company had full access to Anastasio as he worked on songs, as well as to bandmates, family members and friends, allowing the director to craft an insightful portrait of the — despite his prolific nature — relatively low-key and reticent artist. “He was trained as a classical musician, always thought he was going to become a kind of composer,” Cantor notes. “Then all of a sudden it was 1990 and the Phish train left the station, and 35 years later he was looking at it like, ‘Wow, that’s pretty crazy.’
“The big trick for documentaries, I think, is caring about the person that you’re watching,” Cantor adds. “As long as you like them and care about them and they have something personally at stake, you are there for the ride with them. You root for them. And he’s just so amazing, exploding with creativity, a fun personality, a good sense of humor. You love him and you root with him and you know he’s invested in the work.”
Anastasio is currently on the road with his own band for sporadic concerts and festival appearances into the fall, as well as solo acoustic shows Oct. 29-30 at Carnegie Hall in New York City.