David John "Dave" Matthews (born January 9, 1967) is an American singer-songwriter, musician and actor, best known as the lead vocalist, songwriter, and guitarist for the Dave Matthews Band. He performs mainly with acoustic guitar and favors rhythm rather than solos in his playing. During the period from 2000 to 2010, his band, the Dave Matthews Band, sold more tickets and earned more money than any other act in North America.

 

Early Life

David John Matthews was born in Johannesburg, South Africa, the third of four children of parents John and Valerie Matthews. At two years old, Matthews' family moved to Yorktown Heights in Westchester County, New York, where his father, a physicist, started working for IBM.

In 1974, the family moved to Cambridge, England for a year before returning to New York, where his father died from lung cancer in 1977. Biographer Nevin Martell argues that Dave's father's death may be an impetus for his "carpe diem" lyrics. At some point while residing in New York, Matthews attended his first concert, when his mother took him to a performance by Pete Seeger. The family moved back to Johannesburg, South Africa, in 1977.

Upon Matthews' graduation from St Stithians College high school in 1985, he was faced with conscription into the South African military just as civil disobedience to the practice was becoming widespread. A Quaker (and consequently pacifist), Matthews left South Africa to avoid service.

Matthews moved to New York in 1986 where he worked for IBM for a short time, then joined his mother that same year in Charlottesville, Virginia, a town Matthews' family had lived in before he was born. In Charlottesville, he became part of the local music community, his first known band was a local Speed Metal band called Devastator. They only played a few local shows until breaking up a few months later; reasons have yet to be confirmed. Pursuing various interests, Matthews acted in various local productions. Although Matthews had started playing the guitar at age 9, it was only in Charlottesville that he started performing publicly. From time to time, local star (and future collaborator) Tim Reynolds had Dave join him on stage, and another friend, Ross Hoffman, persuaded Matthews to record some of his own songs. This led to his first professional musical gig at a modern dance performance by the Miki Liszt Dance Company, based at McGuffey Art Center in Charlottesville, singing "Meaningful Love", composed by John D'earth and Dawn Thompson. In 1991, he hatched the idea to form his own band.

Dave had originally envisioned someone else singing his songs but decided to use his own vocals. After writing his first few songs, including "I'll Back You Up", "The Song that Jane Likes" and "Recently", he began to consider starting his own band. Matthews formed Dave Matthews Band in early 1991 with LeRoi Moore, Carter Beauford, Stefan Lessard, Peter Griesar (who left the band in 1993), and Boyd Tinsley while working at Miller's. The band's first show was on March 14, 1991, as part of a benefit for the Middle East Children's Alliance at Trax Nightclub in Charlottesville.

In early 1994, Matthews' older sister, Anne, who lived in South Africa, was murdered by her husband, who subsequently committed suicide, on or around January 27 of that year. The event had a drastic effect on Matthews' outlook on life and was referenced in a few of his songs. On January 29, 1994, he performed with Tim Reynolds at The Wetlands in New York, where he dedicated that performance "to her [Anne's] memory". Dave Matthews Band's Under the Table and Dreaming, released later that year, was dedicated to her. Anne Matthews was survived by her two children who, upon her death, traveled to America, where Dave and his younger sister, Jane, took responsibility for their upbringing (his sister is the namesake of DMB's song, "The Song that Jane Likes").

Music

Matthews focused primarily on songwriting and performances with the Dave Matthews Band from 1990 to 2003. Since that period, he has occasionally ventured outside the band in various solo performances and records. Matthews sang on the track "Sing Along" on Blue Man Group's second album The Complex in 2003. Later that year he released a solo album, "Some Devil", which went platinum; its single, "Gravedigger", won a Grammy Award in 2004. To support the album, Matthews toured with a group of musicians (many of whom performed on "Some Devil") under the name Dave Matthews & Friends.

Dave has close friendship with banjoist Béla Fleck, the frontman and namesake of Béla Fleck and the Flecktones, and with whom Matthews appears as guest vocalist on their 1998 release, Left of Cool and both Fleck and the Flecktones' bassist Victor Wooten have made numerous appearances both live and studio with the Dave Matthews Band. Wooten soloed in the second part of the Daniel Lanois song, "The Maker", and also in "#41" on the 1998 live album Live in Chicago. The Flecktones also opened for DMB on several tours. Matthews performed a duet with Emmylou Harris on "My Antonia" on her 2000 album, Red Dirt Girl. They also appeared together on the musical television show CMT Crossroads, where the two performed Matthews' "Gravedigger" and the folk song "Long Black Veil", a song popularized by The Band.

Matthews played a cover of Neil Young's song, "The Needle and the Damage Done" at the 2010 tribute, MusiCares Person of the Year honoring Young on January 29, 2010. The Dave Matthews Band opened for The Rolling Stones on their Bridges to Babylon Tour-1997-1998, and Matthews sang "Wild Horses", and "Memory Motel" alongside vocalist Mick Jagger.

Acting

Before he was known as a musician, Dave Matthews was an amateur actor, appearing onstage in several productions at Charlottesville's Offstage Theatre and Live Arts theater in the early 1990s; the role for which he is best remembered is as a used car salesman in Offstage Theatre's "Just Say No," directed by John Quinn, co-starring Kylie Sicher. He played Will Coleman in the 2003 adaptation of the novel Where the Red Fern Grows. In 2005 he played in Because of Winn-Dixie (film) as Otis, a man who works at a pet store and plays guitar. In 2007, Matthews appeared briefly in the movie I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, where he plays a homosexual salesman. In 2008, he appeared in another Adam Sandler movie, You Don't Mess with the Zohan, as a racist redneck character named James. He also had a significant role in Lake City with Sissy Spacek and Troy Garity, in which he portrays the character "Red." He was also in three 2011 movies, The Other Side with Giovanni Ribisi and Jason Lee, In The Woods, starring Debra Winger and Terrence Howard, and the Adam Sandler comedy Just Go With It.

In 2007, Matthews guest starred in the Fox drama series House in the episode "Half-Wit". He played a piano-playing musical savant who ended up having half of his brain removed in order to recover from his epilepsy, but at the expense of his musical abilities. Dave had a piano double for the complex pieces, but played the simpler pieces himself. In the Season One episode of "House" -"Love Hurts"- the song "Some Devil" can be heard playing at the end. In another episode, one of the tracks from Stand Up, "You Might Die Trying" was played ("House M.D", Season Five, "Not Cancer").

The fifth time Matthews appeared as musical guest on Saturday Night Live in November 2009 (which was also the fourth time the Dave Matthews Band appeared on the show), he made an appearance as Ozzy Osbourne in a skit called "The Mellow Show." Bill Hader impersonated Matthews in the same skit.

Matthews was also a cast member and performer in the popular music documentary, Before the Music Dies.

Other Activities

In 2011, Matthews collaborated with wine maker Steve Reeder in creating the Dreaming Tree Wines.

In April 2012, Matthews was credited as producer on a documentary, "Last Call at the Oasis", directed by Jessica Yu.

In 1999, Matthews purchased more than ten acres of land in Albemarle County, VA, known as Blenheim Farm, to preserve its historical significance. He later decided to plant grapes on the property, since it is located within both the Virginia and Monticello viticultural areas. Blenheim Vineyards was founded in 2000, and currently produces 5,500 cases of wine per year, including their signature Petit Verdot and several special edition wines which have featured unique labels with drawings by Matthews himself.

In early 2013, Matthews participated in a jam session at Blade Studios in Shreveport, Louisiana with Jakob Dylan, Charlie Sexton, Blade studios co-owner Brady Blade, and Sexton's brother Will. This eventually led to the formation of a band called The Nauts with Matthews, Dylan, Blade, and the Sexton brothers as members.

Personal Life

Dave Matthews married longtime girlfriend Jennifer Ashley Harper in 2000. The couple has twin daughters, Stella Busina and Grace Anne, born in 2001, and a son, August Oliver, born in 2007. They reside in Seattle, Washington. In a 2001 interview, Matthews stated that he was agnostic. Matthews is also on the Farm Aid Board of Directors along with fellow musicians Willie Nelson and Neil Young, who raise money for family farmers in the United States.

Politics

Matthews published an Internet video prior to the 2000 U.S. Presidential election, urging viewers to vote without advocating any candidate. He mentioned only Ralph Nader by name, and updated fans about the recording sessions for Everyday. Although his music often explores political and social issues, Matthews refrained from public campaigning for Presidential candidates until 2004. He cast his support strongly with Democratic nominee John Kerry, performing at political events including the Vote for Change tour.

Matthews also supported Barack Obama for President in 2008, both in the primaries and in the general election. On April 6, 2008, he and Tim Reynolds played a concert titled "Change Rocks" at Indiana University to encourage students to register to vote. The tickets were distributed by the Obama campaign. Questions regarding his citizenship were answered by advertisements and videos on YouTube, where he says he is a "real American" and a "real Virginian," stating that "real Virginians get out and vote." Even though he was recently bereaved by the loss of band co-founder and saxophonist, LeRoi Moore on August 19, 2008, he and Tim Reynolds played for the Democratic National Convention delegates on Sunday, August 24 at Red Rocks, and again with Reynolds at the Virginia Commonwealth University, on October 26, 2008, among other places. Matthews has often supported environmental initiatives, such as biofuel availability and the fight against global climate change.

On September 21, 2009, Matthews stated that some of President Barack Obama's harsher critics were motivated by his race, and stated that he "sees it [racism] everywhere" in the United States. Matthews is also a strong supporter of gay rights and participated in "Love Unites Shepard Fairey Equality Project", a gay marriage advocacy project.

On May 10, 2012, Matthews entertained a sellout crowd at the Paramount Theatre in Seattle, Washington, where President Obama was hosting a campaign fundraiser.

Equipment

Past equipment
  • Martin DM3MD Steel 6-String Acoustic Guitar serial numbers 1 and 3
  • Martin HD-28V Steel 6-String Acoustic Guitar
  • Martin D-35 Steel 6-String Acoustic Guitar
  • Martin D12-28 Steel 12-String Acoustic Guitar
  • Taylor 714 Steel 6-String Acoustic Guitar
  • Taylor 512C Steel 6-String Acoustic Guitar
  • Taylor Custom Baritone Jumbo Guitar (Based on LKSM6)
  • Yamaha Country Jumbo CJ-818SB 6 String Guitar
  • Gibson J-150 6 String Guitar
  • Gibson Chet Atkins SST Solid Body Acoustic Guitar (not used since 2000)
  • Lakewood M-32 Steel 6-String Acoustic Guitar
  • Jerry Jones Baritone Electric Guitar
  • Santa Cruz Bob Brozman Baritone
  • Fender Hot Rod Deluxe
  • Shure UHE Antenna Distro
  • UltraSound/BSS Audio Soundweb Custom Switcher
  • Korg DTR-1 Digital Tuner
  • Taylor GS8 (three songs on radio city album)
  • Taylor 914c 6-String Acoustic Guitar w/Venetian Cutaway (standard guitar used for all songs not listed below)
  • Taylor 914c 6-String Acoustic Guitar w/Florentine Cutaway (Drop D Tuning) (Don't Drink The Water, Bartender, Crush, Shake Me Like A Monkey, Seven, Break Free)
  • Gibson Custom Sunburst Acoustic (Raised B Tuning, Lying In The Hands of God, Stay or Leave)
  • Taylor W65 12-string (Grey Street, Raven, Bartender, Sweet Up and Down, Kit Kat Jam, JTR, The Last Stop, Big Eyed Fish, Monkey Man)
  • Taylor GA7 Acoustic Guitar
Present equipment
  • Rockbridge SJ Sunburst Acoustic Guitar
  • Rockbridge SJ Sunburst Acoustic Guitar (Drop D Tuning) (Don't Drink the Water, Crush, Shake Me Like A Monkey)
  • Rockbridge SJ Honey Sunburst 12-String Acoustic Guitar (Grey Street, Raven, Bartender, Sweet Up and Down, Kit Kat Jam, JTR, The Last Stop, Big Eyed Fish, Monkey Man)
  • Rockbridge 000 Acoustic Guitar
  • Rockbridge 000 12-String Acoustic Guitar (Grey Street, Raven, Bartender, Sweet Up and Down, Kit Kat Jam, JTR, The Last Stop, Big Eyed Fish, Monkey Man)
  • Rockbridge 0 Model Acoustic Guitar (Personal bus guitar, uses it to write when he's not on stage)
  • Rockbridge 0 Model Acoustic Guitar (Raised B Tuning) (Oh, Stay or Leave, Sister, Lying In The Hands of God, You Never Know, The Space Between (Acoustic))
  • Mya-Moe Myrtle Tenor Classic 4-String Ukulele (Sweet)
  • Jerry Jones Original Single-cutaway Baritone (Smooth Rider, Louisiana Bayou, What You Are, So Right, Break Free, Some Devil, Kill the King, The Space Between)
  • Veillette Gryphon (Shotgun, Squirm, Baby Blue, Idea of You, Falling Of The Roof)
  • National ResoLectric (Alligator Pie)
  • Fender custom Stratocaster (Why I Am)
  • Dunlop Tortex .6 mm Guitar Picks
  • D'Addario EXP17 Strings (6-String)
  • D'Addario EJ39 Strings (12-String)
  • Matchless DC-30 Amplifier
  • Shure UHF Wireless System

Further Reading

  • "Interview: Dave Matthews". Something Glorious. June 19, 2006. Retrieved October 22, 2013. 

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