Boyd Tinsley talks Crystal Garden, Dave Matthews Band, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and more
It’s time for Boyd Tinsley’s annual trip to Tampa. Only this year, for the first time since 2011 — and only the third since 1998 — he won’t be coming with the Dave Matthews Band.
The group’s decision to spend Summer 2017 off the road enabled Tinsley, the group’s violinist, to tour with with Crystal Garden, a jam-rock group playing the Attic in Ybor City on Thursday and Friday. That’s exactly one year since DMB’s last concert in Tampa, and around the same time they play here every year.
“We were just looking for a routing that made sense for the tour that these guys were on, and it just happened to line up like that,” Tinsley said.
But he knows DMB fans will be out in force, taping and twirling and noodling along, just as they are every July.
“Part of it is just yearly tradition,” he said. “A lot of the Florida shows are really big shows; a lot of people travel from all over the country to go to those shows. So they’re a pretty big deal.”
Crystal Garden, on the other hand? Not quite yet. Tinsley formed the group from his base in Charlottesville, Va., as sort of an advisor/producer/manager during his spare time from his day job. He’s not actually a member; he produced but barely plays on their new album Let the Rocks Cry Out. But does perform with them at clubs much smaller than the amphitheaters and arenas he’s used to. When Tinsley called us recently, he was in Asheville, N.C., a hippie-friendly town that would no doubt love a headlining concert by Dave Matthews Band, but which they haven’t played in some 25 years, if at all.
“There’s already a following that they have, and it’s growing, and it’s exciting to see,” he said of Crystal Garden. “I’ve seen this happen once before, and it’s really cool to be able to see it happen again.”
I imagine that DMB taking a year off is what enabled you to go out on the road with Crystal Garden, right?
Absolutely. We really have never had a break in all these years that we’ve played, and everybody does different side projects. Jeff (Coffin, sax) and Rashawn (Ross, trumpet) do a lot of jazz groups, and Rashawn does a lot of work with TV bands, and Carter (Beauford, drums) has been out doing stuff with Jeff. Stefan (Lessard, bass) has done a show this year. So it’s an opportunity for everybody to do something outside of the band that we haven’t had a chance to do in 26 years. It’s great that I get a chance to be out on the road full-time with Crystal Garden, introducing them to the country. It’s fun. And also I get to play. (laughs) There’s not been a summer that I can remember, even before DMB, that I can remember not playing music. I would have been losing my mind otherwise.
What creative itches does playing with Crystal Garden scratch that you don’t get playing with Dave?
They’re two different bands — alike in that there’s a great deal of talent in both bands; and the music and direction of the bands are different. Playing with Crystal Garden is cool because it’s music that is more fresh to my ears; it allows me to try different ideas. A whole different side of your music might come out because you’re playing with a whole new set of musicians. It forces creativity out of you. And so because we (in Dave Matthews Band) all do these things, and we all come back together in the summertime as a band, that is incorporated into the music that we play. The band grows from the experiences that each individual has outside of the band.
For you, it’s kind of a cross between a side project, a label and management. Was there a roadmap for something like that?
Beyond the creation of the band, there wasn’t really a solid plan, other than to usher this band and to get this music out to as many people as possible. That was the goal. The means of getting there, that wasn’t really at the forefront of my mind. At the forefront of my mind was making a great album and getting these guys known. I think of it as: I had a dream and a vision that I’ve shared with everybody else, and now it’ s a common vision, it’s a common dream. Whatever role I need to play to make this happen, I’m going to take on this role.
DMB is probably touring again in 2018, right?
So what happens with Crystal Garden when your day job starts up again?
I haven’t thought about that very much. By then, the whole structure and organization behind the band will be bigger, and it would be more capable. The band will probably be already playing shows without me. Hopefully they’ll let me come in with them from time to time.
I think they’ll find a way to get you in.
That’s always been the aim: I’m more or less introducing them, and then from there, they can take it. And I’m excited about that.
You mentioned that everybody’s got their own side projects when you take a summer off the road with DMB. What have you experienced with Crystal Garden that you’ll take back with you when DMB hits the studio or goes on the road again?
Just a sense of magic, of letting go, of just expressing the music that’s inside me. That was what the sessions were about when we got together for the first time. A lot of the way that I approach producing is what I gained from working with Steve Lillywhite for three and a half albums. Steve was about getting the best out of musicians. I can’t remember a time when he said “Play this chord,” or “Play this,” but he really did what he did to get the best out of other musicians. A lot of it came down to vibe. Steve would have low lighting and candles and incense, and it would create a very safe vibe that would open you up, and you would be free to open your heart up. That’s something that I do in my sessions. I prefer to record at night, in the dark, with candles and incense. It provides a really safe setting (where) you open up your vulnerabilities to the music, and feel safe doing it.
We’re five years on from Away From the World. Any plans to write and record anytime soon?
There’s definitely been some back and forth on that. I cannot say when that’s going to be. Away From the World was an album that we did over the course of a year and a half or so, so that was definitely one of those process albums. But I have a feeling that an album will be coming from this band sooner than later.
Next year, you guys become eligible for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Is that something you’ve talked about?
Are we that f---ing old, dude? (laughs)
It’s 25 years after your first album. So yeah, you’re getting up there.
Wow. “You’re getting up there.” (laughs) Oh my god. Yeah, I honestly have to admit, I haven’t really thought about that. Somebody might have mentioned that at one point, but I haven’t even thought about that. If we were to get some sort of honor, it would be very humbling for myself and I think for all of us, but that’s certainly not anything that I’ve thought about at all.
-- Jay Cridlin