David John Matthews (born January 9, 1967) is a South African-born American singer-songwriter, musician and actor, best known as the lead vocalist, songwriter, and guitarist for the Dave Matthews Band. Matthews was born in Johannesburg, and moved frequently between South Africa, the United Kingdom, and the United States while growing up. Matthews mainly plays acoustic guitar, which he started playing at the age of nine.
From 1991 to 2003, Matthews predominantly focused on songwriting and performing with the Dave Matthews Band, which he started in Charlottesville, Virginia in 1991. Since then, he has also done various solo performances and produced other records. During the period from 2000 to 2010, his band sold more tickets and earned more money than any other act in North America. The band's most recent album, Away from the World, released in 2012, made them the only group to have six consecutive studio albums debut at number one on the Billboard charts.
In addition to music, Matthews has had multiple acting roles. He has also won 2 Grammy Awards: one in 1997 for Best Rock Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group - "So Much to Say" and one in 2004 for Best Male Rock Vocal Performance - "Gravedigger".
David John Matthews was born on January 9, 1967 in Johannesburg, the third of four children of parents John and Valerie Matthews. At the age of two years, Matthews moved with his family to Yorktown Heights in Westchester County, New York, where his father, a physicist, started working for IBM.
In 1974, the Matthews 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 returned to Johannesburg 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. As 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. Pursuing various interests, Matthews acted in various local productions. Although Matthews had started playing the guitar at age nine, it was only in Charlottesville that he started performing publicly. Through a mutual friend, Nic Cappon, Matthews met local star (and future collaborator) Tim Reynolds. In time, Reynolds had Matthews join him on stage, and eventually Matthews was pursuaded 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. Prior to recording his first demo, Matthews bartended at Miller's in Charlottesville.
Formation of Dave Matthews Band
After writing his first few songs, including "I'll Back You Up", "The Song that Jane Likes" and "Recently", 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 profound 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 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").
Other musical work
Matthews focused primarily on songwriting and performances with the Dave Matthews Band from 1990 to 2003. DMB is an artistic blend of acoustic guitar, bass, sax, drums and fiddle music. In 1994, DMB signed with RCA Records. 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 in 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.
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 Suture. 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 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/Jennifer Aniston comedy Just Go With It where he played Nicole Kidman’s husband.
In 2007, Matthews guest starred in the Fox medical-drama series House in the episode "Half-Wit". He played a piano-playing musical savant who ended up having the two hemispheres of his brain severed from each other 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 in the season five episode, "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.
In 1999, Matthews purchased more than ten acres of land in Albemarle County, Virginia, 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 2011, Matthews collaborated with wine makers Steve Reeder and Sean McKenzie 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 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. However, there has been no news regarding an album release since that jam session.
Dave Matthews married longtime girlfriend Ashley Harper in 2000. They have twin daughters, Stella Busina and Grace Anne, born August 15, 2001, and a son, August Oliver, born June 19, 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, John Mellencamp and Neil Young, who raise money for family farmers in the United States.
Dave Matthews has donated generously to liberal causes and is a registered Democrat.
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 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.
In a September 28, 2015 interview with Rolling Stone, Matthews said that "when I hear someone like Bernie Sanders talking, I think there's a hope." He is a major donor to the 2017 gubernatorial campaign of progressive Charlottesville politician Tom Perriello.
- 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 Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds "Live at Radio City Music Hall")
- Taylor 914c 6-String Acoustic Guitar w/Venetian Cutaway (typically played in Standard tuning)
- Taylor 914c 6-String Acoustic Guitar w/Florentine Cutaway (previously typically only played in Drop D tuning: "Don't Drink The Water" "Crush" "Shake Me Like A Monkey" and, at Dave solo and Dave & Tim shows, "Bartender")
- Gibson Custom Sunburst Acoustic (typically played in Raised B Tuning)
- Present equipment
- Rockbridge SJ Sunburst Acoustic Guitar
- Rockbridge SJ Honey Sunburst 12-String Acoustic Guitar
- Rockbridge 000 Acoustic Guitar
- Rockbridge 000 12-String Acoustic Guitar
- Taylor W65 12-string (Tuned down half-step for "The Last Stop" in 2016; previously used for all 12-string songs prior to 2015: "Grey Street" "Raven" "Bartender" "Sweet Up and Down" "Kit Kat Jam" "JTR" "Big Eyed Fish")
- Rockbridge 0 Model Acoustic Guitar (Personal bus guitar, uses it to write when he's not on stage)
- Rockbridge 0 Model Acoustic Guitar (typically played in Raised B Tuning)
- 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" "Samurai Cop")
- Veillette Gryphon ("Shotgun" "Squirm" "Baby Blue" "Idea of You" "Falling off the Roof")
- National ResoLectric ("Alligator Pie")
- Fender custom Stratocaster ("Why I Am")
- Dunlop Tortex .60 mm Guitar Picks
- D'Addario EXP17 Strings (6-String)
- D'Addario EJ39 Strings (12-String)
- Matchless DC-30 Amplifier
- Shure UHF Wireless System
Awards and accolades
- 1997: Best Rock Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group - "So Much to Say", Dave Matthews Band
- 2004: Best Male Rock Vocal Performance - "Gravedigger", Dave Matthews
ASCAP Film and Television Music Awards
- Most Performed Song from a Motion Picture - "Where Are You Going" (for Mr. Deeds)
- Dave Matthews was awarded D.M.A. honoris causa by Haverford College on May 15, 2005.
- 2002: Matthews was the recipient of the Orville Gibson Award for Best Acoustic Guitarist.
DiscographySee also: Dave Matthews Band discography
- Some Devil (2003)
- Imagine We Were (2005) - as Tribe of Heaven; originally recorded in 1989
Live Solo albums
- Live at Sweet Briar College (2016); originally recorded in 1996
Two shows have been released as part of the Dave Matthews Band's DMBlive series available only for online download.
- Dave Matthews Benaroya Hall, Seattle, WA (October 24, 2002) - 2008
- Dave Matthews China Club, NYC (01/09/2004) - 2008
Live albums with Tim Reynolds
- Live at Luther College (1999)
- Live at Radio City (2007)
- Live in Las Vegas (2010)
Live Trax Vol. 23 Live Trax Vol. 24
|US Mod||US Adult||US Pop|
|2007||"Eh Hee"||—||—||73||Live at Radio City|
|"—" denotes releases that did not chart|
|2009||"I'm Alive"A||Kenny Chesney||6||32||73||Greatest Hits II|
- A "I What What" charted as an album cut in 2008 before being released as a single in 2009
- "Eleanor" (1994), off the Shannon Worrell album Three Wishes
- "Communication" and "Trouble and Strife" (1998), off the Béla Fleck and the Flecktones album Left of Cool
- "Love Of My Life" (1999), off the Santana album Supernatural (Santana album)
- "My Antonia" (2000) off the Emmylou Harris studio album Red Dirt Girl, where Dave duets with Emmylou on her composition
- "For You"(2002) off the We Were Soldiers soundtrack with Johnny Cash
- "Iwoya" (2002) off the Angélique Kidjo album Black Ivory Soul
- "Joyful Girl" (2002) off the Soulive album Next
- "Sing Along" (2003) off the Blue Man Group album The Complex with music video
- "Love Is The Only Way" (2006) off the Robert Randolph and the Family Band album Colorblind
- "Work It Out" produced by DJ Nu-Mark (2006) off the Jurassic 5 album Feedback
- "Tremendous Brunettes" (2007) off the Mike Doughty album Haughty Melodic
- "Fat Man in the Bathtub" (2008) off the Little Feat album "Little Feat & Friends: Join The Band"
- "I'm Alive" (2008) off the Kenny Chesney album Lucky Old Sun
- "Mamma Boulet" (2008) off the Dave Grant album "Bubbalon by Bass"
- "Caveman" & "Road" (2009) off the Danny Barnes album "Pizza Box"
- "Tomorrow Never Knows" (2010), off the Herbie Hancock album "The Imagine Project
- "You Should Know Me", "Oh, Bangladesh" & "And He Slayed Her" (2010) off the Liz Phair album Funstyle
- "All the Same"(2011) off the Vieux Farka Touré album - The Secret
- "A Pirate Looks at Forty" (2012) with Jack Johnson and Tim Reynolds, off the live album Jack Johnson and Friends - Best of Kokua Festival
- "Walk of Shame" (2012) with Jimmy Fallon, off the comedy rock album Blow Your Pants Off
- "Take Me to Tomorrow" (2013) off the John Denver tribute album - The Music Is You: A Tribute To John Denver
- "Forsaken Savior" (2013) off the Gov't Mule album Shout!
Dave Matthews supports the following charitable causes: Teens, Environment.