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Interview: Dave Matthews talks on taking 2011 off, band’s near-breakup

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“Burying my head in the sand, “hiding behind a tree” and becoming “just an amateur”: These are the various ways Dave Matthews describes his taking a year off in 2011.

In a conference call promoting the forthcoming Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in June, the Dave Matthews Band namesake further explained his public announcement that he and his crew wouldn’t be touring for the first time in 20 years.

The frontman, 43, says it’s about time he recharge his creative juices, the time and space to see what his “head comes up with,” indicating that 2011 was all he needed.

It’s fairly normal for bands to take a year off, and furthermore not make an official announcement about it like DMB did, but for them it’s “sort of a big deal. I wanted to give everyone a long heads up,” Matthews explained. “On and off for the last 20 years, I have thought about taking some time off.”

The band is in a good place, he said, the best place they’ve been since he can remember, “if not ever. I feel so strong about the band at the moment, I feel it can withstand a year of not working.”

Which in itself is an indicator that the band has been in some not-so-good places. Two years prior to the making of 2009’s “Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King,” the “small things” started to get under everyone’s skin. Matthews says tensions rose between him and the band’s other co-founders, the late saxophonist LeRoi Moore and drummer Carter Beauford.

After a time of not talking to each other, the three had a “confrontation and explosion. But the result was that we wanted to stay together,” he says, admitting each had to tackle the fact that they’re not the same people, the same artist. “We love each other. We’ve been together for so long, when we finally let go of our [obstinacies] and frustrations, there was a great relief.”

And it was after that relief that band tragedy struck. Moore was in an ATV accident, was hospitalized and then died in August 2008.

But the result of even that, “death brought us even closer together, in honoring him as a unit rather than running away from his death and from each other. So there is this quality of honoring and good fortune, thanks, gratitude that has come with the recent years. That feeling that gave us the creativity and strength to make ‘Big Whiskey.’ This far down, I’m truly proud… that ‘Big Whiskey’ came out. And it’s a testament to that healthy response.

“And it also gave me the comfort in taking a break now. I don’t think a break three years ago would have been much of a break. That’s my plan, is to come back to these same people.” In the meantime, the core foursome – with saxophonist Jeff Coffin closely associated – can use 2011 “to stare at the stars, to stare at our kids.”

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.

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