Boyd Tinsley: The Interview

Boyd Tinsley likes to keep busy.

In the past four years, Dave Matthews Band’s charismatic violinist has toured the world, recorded two albums and produced an upcoming film, “Faces in the Mirror,” along with its soundtrack. This summer, he’s been promoting the movie while on tour with DMB, holding screenings for fans in several cities along the way.

“I’m kind of at my best when I’m doing a lot of things at the same time,” he said.

“Faces in the Mirror” is a surrealist film about a man’s quest for forgiveness as he deals with the death of his estranged father. The soundtrack features music by Boyd, some of his DMB colleagues and other musicians, and it premieres Aug. 30.

Boyd spoke with this week on the phone from Florida, where DMB is finishing up the first leg of its 2012 summer tour.

The end of summer/early fall is going to be a very busy time. Less than two weeks after “Faces in the Mirror” premieres, the new DMB album, Away From the World, comes out. Is there anything you can tell us about what your experience was like making the album and reuniting with Steve Lillywhite?

It was a lot of fun. Steve came back, and Steve is the producer that we worked with the most. If you count The Lillywhite Sessions, this is our fifth album that we will have done with Steve. It was good to get him back. Everything felt so comfortable. It felt like the old days. It felt like the Under the Table and Crash days.

Some of the songs that you hear on this album, the basic tracks came out, like, the first or second time we played them. Dave would come in with part of a song. We’d get into the control room and we’d finish it, putting in a chorus or bridge here and working out arrangements. And then we went to the studio, and we just played. It was just like magical stuff came out from the very beginning.

Steve’s thing is to allow a lot of freedom. He has some way of bringing out the best in all of us. I think we’re so fortunate to work with him a lot, and this was one of my favorite sessions of all.

And how do you feel [the new songs] have translated live so far?

We love playing them. We have a rehearsal room, and we go back and we sit there and we learn the songs. And we come out, and we’ll try them. … We always play our songs live before we release the album, and it’s really cool, man. I’m not sure that a lot of other bands do that, other than their single.

Do you have a favorite song on the album?

Honestly, I love all of them, and I don’t have a favorite yet. I really don’t. I love our album. It flows, and it has a story.

You’ve been out on the road with DMB since May and promoting the movie, “Faces in the Mirror,” along the way. What’s it been like balancing the two?

It’s actually worked really well, man. … All throughout the movie, I’ve been doing double duty. … We were doing the GrooGrux album, and at the same time I was recording with a group of musicians and doing the soundtrack. I would record GrooGrux from, like, noon to midnight, and then from midnight to six I’d go over with this other group of musicians and we would do music for the soundtrack.

The movie opened up a whole other world of creativity to me, and now I’m beginning to bring that back. It’s definitely influenced the way that I played on the new album. It’s definitely influenced the way that I play on this tour, and I feel like I’m playing pretty well, so it’s been a good thing.

[The recording of Big Whiskey] was a very trying time for everybody in the band. What happened with LeRoi, was that weighing on you at the time? Do you feel like that had any influence on your idea for “Faces in the Mirror?”

Absolutely. I mean, it was a f—in’ dark time for me. I didn’t know what to do for, like, months, you know? I knew I needed to do something just to be able to deal with the stuff that I was going through. That was in my head, but all of a sudden, this idea came up. It definitely came out of my needing to do something, with the way I was feeling that fall.

What’s been the reaction from the other members of the band to your movie career? And how did some of them end up working on the music with you?

Everybody’s been supportive from day one, and everybody’s realized that this is a good thing for me, just creatively. … Dave is on “Litho Blitho,” and Stefan is on about three or four songs, and Tim and Rashawn are on several songs. So it’s just like DMB is very heavily represented in this movie. And even the crew of DMB have helped out with these pop-up events that we had this summer, where we show the trailer and the bonfire scene from the movie and we have a live performance of a band.

The entire DMB community has pulled around me and this picture. And also, Fenton Williams, our lighting director who is the owner of Filament Productions, and that was the production company that I used to make the film.

How did the whole experience of a movie compare to writing or recording an album or performing music on stage?

My approach is a lot similar. … The thing that I love the best is just getting musicians in and just coming up with ideas and getting them in a room and letting them go, because things happen when people just play from the heart. And when you tell someone that you can just play anything that you want, people go, “Holy s—!” There is such a freedom.

You’re coming up on a month-long break from the DMB tour, and near the end of the break, on Aug. 30, is when “Faces in the Mirror” premieres. What will you be doing during the break to get ready?

We’ll be doing some rehearsals for the premiere on the 30th. I’ll be doing some interviews, and we’ll probably do at least maybe one or two pop-up events other than the one that we’re having in Chicago on the 2nd.

It’s almost like how we made this movie: We have a plan, and we follow that, but we’re also just looking for the way that things are gonna unfold. The plan is there, but it’s loose enough that you can go in whatever direction you need to go at that time. … [Wednesday] night we spontaneously decided to have a pop-up event in Miami. I just invited some Twitter followers from down there, and we got, like, 13. We had a great time. We watched the scene. We watched the trailer. People asked some good questions. I want to take this movie directly to people.

You’ve been able to draw a lot of attention to the movie [on Twitter] and also have a lot of other discussions with fans. What’s it been like to talk to them?

It’s really cool. I had no idea what to expect from Twitter, and somehow I just landed the coolest motherf—ers in the world that follow me. There is just nothing but love in the Twitter followers that I have. As you know, we have a group called Narnia that are people that I follow. It’s something that everybody treasures, because Narnia has just sort of become a word for love and peace and for getting together and talking about positive things.

It’s been really cool just to have the opportunity to show myself and to show people who I am and the real side of me that people have never known.

How much do people bug you about playing different songs?

I get some of them, but not a lot. … A lot of people just want to say hi or just, like, want to get a shot out for their birthday. But I never feel like I’m just getting hounded by a lot of questions about songs. People will definitely say “I love this song” or “I love that song.”

There was actually a little “True Reflections” rallying cry in the beginning of my Twitter, and I heard that. I have not forgotten that. That’s something that I definitely heard.

Photo by Jon Wilkins