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Best-known for being the violinist in the enormously successful Dave Matthews Band, Boyd Tinsely has shifted gears by writing, scoring, and producing a feature film, Faces in the Mirror. The film is now available on iTunes and Amazon.com. Aside from discussing this exciting new venture, Boyd was kind enough to tell TheCelebrityCafe.com’s Alec Campagna about the future endeavors of the Dave Matthews Band, tennis, and what music means to him.
TheCelebrityCafe.com: Your debut film Faces in the Mirror was released on August 30. What can our readers expect?
Boyd Tinsley: The thing that I love about the movie is the feeling, the emotion that you get. And one of the big elements of that for me is the music. So, I wanted to have a movie where the emotion of the movie, or the music, was matched by what was going on on the screen. So we started with the music and we had the musicians play from the heart from the little bit of the story that I told them. So in a sense, they sort of completed the story with the vibe from the music that they had. Everything was sort of made around [the music]. The director listened to the music, the screenwriter, the actors, the crew, so everybody learned the story, learned the movement of the movie and that’s how we made it.
We didn’t really know how it was gonna end and we didn’t know some stuff about the movie. But that was the point, to really dig in our hearts to find it. And it was also just the fun of doing it; the fun of creating something from an idea and not knowing exactly where it’s gonna end and sort of creating it and finding it as we went along. We recorded an initial batch of music, shot some scenes and put everything together. And then when we put it together we saw what we were missing and were like, “OK, we need this, and we need this.” So we did it by basically shooting and recording what we knew and seeing those pieces and then seeing what we needed.
TheCelebrityCafe.com: What made you want to venture into film?
Boyd Tinsley: It was something that I was sort of inspired to do in the mid-90s when DMB did the “Crash into Me” video because that video had that whole thing that I loved, that emotion. I could feel it because of the way Dean Karr, the director, he directed it in this very sort of dreamlike, bittersweet way. And that’s very much like the song itself and so the combination of that—the mood of the music and the mood of the video—were the same and it really hits you. That’s what inspired me to do a movie like that.
Now, 15 years later, in that time I’ve been thinking about stories, about how I’d approach making a movie but it’s not like I had been planning to do it like, “Sometime soon I think I’m gonna do a movie.” It was in the back of my head that I knew it was gonna happen. But it happened when LeRoi Moore, our saxophone player, passed away. He was really close to me and I was in a very down place and I needed to get out of that and the way I get out of that for me is to put my energies into something creative. So I knew that I needed to do something to get out of this place that I’d been in and then it just hit me one night—I gotta make a movie. And my friend Ryan Orr had been acting for like ten years and just working and getting better and better and he got to the point where I said, “You are ready to be a lead actor” and so he was the very first person that I called to be the lead. Then I called a lighting guy for DMB, a lighting director, Fenton Williams, who owns a production company and he was the one that I said, “I need your company to do this movie” and then from there it was basically like the next day we were starting. Me, the other three producers, and Ryan got together and we started planning out this movie and it really has been continuous every step ever since. We started right away and as soon as we finished the movie, maybe about a month later, we got a digital distribution deal.
Almost immediately after finishing the movie, we started promoting the movie and getting it out. And it still goes on, the whole experience of this still goes on. So we’ve made it, but it’s also about getting it to people. Because it’s a movie that I think people are gonna feel because it came straight from the heart. Anytime you do that as an artist it’s inescapable that people can feel it. That’s a lot of the reason why I didn’t want to have dialogue because the feeling you get is true, everybody knows those feelings. That’s the thing that we’re riding throughout the movie, we’re riding the emotion as opposed to just listening to the dialogue and I think that when the dialogue does come in it needs to flow with the music.
TheCelebrityCafe.com: September 11 marks the release of the new DMB album Away From the World. What should DMB fans know about this upcoming release?
Boyd Tinsley: Well, it was coordinated with Steve Lillywhite and Steve, we’ve done three albums with—four if you count the bootleg of The Lillywhite Sessions so it was an amazing time and Steve knows this band better than anybody, he knows what each of our roles are in the band, and he knows how to get what he needs to make the record out of us. And I think a lot of what I do, I learned from Steve because from the very first album I would sit there in the control room and watch him edit and make the music, I would just sit there very quietly. So I had private lessons with one of the greatest producers in the world and that was really where I learned the approach how I produce and it was very cool.
The album is great, I love the album, I think it’s one of my favorite albums and I just had a blast making it. Dave had to work his butt off because he came in with ideas that we would create in the studio and then we would go out and play them and then rearrange them. So we got the basic tracks done in three weeks and then people came in and did overdubs for a couple of weeks but as far as the instrument part, that was done pretty quickly and then Dave had to go back and write all the lyrics because we had just created the songs and so that process took months because he had to start from scratch. He just really worked his butt of on this and I’m just really proud of him because this just turned out to be an amazing album, with amazing lyrics and once again it just has that emotion, it’s actually an album that tells a story and I love that about it.
TheCelebrityCafe.com: You are known as a huge tennis fan. Who are you expecting to win this year’s US Open?
Boyd Tinsley: Well I have to say this—I usually follow tennis every major tournament but this year has been one of the busiest years of my life with making a studio album and doing promotion for a film and doing a tour. I have not really been able to watch a lot of tennis. It’s really a surprise to me, I just found out a couple of weeks ago that Federer is number 1 and I was like “What the hell happened here?” [laughs] because it was only a matter of months and I missed a bunch of stuff. So I honestly have to say that I have not been in touch with tennis for a matter of months for the first time in years. So it’s hard for me to say who is gonna be a favorite at the US Open. I would just have to go watch some highlights and see how people are playing. You know, Federer is number 1, he’s the top contender but in that top three—Federer, Nadal, and Djokovic—and Murray could pop in there as well, if any one those guys has a good day, they could do it.
You know, everybody was counting Federer out a few years ago, when Nadal and Djokovic became number 1, it was almost like people dismissed Federer but guess what, he had a little surprise for everybody [laughs] and so I have to go back and check the highlights and see what the hell happened this year.
TheCelebrityCafe.com: Who are your favorite artists to listen to?
Boyd Tinsley: Peter Gabriel really inspires me. And he’s somebody that I really look up to in the way that he does his music. Because all of his music is [done] in a way—his results are the results I want to have. Everything he has, there’s an emotional thing in there, it comes from the heart and I can tell that he doesn’t finish a song until he can feel something from it. Every Peter Gabriel song I put on I’m like, “I feel something from it.” I love him as an artist, so he’s somebody who’s had a very big influence on me as far as just making sure that you don’t finish a song until you can feel it.
And that’s one of the reasons why I’ve wanted to be a producer because growing up if there was a particular song I was listening to, I’d be in it, I’d be in it, and then something would happen in the song that would take me out of it. And I’d be like “Why did you do that? You had me!” [laughs]. To me there’s an emotional flow and you have to keep that going and you can’t have anything that breaks it, it has to be a chain that’s linked all the way through. It should be like a hypnotic kind of spell. So it took like a two-year editing process to do [the movie] but I wasn’t satisfied until I could feel everything. So we just did it until it was done. But I am so happy about this, I’ve never enjoyed—except for playing with DMB—anything more in my life. I definitely look forward to doing another one sometime. It’s a great complement to the band, too, because it’s a whole new area of creativity that has opened up for me. It was all about freedom, freedom of the heart to express whatever. And when you do that, magical things happen, you play stuff that you’ve never played before and it’s just like in this movie, everyone played some of the best, if not the best, music that they’ve every played. The main lead singer on the soundtrack, Shawn Smith, came up to me and said, “This is the best music I ever did.” And he plays for the band Brad and he’s just a great musician and for him to say that, that just tells me that there’s this power about this movie that overtakes people, that people just understand and it gets inside them and they open up. And as artists, that’s the ultimate thing that we want, just to be able to freely express ourselves and through that all of the music that you hear was done in the moment. You know, they got in the studio and I gave them a little of the story about this young man who comes home to bury his father and throughout the course, he meets all of these people. I described all of these characters and scenes, like the bonfire scene, the drive to the funeral, and then I would just tell them what I knew and say, “Just go out there and play” and when they’d play, Shawn, the singer, would expand on the story and bring elements of his life. I remember one song he was singing, he broke down, it just came from the heart, it gave me chills, everyone knew where to go for the music, like this is where we go for the chorus, this is the melody, it was like we had been playing this song for years and we were actually playing the song and making the song as it went down. When you see this movie, it looks like the music came last but it came first and we actually made the movie around the music. At the end of the process, we danced the footage to the music so that they both feel the same way and move in the same way and that was my goal to marry the two, to make them express the same emotion and that combination sends chills to me that I can really feel in a movie.
TheCelebrityCafe.com: I’ve read that when you were in middle school you were disappointed that guitar wasn’t taught in music class. What made you fall in love with the violin?
Boyd Tinsley: Well, I was there [in the classroom] and I had to make a split-second decision: it was either to leave the class and go change into another class or it was to stay and go try out one of the instruments—the violin, the viola, the cello. And the only instrument of those that I was really familiar with was the violin, so I chose to play the violin and there was just something that connected with me immediately. And I just kept playing and I loved it and my teacher would also show me music from jazz violin, like Stéphane Grappelli and Papa John Creach and so he would sort of show me that there’s this whole other realm of music that the violin could play. So that thought was with me ever since I was 12 or 13 years old and that was my dream—to rock out on stage with the guitar. But then that dream became the violin and lo and behold I got to do that—I got to actually live out my dream and you can’t get anything better than that. I’m one of the luckiest people in the world.
TheCelebrityCafe.com: Throughout your career you’ve been a huge supporter of music education. How can our readers help keep the music alive?
Boyd Tinsley: Well, I mean just give to programs that buy instruments and lessons and so forth for kids. A lot of public school systems, because of budget cuts and stuff, the first thing they cut are music and arts programs and so sometimes you’re missing those. You know, I was lucky, because for the school system in Charlottesville, Virginia, music was such a big part of the education. We had string orchestra, jazz band, all these different kinds of music groups and it’s a relatively small town. Even in the orchestra, they had instruments that students could borrow and that kind of thing is unheard of. I really grew up in a community that was very encouraging of music and I think that was very important.
I have a fund setup for my school system, for the school system in Charlottesville. I have a program that provides lessons and instruments for kids. The cool thing, too, is when I do this with the school system I also have a fund for tutoring and tennis. It’s really cool because you have the infrastructure already built into the school system. You have the teachers there for the tutoring, the music teachers there that will stay after to teach the kids, and the money that I provide pays people for the hours they work and pays for the instruments and that sort of stuff. But the school has the tennis courts and the classrooms and the teachers. It really works out really well.
Creative things like that need to happen because there are hundreds and hundreds of kids that have been through this and kids that are going to college who never would have if they didn’t have the tutoring, and the tennis, and the music. This is an achievement, it’s something that they can do and it gives you a sense of satisfaction when you’re getting good at it. You feel that you’ve done something, particularly something you might not have had an opportunity to do. That’s another thing that gives confidence to the kids. It’s really important; it can change lives, it really changed my life to have a strong music program. I think that any way people can support it by going to city council meetings and just supporting more money for the arts and music programs and giving to programs like VH1’s Save the Music. I think that’s probably the best thing we can do.