When you’ve been in a band for 26 years, everybody deserves a break. After years of relentless touring and thousands of big shed shows, The Dave Matthews Band decided to forego their annual summer tour for 2017. Don’t think for a moment, however, that the band members are currently idle. All of them are involved in some project or other.
That certainly applies to violin player Boyd Tinsley, currently on tour with a trio he put together called Crystal Garden. They are about halfway through this tour, which began after a brief break in Nashville Wednesday and Atlanta last evening. The tour moves to Florida for four dates starting tonight at 1904 Music Hall in Jacksonville (Friday, July 21st), then Mobile, New Orleans, and four shows in Texas.
I had the opportunity to interview Tinsley Tuesday evening on the air on the radio program In the Groove, the jamband show on WMNF 88.5 in Tampa. Let’s let him explain.
MFN: This is Boyd Tinsley, everyone. Boyd is now 26 years with the Dave Matthews band, but he’s out working now with a trio of youngsters called Crystal Garden. So, Boyd, tell us about Crystal Garden, tell us about the hiatus, tell us anything you’d like to talk about.
BT: We decided as a band, the Dave Matthews Band, that after 25 years of touring every summer that we would take a year of, so we’ve taken a year off, but everybody in the band has been out doing different projects, however. Dave and Tim (Reynolds) did a tour; Stefan (Lessard) did some shows; Carter (Beauford) and Jeff (Coffin) and Rashawn (Ross) have been doing some shows. It’s like we’ve all been just as busy as we’d be in a normal year.
This year I’ve been with a band that I put together a few years ago, well, almost two years now, you know, that I dreamed of creating for a long time. I really love getting in the studio; I produced three bands in the studio and some other projects that I’ve done. I could absolutely live in the studio; I love producing, but I wanted to create a band, create a rock band, a band that knew how to jam and make music and to have great songs and really play from the heart.
I really didn’t know how to go about finding these people. I tried to think about traditional ways like agencies or like maybe having auditions, but I thought and thought for the longest time and said I have to let it go. Not let it go — the idea — but let it go organically. I would just have to find these people as I did. For instance, Mycle, the singer — a friend of mine who works with Cycle told me about him, said, “Boyd, there’s this great singer named Mycle Wastman,” and I said, “Cool. I’ll check him out.” And it had been a couple years, and I didn’t get a chance to check him out.
And one day, DMB was playing in New York, and Mycle happened to be doing a gig, and my friend said, “Come on down to see Mycle.” So I head down there, and I go into this club, and I hear him sing about two lines, and I’m like, “Well, that’s the singer I want right there.” And I came to him, and he came to me.
It was like that with Charlie (Csontos) and Matt (Frewen), the drummer and bass player I had sought out specifically from Toronto, just because I know there’s a lot of talent there and a lot of hungry musicians. And I reached out to [my friend] a few times, well, two times, and I said, “Do you know any rock musicians in Toronto I might be able to get for a project I’m working on?” And both times he said, “No. There’s nobody I can come up with; I can’t think of anybody.”
But then it was really getting to crunch time, because I had already picked a date to start the recording session, and really all I had was Mycle, and also a trumpet player who came in for the album. but I didn’t have any [ ], so I called my friend in Toronto, and I said, “Dude, you’ve got to help me! I need musicians for my band. Do you know where I could find some?” And he said yes, and I said where? He said, “They’re my roommates.” He had just moved in with Charlie and Matt.
These guys are great. They came down to a DMB show, and I met with them after the show. I’d heard some of their music. I just really got a good sense from them; it was really a vibe, the same way with Mycle. It was a vibe that I could, you know — we vibe off of each other. Now they vibed off of each other. It’s just a band that, once I got to the studio, of course they had never played together, but once they started they instantly became a band.
The three of them are world-class musicians, very serious, very studied, and really can go into any sub-genre of rock. they’re really a lot of fun to work with. I can’t wait to get back in the studio and record some of the tunes they’ve come up with since the first album, Let the Rocks Cry Out. They’ve probably got about two and a half albums’ worth of material, and these are all upbeat rockers. Great songs — so important to a band that you not only have great musicians but that you also have great songs. All theirs are really great, and on top of that they’re great musicians playing it.
MFN: So I see that you were searching for, initially at least, a ’70s vibe, that ’70s rock sound.
BT: Exactly. You know, it seems like, back in that time, music was played more for the sake of the music; it wasn’t played for the sake of money or a record company or whatever. The true music was coming out of the hearts of the performers back then. I wanted to go back to that tradition, where it was all about the music and nothing else really. So I really wanted them to have that vibe. I didn’t want them to be something contrived or pop or anything. I wanted them to be a rock band that reached and reached and reached.
MFN: So you started, initially, you weren’t thinking of being a violin player, I understand.
BT: No. When I was a kid, I wanted to be a guitar player, you know. We got to choose our elective class when we went to 6th grade. So there was a class called “Strings.” I didn’t read the fine print. I walked in the class thinking, strings, Wow, I can play guitar here. It turned out to be a stringed orchestra class. The teacher, the conductor, said, “Boyd, you can stay here or you can go down to the office and switch. I decided to stay and play the violin. But that was a split-second decision I made the first day of school 6th grade.
MFN: That’s pretty amazing. And so now I see that you also play guitar and mandolin.
BT: Yes, mostly for the sake of song-writing. Some mandolin I did play on one or maybe two of our [DMB] albums. For the sake of song-writing, for the most part. Violin is truly the only instrument that I play.
MFN: So, just in the event that you people listening aren’t positive about who I’m talking to, in my opinion he’s one of the two coolest-looking dudes on the planet, and I have to qualify that because Eddie Roberts of The New Mastersounds is also amazing. It’s magic watching you on stage. This is going to be fun in an intimate setting, because most of us haven’t really had that experience, we’ve seen you mostly in big sheds and shows. It will be nice to see you up close. You’re in Nashville now, but playing Nashville tomorrow (Wednesday) night.
BT: Yeah, we play Nashville tomorrow night.
MFN: And then Atlanta, then four dates in Florida. You hit the 1904 Music Hall on the 21st, Guanabana’s in Jupiter on the 23rd, and then two dates in Tampa, in Ybor City, at The Attic at Rock Brothers Brewing [which I misidentified as Beer Brothers Brewing] at 15th and 8th, and those are going to be exciting. That’s a Thursday and a Friday night, and, if I understand correctly, they list the music as 7 to 11. Don’t know if that’s correct or not, but…
BT: That might include the support act. We only planned on one show in Tampa, and that sold out pretty quickly, so we decided to do a second one, and I think that one might be pretty close to selling out, so Tampa is really one of the biggest cities for this band so far as dedicated fans. It’s really cool, and I really appreciate the fans in Tampa for getting behind me, but also getting behind this band.
MFN: Do a setup for the song your manager sent from Crystal Garden.
BT: This is a song that’s not on the album that they wrote since, and this is a performance of this we did a few weeks ago. The name of the song is “Time for It.”
[Song plays for ten minutes.]
MFN: Wow, Boyd, that’s pretty amazing.
BT: Thank you, man. Thanks a lot.
MFN: I was mentioning off air [while the song played] how much I like Mycle’s voice. I understand why you heard two minutes of him and said, That’s the guy.
BT: Mycle has such a soulful voice; there’s just so much honesty in his singing. I just enjoy listening to Mycle sing. He’s a great vocalist.
MFN: Well, we’ll look forward to seeing you here in Tampa. We’ll definitely make it. It will be a Thursday and Friday at The Attic at Rock Brothers Brewing. I haven’t been there yet, but we will definitely see you. Nashville tomorrow night, Atlanta, four dates in Jacksonville and Florida, Mobile, One-Eyed Jacks, and four dates in Texas.
BT: That sums it up.
MFN: Crystal Garden is the band, and Boyd Tinsley is the violin player who helped to put that together. And you’re on hiatus now, but whenever you continue to do your thing with The Dave Matthews Band, we’ll certainly look forward to that as well.
BT: Thanks a lot, Scott. Thanks for having me on.
When the interview was over, I played a live version of “Ants Marching.” Jules Feiler, his promo man, told me a story on Sunday when we set up the interview. He had taken Boyd to a huge fancy wedding in Boca Raton, where there was a 12-piece orchestra. The band had learned to play “Ants,” and the place erupted when Boyd joined them on stage to play it.
Great story about a great man in our musical community.
Here is Crystal Garden performing “People are People.”
CRYSTAL GARDEN ON TOUR
07/21 1904 Music Hall | Jacksonville FL
07/23 Guanabana’s | Jupiter FL
07/27 The Attic at Beer Brothers Brewery | Tampa FL
07/28 The Attic at Beer Brothers Brewery | Tampa FL
07/29 The Merry Widow | Mobile AL
08/02 One-Eyed Jacks | New Orleans NO
08/04 Warehouse Live | Houston TX
08/05 3Ten ACL Live | Austin TX
08/06 Trees | Dallas TX
08/09 Sam’s Burger Joint | San Antonio TX
You can listen to the interview until next Tuesday evening (the radio shows are archived for a week). Go to WMNF.org, then click on Programming. Scroll down the table to Tuesday night’s last show, In the Groove. When you click it, you can listen to the show. Part 1 is 10:00 to 11:00, Part 2 is 11:00 to 12:00. The interview starts about two-thirds of the way through Part 1 and wraps around into Part 2.