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Interview: Guitarist Tim Reynolds of Dave Matthews Band & TR3

Tim Reynolds | Guitarist Musician | Stated Magazine Interview

Tim Reynolds of Dave Matthews Band on Stated Magazine

(Photo: Milo Farineau © 2011)

Two-time Grammy-nominated virtuoso guitarist Tim Reynolds may be best known for his work with Dave Matthews Band and as half of the Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds acoustic duo, but that only scratches the surface of a prolific 35-year career of various solo and band projects. His incredible skill on multiple instruments tends to overshadow his unique voice, which he owes in part to a harrowing accident that left him temporarily unable to speak. In 2007, he revived his TR3 (Tim Reynolds Trio) project with a new lineup of bassist Mick Vaughn and drummer Dan Martier. The trio has been touring between Tim’s ongoing gigs with DMB, and will play this summer’s DMB Caravan festival. One of our editors caught TR3 at New York’s Iridium club, and soon after, Tim joined us by phone to discuss his career, music and TR3’s upcoming live release, From SPACE and Beyond.

stated: Thanks so much for doing this. You’ve been doing a lot of touring over the last several years. One of our editors caught your gig at Iridium here in New York, which had a long association with the late Les Paul. Was that someone you looked up to? Did you ever get a chance to see him play?

TIM REYNOLDS: I never got a chance to see him play other than on TV with Jeff Beck, but yeah it was great to play that room. Those kinds of rooms are better for acoustic because you can just bring it down to the acoustic dynamic which is almost silence, and in a lot of bars that dynamic isn’t as easy to move through because in a bar people are usually talking more and getting rowdy. But yeah, I love those kind of gigs.

stated: Taking it back to the beginning, you grew up in a religious family. Your father was in the military. Would you say it was a strict household?

TIM REYNOLDS: Yeah, I would say, compared to some, but not super hardcore—not Amish hardcore. I mean, we couldn’t go to see movies. We learned to live within the parameters, as it were. Definitely had the thing with music. Music was kind of the way I explored the world. Through music and my imagination. 

stated: That makes sense. You also started playing music in church; on bass first?

TIM REYNOLDS: Yeah, exactly. And it was like the only place I could play, so it wasn’t really by choice, but it was  the only place I was allowed to play, so I did it. And the churches we were at, it was fundamental, Pentecostal. So at the end of most every service, there’s the call for, ya know, “Are you a sinner? Do you wanna come up here and be saved or be prayed for?” And they would come walking down—deacons or whatever—would come looking down the aisle and see if there was anybody that looked like they were crying and they would come up to them and be like “come on up front, it’s OK.” And when I was really a lot younger, I kind of ventured into that head space but it just didn’t really work for me and I just probably acted it out some, but for me playing bass in church was kind of a way to escape that moment. And also just because I wanted to play music. And my cousin Johnny played the guitar, so we setup there and we were able to just slide through all those moments,. But it wasn’t as much about that as it was just wanting to play music and that was an outlet.

stated: It’s interesting, you saying that. The way out was actually participation. Part of being in that moment is what actually gave you an outlet.

TIM REYNOLDS: Yeah, totally.

stated: Do you feel playing “church music” had much of an influence on your own writing and music later on? 

TIM REYNOLDS: I doubt it, but I wouldn’t discount it, because that kind of thing seeps into your unconscious. I mean, for me just to learn any music that was structured and that I did in front of people has a whole way of teaching you structure in and of itself. And maybe years later when I went from there into progressive rock and jazz fusion—a lot of more complex kinds of forms—and then, in the 80’s when I first started with TR3, some of the inspiration was simple tunes by Bob Marley—which you almost couldn’t get simpler except for like the production—drums and all. I mean, there’s something very powerful about a simple chord change from one to the next, whether it’s the three main chords, or any other chords, but there’s something beautiful and powerful about a simple transition. I mean, like Peter Gabriel. His songs are generally simple in their architecture—in the lyrics and the chords—but he produces them so they’re complex in other ways and makes them really powerful. I’ve always been a fan of that, and also what you can do with different ways to make it, not complex for itself, but just kind of journey through music. Sometimes it involves complexity to go from here to here and just the memory of the form, but I’m sure in a way sometimes people will ask, “Where did I learn from? What did I learn from it?” But it’s just kind of everything that you ever did, which is hard to quantify. This moment is a product of everything the universe has done, which is true, but it’s also a small moment, the present moment. But it is, ya know?


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stated: Completely understood. Now, you mentioned Bob Marley, and The Beatles were also a big influence. Was there one particular song or album that grabbed you, that speaks to that time in your life when you hear it?

TIM REYNOLDS: Probably the first Beatles record we had, which was probably the second Beatles album [With The Beatles]. I mean we eventually had all of them that came out, but I remember having that one. So whatever was on that, “Roll Over Beethoven,” all kinds of good songs. A lot of them weren’t even written by them. They were, at that point, still doing covers, but they were just kicking ass doing that, and just the whole energy of that music. And at the same time, on TV we would see James Brown coming out, just ripping that up, and that was just something to see. The Beatles were one thing, but then watching James Brown get out there and just scream at the top of his lungs. It’s all about sex and rock…fucking WOW. And all kinds of good things were coming out. The Beatles were something that we had. My sister would have the records, so we’d listen to ‘em and crank ‘em up and I would be all excited because it sounded like the band was in the house, and my parents would be out and we’d crank it up. But I got that from all music. Turn it up loud enough to feel the rhythm of it. The Beatles, James Brown. Just all the stuff from the 60’s. It was like a giant wave of a lot of music. And of course, spearheaded from Britain with The Beatles, but also The Stones and The Who. There was just so much going on at the time. It’s easy to remember The Beatles because they were the big thing, and they were great and, like I say, they were the first music that I remember just really getting off on. 

stated: There was such a variety at that time. So moving on to TR3, can you give us a quick background on how you got the band started? There have been a couple of different incarnations over the years.

TIM REYNOLDS: Right. There was a band before that I was in called Cosmology in Charlottesville, which was John D’earth on trumpet and his wife, Dawn Thompson, on vocals, and the drummer Robert Jospe, and the bass player Ron Pruitt. And at one point I started doing gigs with the rhythm section, starting out doing jazz trio kind of things but immediately also doing covers of The Police, just branching out already and that’s how it got started. Then we did a couple of traditional jazz trio gigs and it started to incorporate more rock tunes and vocals, and then the inspiration of Bob Marley. So it came out of the band Cosmology with the rhythm section doing gigs.  And the band was really more like world beat jazz with a lot of free-form improv and I enjoyed that but at the same time, I was going through a different extreme with the way that Bob Marley and James Brown would. Like a lot of early James Brown songs are like one chord and then he goes to the four chord, and that’s a big deal, the way he built it up, and that would be it. And even Led Zeppelin. A lot of their songs are very blues based in that way. 

So besides having spent a few years before that really investigating bebop and the complexity of harmony, it was something that just made me gravitate toward simpler things. At the same time, with TR3, we’re still probably playing some jazz standards and things, we’re also breaking it down to very simple rock music which is just about feeling, which I’m always drawn towards, as well as trying to learn new technical things. There’s something about something that goes to your heart and your gut. So TR3 started from those kind of roots. So we were local. There were definitely more popular bands at the time in town, but we were one of the local bands and we had our little crowd. Since it was in Charlottesville and there were a lot musicians to pull from, there’d be some times where maybe the drummer couldn’t make it or the bass player couldn’t make it, and I guess it started out with the drums. Over the years in Charlottesville, we had a couple of different players. And when I moved to New Mexico, by that point, it had changed a few times and we had a completely different rhythm section in Houston Ross and Johnny Gilmore. And we also had another band. There are so many different tangents of bands in Charlottesville, like playing rock improv at frat parties, and that was fun too.

Tim Reynolds on Stated Magazine

So by the time I’d moved to New Mexico, I’d started playing new solo acoustic gigs, kind of working into that, and that was another outlet. I started out being more improv, and then I learned a lot of tunes that I liked and figured out ways to play them solo acoustic, breaking a lot of things down into simpler parts, like Peter Gabriel, just discovering what I liked about writing songs and learning songs. About the same time, it started to get a little harder with the logistics of having a band that lived 2000 miles away. I wound up doing a lot more solo gigs and that became the thing I did for many years living in New Mexico out in the country. It was easier. It was a whole new thing for me. Also at the time, Live at Luther College [with Dave Matthews] came out and a lot of people, their only reference point was acoustic and I kind of flowed with that flow for a while.

Eventually I started working with drum machines when I learned how to program this one without using a computer. It was very simple, so I got back into the electric. And then I even played a few gigs with some musicians out in Santa Fe, but I never really got a band back together for a while because I was really psyched about working with drum machines. I was just really thrilled about being able to be your own drummer. I really love drums so there was a time when I was just so into programming drum parts for music, but ultimately it’s not the same as having a real drummer.

So TR3 kind of ceased to exist after I moved out to New Mexico, and I lived out there for about 10 years. When I moved back here [the outer banks of North Carolina], I was still mostly doing solo acoustic gigs, and some electric songs as well with the drum machines. And before I moved here, my former partner had been here earlier and was saying this place has all kinds of musicians, you should hook up with some of these guys. So when I moved here, I had some idea of some people, so I went and saw this one band, Karl Werne, who’s a singer/songwriter who’s really amazing and does all kinds of music and I saw him play with the drummer, Dan [Martier], who’s now in TR3, and I thought, “this is really good.” So I wound up playing with those guys that night, and it seems like it was within a couple of weeks I met Mick [Vaughn], who was suggested as a really good local bass player. I met those guys at my house and we had a verbal rehearsal for, I don’t know if it was called TR3 yet, but a trio gig. So we played this gig and it was a lot of fun and about a week later I had a gig scheduled. It was supposed to be a solo acoustic gig with a drum machine, and I think I went ahead and did a solo set but then I had those guys come up and play instead of using all the programmed stuff. So it was pretty loose at the time because we never really rehearsed, we just had a kind of verbal rehearsal. But then when I heard the tape of the gig I was like “wow.” For that gig, I was thinking more about the arrangements of the songs and how things could be tight but when I heard us play together, I could also hear there was a lot of cool improv stuff in the context of songs and I was like “wow, this is like a band interaction,” and I hadn’t had that kind of thing going for a while. 

So we started there and were trying to come up with names, and when you’re coming up with names, they don’t really have any meaning. You come up with a silly name and if you have a great band and all the sudden they’re really famous, it all works. It’s like, “this band, ‘Plastic Screen Goblins,’ sounds great.” But what do you name it? So we never had a name thing that was working and my booking agent at the time—who also worked 20 years before with TR3—was like, “why don’t you just call it TR3? Enough people remember that name.” Then on my website was music I’d done in the past that was a good a reference point. And we had also learned some of the older TR3 songs, so it wasn’t like that much of a stretch to call it that. It wasn’t the same guys from the earlier period, but we called it that anyway. 

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So we started working and rehearsing. We first met in August of ‘07 and we played these gigs and by December we had played enough around town and learned enough songs that we started to go out on the road in January of ‘08. So that’s how the current TR3 came together and it’s just really working out great. In a way, I almost feel the earlier TR3 in Charlottesville—because it had such different members over a short couple years between ‘84 and up until like ‘94—this one’s probably more consistent in terms of the same people playing all the gigs. Whereas I’m sure early TR3, any given gig could have had a different bass player. So I think this TR3 is much more solidified. It’s much more of a rock band that has other influences, whereas the original TR3 kind of started out more as a jazz fusion band and worked its way into the other thing. This one is a little more “rooted” music, a little more investigated, like the earlier blues. Not that we do blues, but just kind of going back for that kind of mojo of that kind of music, which isn’t as much about technical stuff as it is, just…mojo. Soul and angst and edge.

So the new TR3 kind of incorporates all those things. We do some progressive rock kind of things, and we also do some bluesier things, but we don’t really play blues. I don’t wanna give anyone the wrong impression, because I know when people like blues and when they hear the word blues, they want their blues. It’s like jazz or whatever. We’re not really a genre-specific band, other than like the rock power trio format, but in all the permutations you can take that. We’re learning some new songs which are more complex, almost like progressive rock and we’re constantly learning covers as well—mostly older things that we all relate to. We do a Portishead cover, but a lot of Led Zeppelin, and some James Brown. So just a lot of different stuff. Golden Earring, Hocus, Pocus, Focus. A lot of stuff that was almost like a joke. We’d say, “let’s play this,” but we’d laugh at each other and go, “wait a minute, let’s do the whole thing, people love this shit.” We play a lot of clubs, so it’s good to have that music and also a lot of originals, so we just keep learning new stuff and I love it. 

I can tell that we just get glued together more and more. Just a couple weeks ago before we went on the last tour, we learned a bunch of new songs that were a little more complicated and we got them under our belt, but it was a lot of work. I remember coming from some of those rehearsals and my brain would be fried from just thinking, but we got back just the other day and learned some more songs, and then played those other ones, and they just came popping out like, our bodies have kind of evolved to the new songs. So I just feel like the band is progressing in a really good way and it’s amazing that we’ve been able to do that at the same time that I’ve been doing all this work with DMB [Dave Matthews Band] for the last couple of years. We’ve been working whenever I haven’t been working with them, so this year’s really good because they’re taking a break. So I can get involved with the band some more because I really dig it. I’m really psyched about getting back on the road, and we’ve got two new songs we learned. It’s just really fun to have new music. It’s almost like whenever you learn a new song , or a new group of songs, it informs the way you play the things you already know. You can get inside each other’s shit a little more, and it’s really fun. I’m digging that. It’s like a real band vibe. It’s like every year we play I feel we get tighter in certain ways and deeper into each other’s way and that makes it more fun. Every gig is different because crowds have different energies and that makes you play a little differently. And I love that interaction. That’s the magic of music for me. The crowd plays you, you play the crowd, and the interaction of that is great.

stated: You mentioned Dave Matthews Band, and it seems you have a really unique situation in that you have the best of both worlds. Like you said, now you’ve got these great gigs that are consistent, playing with DMB live and on albums here and there, but then you’re able to bounce back and forth between your own projects. And you’re playing this summer with the DMB Caravan festival and you’ve got some other festivals lined up?

TIM REYNOLDS: Yeah, I’m excited about doing all that. 

stated: You’re not signed to a major label for TR3 or your solo albums, right?


stated: We were just talking to Martin Sexton about this, (who I believe you’ve played with), and he released two albums on Atlantic and then decided to go the indie route and just release them under his own label. Has it always been a similarly conscious choice for you to stay independent or was that just the way things went?

TIM REYNOLDS: Both. I’ve seen both worlds, and for me personally just because I’m…“control freak” is probably not the right word…but when it comes down to music, I’ve always been able to be responsible in trying to do it. Yet at the same time, I will immediately admit that all my albums are flawed in various ways, and I’m sure if we had a major producer, they would be perfect in another way. Producers are great and I respect them. All the records that I love I’m sure were produced by somebody; that’s how it works. But also there are a lot of records I like that weren’t produced by somebody and the artist just did it, and I really love the rawness of that. Not in every single case, but it’s something I go for. So I like having my foot in both worlds.

Tim Reynolds of the Dave Matthews Band on Stated Magazine

Working with DMB, they work with producers and they’re all great people, amazing—like scientists in a way—at producing pop records where they really have an ear for what works in that format. And it’s fun to go back and learn things from that and then take it back into a more grassroots level and write music with the band and bounce off… “can we think about this a whole lot or do we think about it too much?” It’s fun to write some songs that are very simple and have a lot of space to just rock out and then it’s fun to have other songs that are very complex where every part of the song is very thought-out and it’s very tight. It’s hard for me to wrap my head around thinking everything’s got to be a pop song and everything’s got to go to number one. Because it’s almost like in the world of big records, it almost doesn’t seem like there’s a middle ground where you want to do something that’s very artistic and also accessible. It seems like when you get with a producer and a record company, it’s all about accessible. And the artistry is all about the art of making it accessible. I think that’s a great thing, because most of my records are probably pop records, whether they’re metal or whatever. It’s all popular music, not all obscure. I like some obscure shit too, so I appreciate that whole thing, the dynamic of that, but I just take a step back from it when I’m doing my own thing because I like the organic grittiness of it. And like I say, I don’t think it’s perfect because of that but I think it’s more from the gut and makes it more intimate, in a way. 

So yeah, there are a lot of producers I’d love to work with, but I also know once you make that commitment, you’re committed to making a committee project. It’s between the record company and you, and I’ve seen how that works and it’s not like a bad thing. No one’s like “you’ve gotta do it like THIS, or we’re gonna…” I mean I’m sure it can get to that when things get crazy, but I know that most of what I’ve seen has been done has been in a very kind and conscientious way. But I guess having done that, I like being able to do it in a different way too, which is old school independent. I like the independent mode for me. Seems to work and pretty much everything I’ve done has been like that. 

At one point years ago, I was close to working with this label, and it wasn’t even a big label, it was a very indie label, but I could tell that all the records had as executive producer this guy—a certain guy, not famous or anything—but it seemed to me all the records had this like…for want of a better word, bland quality. Certain world beat, ethno-rhythms that are very authentic really turn me on, but this label, all the things that they did had this one kind of sound, and I was like, “I certainly don’t want to do that.” So I just bowed out and I guess that was my only close call—and it wasn’t even a big label. And at the time, Live at Luther College came out so I had already had a taste of what it’s like to get that kind of action and I was ready to step back. At the time, I was really into crazy metal and super Nine Inch Nails and crazy Aphex Twin and more experimental sounds and I was not wanting to be tamed or tied-down. I was wanting to be pretty wild. So this record label was all about more like organic drums and acoustic stuff. Which I was into at the time, but I was really into being more wild at the time. I’m probably not being as wild now, but I still like to rock out.

Tim Reynolds of Dave Matthews Band on Stated Magazinr

stated: A lot of your fans likely first discover you through DMB and then find your solo and TR3 work and hear you sing for the first time. You’ve got a very soulful voice with a lot character, but it’s a bit different now and there’s some history to that, right?

TIM REYNOLDS: Yeah, in 1980 I was a in a car accident that severed the nerve to the left vocal chord, so for a while I could barely even talk. So that gives it a rougher sound and I struggle with it sometimes because it gets tired easy, like if I talk all day and sing all night. So sometimes the voice is a challenge to sing. Some of the older TR3 songs are a little harder to sing because of they’re a little higher. I mean, even if you have two vocal chords that issue comes up. But I really enjoy doing it but once in a while I think I shouldn’t do it at all, just play guitar. But then once in a while someone will say, “why don’t you sing that song?” So I try to balance it. I know it’s not like some “American Idol” kind of voice where you can just get up and sing the shit out of any song and people are blown away by your singing chops. It’s definitely not that at all, but I like singing and I try to check out voices that have that rough quality and try to get stuff from that. Like some older blues singers like Sonny Boy Williamson and John Lee Hooker. If I could sing like that it would be awesome. All TR3 music with John Lee Hooker singing would be the shit. I mean, I know I don’t really sound like that, but that’s something I hear and can go for and grab some of that.

stated: When you lost your voice temporarily did it change your approach to your music?

TIM REYNOLDS: Totally. It really made me dig into the guitar as a voice. I used to think the fact that when I was really young and like in high school there were guitar buddies who could play just like Eric Clapton or this and that and I’d be jealous because I couldn’t sound like that. But I realized when I was a bit older that maybe it was a good thing that you couldn’t sound like somebody else when you were younger and that all your fucked-up shit comes out to being different enough to be categorized as maybe original. Or at least not immediately sounding like somebody else. Which, after years of thinking that was bad, I realized that’s good. I don’t wanna sound like somebody else, because then nobody’s gonna recognize that. But everything I do I can trace back to where I got it from so I don’t even feel like I have anything original, but because it comes out not exactly like it came in, it comes out a little twisted or askew, whatever that could be, it would be the original part.

stated: So you guys have a live album coming out soon, From SPACE and Beyond?

TIM REYNOLDS: Yeah, hopefully in the next month or two [June 21st]. It’s pretty close to being done, we’re just figuring out the CD artwork and the order of the songs, but it’s really getting close. Also, I’ve been on the road and working on writing and rehearsing the band and just doing a lot of things simultaneously, so it’s hard to just focus on that like everyday, all day. But we’re working on it, so we’re moving forward for sure.

stated: Excellent. We’re looking forward to hearing it. Does it represent your touring since the last TR3 record? 

TIM REYNOLDS: Yeah, I think it’s all culled from three gigs in November of 2009, it just took a while to pick out the songs, because there were like three gigs of like two and a half hours…times three. And after doing those tours, the last thing you want to do is listen to yourself over and over again. So we finally got past all that and we’ve got it all mixed now, we just have to master it. I’m psyched about it. It shows the live band with mostly originals, but some covers too. It’s gonna be a fun record.

stated: Is there a particular story behind the From SPACE and Beyond title?

TIM REYNOLDS: Originally, one of the gigs was at a place called “SPACE” in Chicago, and there’s a part of the show where we wear these blue light-up goggles. So the front picture is a picture of me with these blue light goggles and it’s kind of foggy. You can tell it’s a guy with a guitar, but it’s like “what’s that?” Blue lights, and everything. It lends itself to the idea of space other than just the name of that one club. “From SPACE and Beyond”…it’s kind of a play on words. There’s also one song where I start talking about the fact that our planet’s spinning at 1,000 miles an hour and the world’s going around the sun at 65,000 miles an hour, and all that kind of “spinning in space” stuff. So it comes from that. The cover looks really cool.

Tim Reynolds of Dave Matthews Band on Stated Magazine

Photo: Milo Farineau © 2011

stated: You mentioned several of your influences, but are there any current bands that you’re really digging?

TIM REYNOLDS: I’m a huge fan of Radiohead. I know they’ve been around for a while, but it seems new to me. I also really like Florence and the Machine. That’s a whole different thing, but I think it’s really cool. It’s just unique. Some CD’s take a few listens to get it. I like Kings of Leon. I like popular bands, but I still gravitate toward other things. I really like Nine Inch Nails and How to Destroy Angels. It’s like Trent Reznor with his other partner-in-crime. 

I’m always checking out music. I go between new stuff, because I’m always trying to stay up on things that I like, and I’m always revisiting stuff that I grew up with to just re-energize. I like some metal bands like Mastodon and Lamb of God, which is a whole different kind of extreme. Also Meshuggah. You have to be in the mood to get yelled at. The last Portishead album I thought was great and I like The Dead Weather with Jack White. I always try to keep my ears open for things I might like. Every once in a while I’ll see a video and I’ll hear a band name that I’ve heard for a while but don’t really know what they sound like and I’ll check out a song and like that. I love hearing something that’s good that I haven’t heard before. 

stated: Absolutely. If you had to choose three “desert island discs,” what would they be?

TIM REYNOLDS: Oh, wow. One would be Aphex Twin, Selected Ambient Works, which is an odd one, but it’s like a double CD of all kinds of different things. It’s like something I put on when I go to sleep. It’s all mellow. And then maybe Bach. Yo-Yo Ma doing Bach cello suites. And the other one I’d have to pick, which is my new favorite album, is the new Radiohead [King of Limbs], because it’s just awesome. It would just be a random selection. Not really any guitar music. Well, I guess Radiohead is guitar music. 

stated: This album seems less guitar-heavy, but yeah.

TIM REYNOLDS: When I first heard it, I liked the first song and the rest of them didn’t sink in, but after about three listens I loved every moment of it. I dig how it has different spaces. I love that, when an album isn’t immediately apparent. It’s almost like if it takes you longer to get it then it sticks with you longer, too.

stated: It demands a little more investment and then it means a little more, right?


stated: Well, thank you for doing this, it’s been a pleasure.

TIM REYNOLDS: Thank you, man.


Visit Tim Reynolds and TR3 at:
Tim Reynolds on iTunes
TR3 on iTunes

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