Dave Matthews' record label, According to Our Records, is one-for-one with the success of first signing David Gray. The British singer-songwriter's latest album, White Ladder, has gone platinum in America and now Matthews is looking at expanding the ATO roster. "We've been talking to this young kid, Ben Kweller, about working with him; he's a pop singer. And we're talking about working with Chris Whitely, but all these things are up in the air," admits Matthews, who co-founded the company with his management Red Light.
Kweller is a nineteen-year-old guitarist, drummer, pianist, vocalist and songwriter from Greenville, Texas, whose band Radish was signed to Mercury in 1996. At age nine, he received an honorable mention in Billboard Magazine's annual songwriters contest.
Matthews' A&R mandate will continue to be measured by the artistic quality Gray has set with the million-album sales being a happy byproduct. "We just hope that we can keep a standard," says Matthews. "After [White Ladder] was recorded and David was dropped [by EMI], it seemed like a criminal act. We had to prove ourselves to him. I had to somehow impress on him that me and the other guys in the company were going to work hard to get him out there."
ATO started promoting the album independently, but when it began to take off, Matthews says, RCA, the Dave Matthew Band's label, offered its manpower and expertise. "Maybe if our focus was entirely selfish, we wouldn't have done that but because our focus is on David, it was good for both of us," says Matthews. "Their long arms have been nothing but an enormous help to making the whole thing work, and then at the core of it is this phenomenal record. I can say with a fair amount of confidence, the better Dave does, the better it is for us in many ways. Any money that comes to me from this label will go back to the label. So in that respect, [the label's] focus is going to be on making the artists, and if in a few years we get caught in some scandal and we're slipping money away on a bunch of strung-out artists, you can find me and kill me."
As for the Dave Matthews Band, it is set to play its first hometown gig in six years, on April 21st, at Scott Stadium in Charlottesville, Virginia. "We started going out on the road so much that when we came home, I didn't want to be playing. I wanted to be lying down, in my bed, with my head between my pillows."
The concert, which will benefit the DMB's BamaWorks Foundation, kicks off the fifty-plus-date tour behind the band's new album, Everyday.