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The Salvation of Dave Matthews

Page 3 of 5

Matthews' pain was not lost on his fellow band members. "It was obvious," says Beauford. "But nobody wanted to say anything, because we were afraid we were going to detonate something that we couldn't fix, and that would be the end of it. So we left it alone. [But] Dave was at a breaking point. You could see it. We would be in the studio working on a tune, and then, all of a sudden, he would get up and not say anything and just shove his guitar to the side and go outside."

The band finally finished recording in June, three months behind schedule. Flohr flew in from L.A. to listen to the tracks. He was troubled by what he heard. That day, he spoke to all the band members – except Matthews.

"I said to them, 'I'm going to sit down with Dave and I'm going to tell him that I'm not feeling this record as a fan, and unless you feel differently, tell me now,'" Flohr recalls. "Each said, 'I thought I was the only one.'"

Flohr says that he and Matthews then had "a very difficult conversation. I felt, 'This is it.' This is either going to bring us closer together as a label and an artist, or drive us apart."

Initially defensive, Matthews eventually arrived at the conclusion that Flohr, and the others, were right. "It wasn't that I didn't like [the songs] we recorded with Steve," Matthews explains. "I think 'Grace Is Gone' is one of the best songs I've ever written. I love 'Digging a Ditch.' I like the song 'Busted Stuff.' But they're all a little bit blue." His tone grows emphatic. "I don't want to be someone who writes about how sad I am. I'd rather write about those same topics, but with a little momentum. With some sort of strength. Otherwise, I don't think there's any gift – or offering – being made. I would like to be an inspiring force. I want the music to make people think, but not think, 'What's the point?' I was choking. Every song was about dying. Not about living regardless of the fact we're going to die."

The album was postponed so that the band could seek a new producer who might be able to inject the tunes with new life. "That's when I said there was only one guy that they should consider working with," Flohr recalls, "and that was Glen Ballard."

Glen Ballard is one of the most successful producers and songwriters in pop music, the coauthor of Alanis Morrisette's multiplatinum Jagged Little Pill, as well as hits for artists ranging from No Doubt to Aerosmith. But for the Dave Matthews Band, the clincher was that Ballard had served an eight-year apprenticeship as Quincy Jones' engineer. "Quincy Jones," says Beauford, with reverence. "That's all I needed to hear."

As well as rerecording the old material, Ballard had been enlisted to co-write a couple of new tunes with Matthews -some up-tempo numbers to alleviate the record's gloom.

Matthews was initially leery at the idea of co-writing. He had not written a song one-on-one with someone in years. He wasn't sure he could do it. "I'd got further and further away from sharing myself," he says. "I got more and more internalized over the last five years, and more and more afraid of what I wrote, so that I was even afraid to present things that were new. It was really ugly. I became sort of paranoid. That's another reason the songs got really dark."

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Song Stories

“Santa Monica”

Everclear | 1996

After his brother and girlfriend both died of drug overdoses, Art Alexakis -- depressed and hooked on drugs himself -- jumped off the Santa Monica Pier in California, determined to die. "It was really stupid," said the Everclear frontman, who would further explore his personal emotional journey in the song "Father of Mine." "I went under the water. Then I said, 'I don't wanna die.'" The song, declaring "Let's swim out past the breakers/and watch the world die," was intended as a manifesto for change, Alexakis said. "Let the world do what it's gonna do and just live on our own."

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