Dave Matthews. (Photo by Getty Images)
In an expansive new interview with Vulture, Dave Matthews (51) opens up his decades-long love affair with alcohol, and why despite his heavy intake doesn't mean he has a problem. "By anyone else’s standards but my own I am a raging alcoholic."
The South African-born musician spends much of the interview lamenting the party-persona that has grown up around his band, pointing out that the early days on the frat party circuit might not have been for the best. "I’ve had a lot more drinking in my life than I would’ve if my job hadn’t put me in an environment where everybody was celebrating drinking," he says. "All the years we played clubs and frats — every single night we would be drinking and doing whatever else was happening, I still drink, and I keep my center better, I do worry about destroying my mind sometimes."
"But if I don’t have a drink for a month, I don’t — it’s harder for me to give up bread than it is to give up alcohol. But I like a drink. I grew up in an extended family that likes to drink. My mom, she enjoys a glass of wine or some whisky, but she’s quite moderate relative to my uncles — South Africans are pretty big drinkers. I’ve seen a lot of people around me go sober. The fish always gets bigger when they tell their drinking stories again, but I understand that as well."
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The singer-songwriter and part-time winemaker went on to explain that despite his love for a good bottle, his ability to stop drinking when he chooses is a good sign. "I don’t drink like I used to, I don’t think," Matthews says. "But I like wine. I like the culture of it. I’ve pulled back, but I like it at the same time. I like it."
"Maybe I’m lying to myself, but the reason I don’t really think I’m an alcoholic is because I don’t miss it when I don’t have it. There’s no question that my favorite thing about mowing the lawn is drinking the beer when I’m done, and getting to the bottom of a bottle of Jameson with a friend feels like some sort of poetic achievement — even if it’s really just two people getting drunk. I don’t know if any of that will convince anyone that I’m not an alcoholic, but I don’t have any friends who’ve said, “I think you have a drinking problem.” Maybe that’s just because when I’m drunk I’m a lot of fun."
Prepping the releases of his band's ninth studio effort, Come Tomorrow, the road-weary touring icon reflects on his place in the industry and the public on-stage persona he's been forced to uphold for over a quarter-century, longing for life after the Dave Matthews Band. "I like to imagine myself strolling around with an unkempt beard and painting pictures, maybe writing music for other reasons," the South African born artist said. "I fantasize about those things, because even though I do what I do for a living, I’m quite quiet and reserved as a person. It’s like there’s nighttime me and daytime me: Nighttime me is Dave, who I don’t really like very much, and David is the other me, the one my mother gave birth to."
On touring indefinitely?
"At this point in my life, I don’t see dancing on a stage forever. “Dancing” is too strong a word for what I do. I shake up and down sort of in correspondence to the music while my head sticks out awkwardly. It seems unimaginable that I would do that endlessly. When I look at someone like Neil Young, he’s like Thor. He’s slaying monsters with his guitar. It’s unimaginable that he would ever stop playing music. But for me, no, I can’t see doing this forever — and not because I’m ungrateful."