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Dave Matthews Band: Growing On 'The Dreaming Tree'

April 14th, 1998

Allstar Magazine

Dave Matthews is a humble man. Even though the band's forthcoming album, Before These Crowded Streets, expands upon their trademark sound with interesting new twists, Matthews feels he's been "growing more with an equal lack of direction." And, while one of the songs on the album -- "The Dreaming Tree" -- is a track he is especially proud of, he somehow thinks it'll get slammed.

"I guess we're sort of growing in the same direction we have been going," says Matthews about the group's evolution from their debut album, 1994's Under the Table and Dreaming, to what will be release number six. "I don't know if it's the same way or maybe we're growing more with an equal lack of direction than we had. I'm just trying not to repeat myself -- trying to find rhythms that don't resemble the things I've written. And you know, I don't very often succeed."

On Before These Crowded Streets, Matthews and Co. -- Carter Beauford (drums, percussion), Stefan Lessard (bass), Leroi Moore (saxophone, flute), and Boyd Tinsley (violin) -- certainly succeed.

Out of all 11 tracks on the Steve Lillywhite- produced album, Matthews' favorite is "The Dreaming Tree," which explains why a line from this song was used for the album's title.

"Stefan had the initial idea for the music and then he and I got together and finished it," he says. "I love the little story in there. I've never written stories like that. And I like the image of the dreaming tree. There are these two characters, the woman and an old man. I think I identify more with the woman than the old man. I guess the hook is that the dreaming tree has died -- it's some sort of memory of lost hope of the two characters in the song, then there's a voice in the middle that's directed at God, but you don't really know that, so it leaves you saying, 'Who the hell is he talking to?' It's almost like three separate stories."

Some sample lyrics from "The Learning Tree": "Standing here/ The old man said to me/ 'Long before these crowded streets here stood my dreaming tree'/ Below it would sit/ For hours at a time/ Now progress takes away/ What forever took to find/ Now he's falling hard/ He feels the falling dark/ How he longs to be/ Beneath his dreaming tree."

"I think those lyrics are the strongest and the furthest from anything I've ever written before," Matthews continues. "So I'll probably get slated. People will be like, 'That really sucks. What the hell is he talking about? Oh, doesn't he sound like Shel Silverstein. Prick.'" (Silverstein is the author of the best- seller The Giving Tree... get it?)

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