Pleasure researchers say that as humans, we tend to enjoy familiar sounds over new ones. Perhaps it is our fear of change, or the unknown, but numerous studies point to this finding. I believe that Dave Matthews is aware of this theory, because years ago, when he introduced his then-nouveau album “Crash,” he told listeners, “I hope you like it, but if you don’t, listen to it a few more times.” A wise man, Dave is.
And I can only imagine that knowing our innate and unconscious prejudices against novel material would naturally make a musician wary of bringing out his latest creation in front of a live audience. That’s why I am so grateful that Dave walks through his apprehension, and performs with all of his being. Every time.
Knowing the psychology of preferences, I’m also amazed when a new song cuts through the invisible barrier and reaches into my core the very first time that I hear it. Such was the case with “Sweet,” a tune that emerged as a Dave solo on ukulele at the Chicago Caravan, on 7/8/11, and has been played once since, on 8/20/11, with Tim Reynolds.
Dave introduces “Sweet,” by saying that it’s a song that he wrote the morning of it’s July debut, and that it is, but also is not, about his little boy learning how to swim. This is just one aspect of Dave’s lyrical prowess that I adore. Maybe because, as a writer, I can truly relate to what he is saying; that even if we start out with one goal or idea in mind, we will inevitably be swept away by the creative process, with surprisingly little knowledge of where the journey may end. And if we try to control the waves, or fight against the current, we will likely drown in our own confused thoughts.
So what is “Sweet” really about, besides the obvious references to swimming? I’m sure that we each could interject our own meanings here. But to me, it’s as Dave says, about “that feeling when you’re in too deep.” Who among us doesn’t know that feeling when life is presenting us with challenges that seem beyond our grasp? And when Dave sings, “If I could, I’d turn it around,” I imagine that he is at once speaking about the process of getting older and making mistakes, and also the wish to trade places so that he could swim for his son. As parents, we are constantly looking for ways to make our children’s lives easier, although most of the time we need to hold ourselves back, hoping that experience will be a kind teacher.
I think that one of the reasons that I gravitated so strongly towards this melody from the outset has to do with the fact that I was recovering from surgery when I first heard these profound words. The synchronicity with which Dave Matthews Band songs resonate with me, and millions of others, is, of course, a whole article in itself. But suffice it to say that when you are lying in bed, existing on boring and bland foods, without a clue as to how long recovery will take, the phrase, “Let me out, I want to go home now,” feels like it’s coming straight from the inner recesses of your own heart. Thankfully, like a thousand year old dreaming tree, DMB is always there to cover me.
Hayley Bauman, Psy.D.
Author of Serendipity and the Search for True Self