Q&A with Dave Matthews ahead of his "concert and conversation" with the Dalai Lama
What led Dave Matthews to the Dalai Lama? A masseuse and happy happenstance. Matthews, the Seattleite whose Dave Matthews Band has sold...
Seattle Times staff reporter; Seattle Times staff reporter
What led Dave Matthews to the Dalai Lama? A masseuse and happy happenstance.
Matthews, the Seattleite whose Dave Matthews Band has sold millions of records over the past 15 years, will sit down with His Holiness the Dalai Lama in what's being billed as a "concert and conversation," starting today at 4:30 p.m.; the benefit concert is one of the major events of the Seeds of Compassion conference today through Tuesday.
Even Matthews, 41, isn't sure how today's benefit — scheduled as about an hour of conversation and four hours of concert — will unfold. When the Wallingford resident sat down for a 30-minute phone Q&A on Thursday, he spoke frankly about how he tries to meet the spiritual teacher's standard. And how he ended up headlining the Concert for Compassion.
Q: How did you get involved with the Dalai Lama event?
A: The first we heard about it was at least a year ago ... from a friend of ours who was a massage therapist, and the next client of hers had said that they were interested in our involvement ... I've wanted to be involved in it for a long time, and so I'm very happy, delighted, that it's come and that I have the honor of participating in it.
Q: Why do you think they reached out to you?
A: I can't think what they were thinking. Maybe they needed a dumb guy. [Laughs] ... It was probably more of how the cards fell. I was probably going to be playing a show and ... being a part of this conversation may have evolved out of that. I think, first and foremost, it was my good fortune in music that allowed me to be part of it. I think, I hope, though not always, I think we're all hit and miss. We try what we try. Sometimes we're successful, and sometimes we're a little off base.
Q: Why do you think you make a good match for this show?
A: The reason I play music is to touch people — for selfish reasons, as well. It feels good to make someone else feel something, whether it's a kiss, a painting, good idea or it's a song. And, I don't aim my music at tall people, or thin people, or young people, or old people, or cool people, or uncool people. ... My music comes from my heart, and I aim it as well as I can, at anyone who will listen, and that's my intention, and beyond that I don't have any. So I hope that's sort in line with this, the idea of compassion. I don't expect everyone to like my music, but I'm glad that some people do. It gives me job, so I can do what I like to do.
Q: What are you going to ask the Dalai Lama?
A: There's common struggles we all have — how to compassionately face adversity, how to be compassionate toward those we consider our enemies, how we find it in ourselves. I don't think His Holiness considers "enemies" anything but a decision of our own, but I can't speak for him ... and maybe no doubt we will receive some wisdom from him.
Q: What qualities do you have that he preaches, and on the other end, what qualities do you still aspire to that he preaches?
A: I'd love to be free of all the trappings of being human but I am not free of any of them. I think if you name the seven deadly sins, I'm guilty of every one of them. I think I am a very kind person. I think I'm joyful, but I could be kinder and I could be more joyful. I do believe peace is a state of grace, and not the absence of violence. I believe it's a natural state, but I don't think that I'm in an entirely natural state [laughs] myself. I believe in simplicity and at the center of society, it's the philosophy of simplicity, intentional or just natural evolved, that wisdom comes from that. But I don't live simply by any means. I think I live very complicated right now, that I'm almost afraid of not living a complicated life. What will happen if I just sit still and shut up? God forbid I might just vanish. Doesn't really matter I suppose. I have what I would like to be, what I know is most admirable, but I'm nowhere close to those things.
Q: How would you describe yourself?
A: I think I'm probably a very sad man wrapped in a very joyful package, and I think I'm very resilient and I think I'm quite generous, sometimes to a fault. And I'm very bad with money, but I don't see that too much of a flaw.
Q: What is your faith?
A: I was raised Quaker. I pray, but I think I pray for myself not in the hopes that anyone's or anything's listening. I don't believe in any kind of God that pays attention to us as individuals. I think it's absurd. But I'd say I believe in the ground underneath me, and beyond that, things get less and less sure. And although, I believe that we can describe the distances between the stars, we can never really know them, and that's the end of us. More like a mosquito than anything else. That's OK though. Quite a clever mosquito — can't fly though.
Q: Do you think your thoughts on faith will change this weekend?
A: I'm not sure, because I suppose in a way. I have an amount of faith that everything is going to be OK, with or without me, with or without us. The stars still will not know their names and that's OK. So I'm not sure if any of that will change. Maybe I'll decompose and turn into a tulip.
Q: It seems that your personality flows into your music. How do you create your pieces?
A: I do think that I attempt to talk about things that I think about in my music, but I hope that I pose questions or paint pictures, my attempt is to connect to others and find a common ground ... I think we have much more common ground than we acknowledge ... . We all want to be safe and we all want to be reasonably comfortable with a roof over our heads or whatever version of that we have. And we all want to be able to take care of our families.
Q: What's up next?
A: I've been hanging around in my band in the studio. We've been playing music together, writing in a free way we've not done ever, or at least in a long time. It's been a great pleasure, and very therapeutic ... and hopefully whatever and whenever we make something out of our time, it'll reflect that ... . I went down and visited my friend Adam Sandler and played a silly role in one of his works of genius. I like and admire him enormously.
Marian Liu: 206-464-3825 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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