For as prolific and successful and seemingly ubiquitous as Dave Matthews and the Dave Matthews Band are, the group has only garnered one Grammy Award in its history.
Videos by American Songwriter
Videos by American Songwriter
To date, the group has released nine studio LPs (with a 10th coming later this year, Walk Around the Moon), along with dozens of live albums. Many of these studio LPs, including albums like Crash and Before These Crowded Streets, have gone to No. 1 on the Billboard charts. Yet, the group, which has grossed more dollars and sold more tickets than nearly any band in history on tour, has only received one Grammy trophy.
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What did they earn that Grammy for? Best Rock Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group for their 1996 song, “So Much to Say,” from the band’s seminal album Crash.
Let’s go behind the song and its meaning,
The Song’s Origins
Written by Matthews, the band’s violinist Boyd Tinsley (who is no longer with the band), and the group’s keyboard player (from 1990 to 1993) Peter Griesar, “So Much to Say” was the opening track on Dave Matthews Band’s 1996 album Crash. Though Griesar had departed DMB by the time the song was released, he retained writing credit. Tinsley left the band much later after alleged sexual misconduct.
Though the track opens the album, it was the second single released from the album Crash. It eventually hit No. 19 on the Modern Rock Tracks chart in the U.S. and proved to be the group’s way into Grammy success. On the song, Matthews offers his signature rubbery falsetto, kissing the sonic ceiling of his range. He bounces on the track, weaving, and bobbing, at the peak of his singing game.
The Song Itself
Opening with a beefy acoustic rhythm riff, as is signature to Matthews and his skillful style of playing, “So Much to Say” opens with a vulnerable lyric. I say my hell is the closet, I’m stuck inside / Can’t see the light / And my heaven is a nice house in the sky / Got central heating and I’m alright, sings Matthews.
Known for his dreamy, stream-of-consciousness lyric writing, Matthews is being both open to the listener and a bit dodgy. Speaking in such a metaphor disconnects the reader from the boots-on-the-ground details, yet we feel what Matthews is saying, energetically. Being alone, isolated, confused. But with hope for something better: a heaven. Matthews is always hopeful, even on his bleakest tunes.
Almost immediately, though, Matthews clams up even more in the song, singing, Can’t see the light / Keep it locked up inside / Don’t talk about it / T-t-talk about the weather. In much of his early work on the band’s debut studio LP, Under the Table and Dreaming and Crash, Matthews highlights the disconnect between internal and external thoughts, between keeping it composed in society and freaking out in one’s mind. This song is a clear and great example of that.
He goes further, giving himself and/or the listener advice as to how to see what’s real: Open up my head and let me out, a-little baby / ‘Cause here we have been standing for a long, long time. Later in the song, Matthews continues to play with his listener and his own point of view, singing: I find sometimes it’s easy to be myself / Sometimes I find it’s better to be somebody else. Is he just playing dress-up, or does he crave more?
Looking at all of the above and taking into consideration the song’s chorus and title—So much to say—it’s clear Matthews is at something of a crossroads, enduring a conundrum. He has these thoughts, they slip out from his lips in song. But he’s also guarded and unsure of how they will be received outwardly. Nevertheless, no matter the amount of hiding, there remains simply—yes—so much to say. He can’t help it. (Indeed, there is a whole album in store for us after this song.) This track reminds us of that reality. Even when we’re feeling removed, the amount to say, the thoughts, never truly subside for us or for Matthews, as an artist.
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Crash, the album on which “So Much to Say” appeared, remains the band’s most successful to date. It’s sold millions of copies, approaching 10 million. It’s also been certified platinum many times over. It’s the band’s best-selling studio LP.
DMB recorded it in 1995 and released it shortly thereafter in early 1996. Four songs, according to lore, “didn’t make the final cut.” Though those songs, to date, aren’t known. Perhaps they made subsequent albums.
What is known is that thanks to the LP’s signature song and others like “#41” and “So Much to Say,” the band remains iconic.
While DMB has a slew of songs worth digesting, “So Much to Say” remains at the top of the list both for its inclusion on the band’s signature LP and for the significant award it received. It’s distinguished and, therefore, crucial.
Photo by Terry Wyatt/Getty Images for Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival