You may not know it, but the Dave Matthews Band is one of the highest-grossing touring bands of all time. The group, which rose to fame in the early ’90s with its east coast brand of jam band tunes, has steadily amassed a following playing to giant crowds and offering elongated songs.
But the funny thing about that is that the band’s frontman and namesake, Dave Matthews, doesn’t say much on the mic between songs. He keeps it short and keeps the show on track.
So, we wondered, what might the 55-year-old, South African-born Matthews have to say about life, love, his craft, and more outside of the stage and outside of his song’s lyrics?
So, without further ado, let’s dive into the 23 best Dave Matthews quotes.
1. “I was regularly advised not to go into music, that I should give up that foolish dream.”
2. “When I write the set, I try to create something that will not only be interesting for the audience but will have a flow for the band, too, so we don’t get boring.”
3. “We look to our leaders once we elect them to either lead us in the right direction or at least not crush us.”
4. “Nothing is black or white, nothing’s ‘us or them.’ But then there are magical, beautiful things in the world. There are incredible acts of kindness and bravery, and in the most unlikely places, and it gives you hope.”
5. “Take what you can from your dreams, make them as real as anything.”
6. “A friend is always good to have, but a lover’s kiss is better than angels raining down on me.”
7. “The idea of God as a fatherly figure who looks down on us and worries about how we’re doing or takes sides when we have fights—it’s more irritating than Santa Claus. The world and the universe are far more wonderful if there’s not a puppet master.”
8. “The saddest part of the human race is we’re obsessed with this idea of ‘us and them,’ which is really a no-win situation, whether it’s racial, cultural, religious or political.”
9. “Being able to scream at the top of my lungs in front of people is very therapeutic. It is a great gift for me to be able to do that.”
10. “I go back to South Africa at least once a year, sometimes twice, and usually for a month. And probably, I’m guessing, I’ll spend more time back there as I get older.”
11. “I never went to college—I barely got out of high school.”
12. “A guy and a girl can be just friends, but at one point or another, they will fall for each other… maybe temporarily, maybe at the wrong time, maybe too late, or maybe forever.”
13. “In so many areas of life, I’m a spaz and incompetent.”
14. “We give the podium to a lot of people who shouldn’t have the podium. The message that’s delivered the loudest and in the most entertaining way is the one that we’re going to put on because that’s what we want. We want ratings more than we want to deliver information. That’s just where the culture’s gotten.”
15. “We have to be active about kindness and about peace. I’ve always fantasized that it would be great if there was a Department of Peace.”
16. “I’m a bit of a caveman—I don’t go out into the digital space very often. I lie facedown on the grass and count how many bugs I can find.”
17. “When I listen to my favorite songwriters, they have such simple melodies and chords. I occasionally manage to stop at the right time, but all too often I keep on going until I have way too many notes and words. But that’s just what I do.”
18. “Success turns a lot of people off. I have a pretty solid sense of joy and respect that irritates people, and can irritate me, too.”
19. “For me, in songwriting, I have a route I can take. Maybe there’s some forks, I can go this way, this way. But I know those roads. I still have the experience behind me.”
20. “I found there’s fairly blatant racism in America that’s already there, and I don’t think I noticed it when I lived here as a kid. But when I went back to South Africa, and then it’s sort of thrust in your face, and then came back here—I just see it everywhere.”
21. “I definitely like the oddballs. There’s a song called ‘Little Thing,’ which is the only song that I have recorded that has no words. And it’s the one that I get past my critic inside me.”
22. “So often we talk about saving the planet, but what we really mean is to save the planet the way it is, so we can live here. So that it can sustain us. Because the planet doesn’t need to be saved. It doesn’t care if all the squirrels, elephants, and trees die and there’s just a couple of amoebas floating around at the poles.”
23. “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.”
Photo by Terry Wyatt/Getty Images for Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival