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Tuesday, April 18, 2006
TRocking On His Own Terms

Article Launched: 04/21/2006 04:24:00 AM PDT

Rocking on his own terms
Paul Liberatore

Tim Reynolds could have been a rock star. He could have been in the Dave Matthews Band. He could have been to Matthews what Keith is to Mick, what Miami Steve is to Bruce. He was in the right place at the right time for that to happen. It just wasn't for him.

A renowned guitarist, particularly in jam band circles, Reynolds is too fiercely independent and creatively adventurous for the commercial confines and regimentation of a superstar rock band.

"I always realized, even when I was really young, that the time commitment involved in being a true rock star is pretty deep," he says, speaking from a hotel room in Tucson, Ariz., before a show there.

"It's like joining the Army. You have to go and be in this whole scene, and my personality doesn't fit that. I know myself well enough to realize that I would get rebellious in a situation where you have to go and tour, you have to do this, you have to do that. I like to do things where there's more breathing space."

The 48-year-old Reynolds, touring behind a new double disc solo album, "Parallel Universe," brings his one-man acoustic show to Sweetwater in Mill Valley next Wednesday night.

He is in the enviable position of having his own space and still benefiting from his association with Matthews, whom he has known and collaborated with since their scuffling days in Charlottesville, Va., more than a decade ago.

As an acoustic duo, they recorded the hit album "Live at Luther College," which climbed to No. 2 on the pop charts in 1999 and featured Reynolds' solo composition, "Stream."

About that time, they played a memorable benefit concert at Marin Center with Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead and Carlos Santana.

With Trey Anastasio of Phish, Reynolds played on Matthews' first solo album, "Some Devil," in 2003, and went on to join Dave Matthews & Friends, playing with the group on the album "Live from Bonnaroo 2004" and performing with the band when it headlined a Caribbean cruise in February.

Reynolds has added his guitar work to the Matthews Band's studio albums, including their 1994 major label breakthrough "Under the Table and Dreaming." But he has never been a full-time member, and that's the way he likes it.

"I got to watch them make their arc, and I got to participate on the recordings, but I never really got into the band commitment," he says, adding with a laugh, "In a way, I get to cheat."

Reynolds had a ringside seat as Matthews, a bartender and actor in Charlottesville, made his phenomenal rise to international rock stardom in the '90s.

In the beginning, the two of them "used to jam in his basement and do crazy industrial recordings. It wasn't like what the Dave Matthews Band sounds like now. It was all over the place."

He remembers the first time Matthews got on stage and electrified an audience. It was with a song that closed an elaborate concert of music from "West Side Story" staged by jazz trumpeter John D'earth, a musical guru in Charlottesville at the time.

"It was like an experiment," he recalls. "Dave was just a local guy who worked in a bar and was known for being pretty musical. He had no band, so they had him play the last song after this whole Broadway production.

"He gets up on stage, just stands there nervously, but joyously, with a big ol' smile on his face, and sings a song. This whole night there's this big production going on and then this hippie guy with long curly locks gets up there and sings one song, and it lights up the place way more than this whole Broadway show did."

Matthews attracted the attention of a couple of savvy managers, and he was soon drawing crowds of swooning young women to his weekly girls night gigs in area clubs.

"You couldn't get in the parking lot because it was just girls everywhere," Reynolds recalls.

"That's probably another reason I didn't go with him. I was married and had a baby and I couldn't say to my wife, 'Honey, I'm going to go play every Tuesday night for a bunch of beautiful girls.' It was never my scene to do that.

"And when they were starting their early phase of having to travel a lot, I was raising a family and had my own little musical scene that kept me going. I didn't want to lose all that."

Reynolds marvels at the sensational success of the Dave Matthews Band, seeing it as a combination of luck, timing, talent, hard work and brilliant marketing.

"They took the Grateful Dead method of merchandising and made it a modern science," he says.

"They had this managerial chutzpah behind them. It's amazing how thought out it was, how smart they were in their first push into the public eye. But nobody gets famous without really working at it."

Reynolds now lives in Santa Fe with his wife of 17 years, their 10-year-old daughter and his 18-year-old stepson. He also has a 23-year-old son from his first marriage and a year-old granddaughter.

He's active in liberal political causes, and drew from a speech by Noam Chomsky for the lyrics to a song on the new album called "Indoctrinate."

On this solo tour of clubs and small halls, he plays acoustic guitars, notably a Martin 12-string, with a minimum of gadgets and effects. He travels with only a driver and a road manager, no entourage, no rock star trappings.

"I kind of like the realness of it," he says.

"I can't afford tour buses and all that. That's when you've got to be with a record company and be part of that machine, and I'm not ready for the machine. Life is enough of a machine already."

IF YOU GO Who: Tim Reynolds performs songs from his new solo album, "Parallel Universe," Brad Wolfe opens When: 9 p.m. Wednesday Where: Sweetwater, 153 Throckmorton Ave. in Mill Valley Tickets: $20 Information: 388-2820 Paul Liberatore can be reached at liberatore@marinij.com

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