Solo Salvation

By picking and choosing his projects wisely, Tim Reynolds is picking and grinning his way toward artistic fulfillment

by Lee Abraham

Tim Reynolds has no regrets. Sure, he had a lock on fame and fortune if he would have joined the Dave Matthews Band, but Reynolds chose the trail less traveled, instead deciding to follow his own muse. Thatís not say he turned his back on Matthews, an old buddy from back in the day, he didnít. Quite the contrary. The two are tighter than ever. But by keeping his options open, Reynolds made it possible to keep their collaboration -and- friendship intact.

"I always kept my own thing going because by the time they were starting to get national recognition I was in my thirties," says Reynolds. "So I already knew myself enough to know that if I were to do that and make it a full time thing, I probably wouldn't hang with it. Whereas if I kind of stayed off to the side and did it whenever they did their records, the longevity would hang." Looking back, the decision still feels right. "Once I started doing my own thing, even though it wasnít necessarily big and successful, I realized that was what I wanted to do."

-Doing his own thing- brought Reynolds a heavy rep as a fretboard stud. Heís earned it. The guy is one of the best guitar players on the planet. Didnít start out that way though. Back in the mid Ď80s, Reynolds was struggling just to stay afloat. His salvation - a Monday night gig in Charlottesville, Virginia, playing solo. "I was so poor," he recalls, "that it was like the one gig that kind of kept me from being completely homeless. It started out with an electric guitar and effects, and I developed the effects to make it sound kind of orchestral. Then I dropped that mode and played sitar for a couple of years, just learning how to play instruments on this gig."

After the sitar phase Reynolds went to the 12 string guitar. Around that same time he crossed paths with a boisterous new bartender who had just been hired at the nightclub. His name - Dave Matthews. The two hit it off immediately. "Heís a very funny person," says Reynolds, "Very amazing sense of humor. Funnier than Jim Carey if you ask me. But it was so long ago, and we hung out so many times, I canít really remember the very first time we met." While the introductions may not stand out, Reynolds vividly recalls their early jam sessions. "Weíd do things that we thought were dark and evil, blood rock, or whatever," says an amused Reynolds. "He would do like rap versions of Amazing Grace. I would kind of do the music and he would do the vocals."

Knowing that he wanted to pursue his own projects, Reynolds encouraged Matthews to start a band of his own. What Reynolds didnít know, was what a huge success that band would be. "When it first started out, I didnít really think much of it," he recalls. "They would go out on the road and you could tell that they were at least being very successful locally. As in every town, people get really big locally, but you never think that necessarily translates into a national thing. As time went on, it was obvious that they were getting more national recognition."

"As soon as they made their first big record, right after that we did the acoustic tour," continues Reynolds. "So that was kind of like the other thing to do instead of join the band. We actually did those kind of gigs before they even did their first record locally, so that kind of developed for the joy of doing it." -Live At Luther College-, released in early Ď99, captures the unique chemistry between the two. A strong seller, the CD also helped Reynolds establish himself as a household name among the dorm room and frat house set.

Reynoldís new CD, -See Into Your Soul-, goes one step further, Itís -all- Reynolds. "Half the record is solo acoustic guitar recorded with no effects," he explains. "I started out playing bass, and doing that thumb, kind of slapping thing, and also played drums, so all those things come together to form what I do on guitar. The other half is a little harder to describe. Itís acoustic guitar but itís also acoustic guitar through effects, so it doesnít sound like acoustic guitar. It has more of -band- vibe. I like to rock out even though I play acoustic guitar and do solo gigs."

For Reynolds, itís all about balance. Performing solo or with a band, electric, acoustic, or whatever, everything relates to the bigger musical picture. In the end though, itís the solo acoustic stuff that gets Reynolds excited. "You can play lead guitar in a band and go wail and shred and all that, and itís kind of fun, but in a way I can do that really easily," he says. "What I like about playing a solo thing is that you have to play the bass and the chords to make it sound like music. I wouldnít really try to recreate the other half of the album live unless I had a band."

"I actually recorded the record thatís coming out now, last year. Since then Iíve written a bunch more acoustic stuff and some of itís on the 12 string, so Iíll be playing a lot of 12 string. If thereís anything that I do thatís unique, which I donít really know because I canít really observe myself from anywhere other than inside of my own head, it will come out in this idiom as opposed to with a band."