Boyd Tinsley’s Mirror Ball
Dave Matthews Band fiddler Boyd Tinsley has spent a good chunk of his recent off season promoting his new independent movie Faces In The Mirror. The film has been in the works for nearly four years. While in the studio with Dave Mathews Band recording Big Whiskey and the Groogrux King in 2008, Tinsley would meet another group of musicians at night to record another set of music for the film. Instead of a big budget release, Tinsley used DMB’s original grassroots tactics to bring his labor of love to fans across the country.
While at home in Virginia, Tinsley explained to Jambands.com and Relix how he created his film, why he is touring Faces In The Mirror across the U.S. in small pop-up settings and why you may hear “True Reflections” live sometime soon.
I know that you wrote the music for Faces In The Mirror first and then decided to put a script to it. Can you describe what that process was like?
It was almost like the inspiration for this movie. I started thinking about the character, I knew the actor that I wanted to get, so I started to think about the actor and what I wanted him to have in common with the character that we were going to create around him. The thing that he had in common with his character was the death of his father. The main thing for me was I wanted to bring realism to the movie and I wanted it to come from the heart and I didn’t want him to just act. I wanted everything from this movie to come from the heart and one of the reasons why we did the music first is that when when the musicians got in the room I had them play from the heart, from their own experiences and sort of create the rest of the story.
Everyone just got in there and opened up. I had the environment look like a late night from the ‘30s- low lighting, candles and incense. I was just trying to create a vibe where everybody felt safe because you have to open up your heart. Magic came out and most of the music that you hear in the movie just happened in the moment. So we had the music and then there was this period of about a week, a month or so or maybe more when everybody listened to it. That’s all that happened. The director listened to it, the screenwriter listened to it, the actors. Everybody listened just to get the vibe and the mood of the movie.
The music really was the thing that drove everything we did around the movie and even to the end of the movie and the editing process, it was really the music that dictated the way that the movie moved. We didn’t take the movie then write the music to it; we took the music and we put the movie around it. It was like a dance. Aaron [Farrington] and I, we edited it a lot of times, kind of like a dance, sometimes he led and sometimes I led. [Laughs.] It was cool. It was probably one of the best working relationships with anyone I’ve ever had. We worked for two years, including editing.
You started writing the music in 2009, right?
In 2008, when DMB was in the studio for Big Whiskey in Seattle, I would spend noon to midnight there, then I would go to another studio from like midnight to 6 am and play with another group of musicians, Maktub, who are from Seattle and also Shawn Smith of Brad. It was like five or six hours a day but the thing about it was every moment [there was] music going on. Even when we took breaks, somebody would go into the studio and start playing the piano, the drums or the bass, so there are pieces where people didn’t even realize that they were being recorded because everybody was so excited about it that they just wanted to play. There was a gospel tune on the album that I sing but that was one of those things that came from Shawn Smith who came into the studio room on a break, started playing on the piano and the drummer happened to go in. It stated off as just a drum and piano just jamming in between takes with the band and it developed into a full song. It was fun. Everybody was so excited about this.
Was it very different than your experiences with DMB? The recording process, the creative process, working with other musicians or were there a lot of similarities?
There were similarities. For me, from the way I approach it, I like to take an idea and develop it. Dave [Matthews] always says to me “BT will never play the same thing twice,” which is pretty much true because I always like to create a story every time I play. That’s pretty much the approach that we took, even with the movie, was to start with the premise of the father dying and the son coming back, knowing that there was some thing there, but really not knowing the complete story until we went to the process of making the movie. The music was really also in a way some of what we did in DMB. We sort of just got in there and started playing. [When] we did Big Whiskey & the GrooGrux King, we all got into the studio and did the exact same thing. Dave would come and sort of just started playing and then before you know it, everybody would jump in and we would start developing a song. It could have been anybody. Fonzy [Stefan Lessard] might start, Carter [Beauford] might stat. There was never any like, “ok guys, this is what we’re going to do.” It was really communication through music.
There are a lot of really great songs. Between the movie and the GrooGrux album, there’s really a lot of great music.
I guess it was just a really creative time because I was sort of taking stuff from both sessions, from one session to the other, and they were both great sessions. This movie really opened me up creatively as a musician. The way that I play now is very different from the way that I played before the movie. It’s just really opened me up. I played stuff that I never played before. I was just like, “Wow! Where did that come from?” It’s because I’m more open. I think the movie gave me more courage to just sort of open up and not go back to what I’ve always known, but actually have the courage to go places where my heart says to go.
Do you think that music on Away from the World is a result of that?
Absolutely. On Away from the World, stuff came out that I had never played. On “Drunken Soldier,” there’s this violin part that I play kind of like early in that tune and that actually is the very first time that I play that line, the one that’s on the recording. It was one of those cases where I just completely let go and this melody just came out.
And it’s a really beautiful song.
Thank you very much, man. But honestly I would not have been able to do what I did unless I had done this movie because it’s a matter of trust [and] it’s a matter of belief. The belief first started when I had the inspiration to do this movie, I believed in it; it was such a huge feeling. It took three years, but throughout that time, I believed [and] other people believed because we saw amazing things happen, like songs just be created and we just saw magical things happen when we were shooting and editing the movie. So every step along the way, we had something to say [like] “Ok, keep going. This is coming together.”