"I'm in downtown Cincinnati right now," Tinsley explains hurriedly, the bustle of lunchtime traffic audible in the background. "I'm going to go find somewhere to sit down and have a little conversation."
Although the pace of Tinsley's twelve-year association with the Dave Matthews Band would be enough to leave anyone gasping for breath -- six studio albums (seven if you count 2000's aborted Lillywhite Sessions), four official live releases and a seemingly never-ending series of support tours -- Tinsley welcomes the attention and not so quietly yearns for more.
"From the very beginning, we would be in Charlottesville [in Virginia] playing at a club called Trax every Tuesday night, and we would all wonder if this was going to be the week that nobody would come," Tinsley recalls. "But each week we played there, more people would come. We would have 75 people, then 150 people, and so on. We'd be in a dressing room thinking, When is this going to end? And it never has."
Almost on cue, Tinsley is stopped on the street for an autograph. One side of the conversation drifts over his cell phone.
"Hey, what's up? No problem, man ... that's cool," Tinsley says warmly. "Thanks, man, thanks. Take care.
"Sorry, a fan came by," Tinsley explains before returning to his line of thought. "I think we're probably the biggest word-of-mouth band in the world, with help from the media and MTV only coming after that. From the beginning, it was kids sending tapes to their friends around the country that spread the word. When I look back, I probably wouldn't have imagined some of the things that have happened. I know this, though: We're all still serious about making music and dedicated to what we're doing. I know that."
That level of dedication, however, hasn't kept the band members from seeking out side projects and solo opportunities, with Tinsley being the first to step into the spotlight with a solo studio release. His debut, True Reflections, represents the fruit of nearly two years of labor.
"If I wasn't onstage with DMB or in the studio, I was in the studio working on this project," Tinsley says. "It's something I wanted to do for a while. All of us came from different musical backgrounds before we got to this thing. That may be one of the reasons why we sound the way we sound. I wanted to go out and explore some other musical styles that I've played in the past and do an album of that, but I also wanted to do some songwriting. Up to this album, I'd only written 'True Reflections,' and I cowrote 'So Much to Say' with Dave and Peter Griesar, so this was an opportunity for me to explore some different musical avenues."
The result is an eleven-track collection that ranges from the easygoing drive of the disc's opener, "It's Alright," to a quietly reverential cover of Neil Young's "Cinnamon Girl." Though Tinsley doesn't anticipate being able to draw many of these cuts into the DMB's repertoire for the current tour -- the group plans to delve into its catalog for songs it hasn't played in a while -- he is planning to get out and support the album's release this fall. Autumn also will be a time for his bandmates to work on their own projects.
"I think it's a trend not only for me but also for the band to do these solo albums," Tinsley says. "Dave's going to follow it up in the fall with his solo album, called Some Devil. Stefan [Lessard] is also working on some tunes for a possible album, Carter [Beauford] has been working on music for soundtracks and movies, and I believe even Leroi [Moore] has begun the process of songwriting, so everybody is involved in their own work to some degree," he says, referring to the DMB's bass player, drummer and sax man, respectively. We're all in that vein right now. Yes, we've got this band, this is great, but maybe the next level is that we branch out and do stuff on our own. I think that kind of experience only makes the Dave Matthews Band that much better."