The Cage I Was In began as most of our album projects do, with a massive collection of song demos that I relentlessly push Dave Matthews to hear. In early March 2015 it began, as I was visiting Nashville for my annual performance as Freddie Mercury in Marcus Hummon’s “The Greatest Show Ever”, and had a few songs to share with Dave during the trip. He doesn’t just press record, he reacts, so I can usually tell when it’s going to be a fruitful session; we recorded four songs that day, all of which are on this record.
Most every morning I call Dave during my 40-minute commute to my teaching studio, and we discuss life as well as joke about the fact that I’m sending so many songs to him that we should make a box set. On one of these extra long commutes, Dave suggested that it had been too long since Benjamin Bennett and Steve Clark, the other two thirds of my band The Mayhem, had recorded with us, and the concept for this release was born. It would be a two-disc set; one featuring the full band with electric tendencies, the other completely acoustic, with Dave’s brilliant additions, of course.
Dave came to Charleston in May of 2016 and hadn’t even unpacked before I started dumping more songs on him – around 60 or so. We collected Steve and Ben, recorded 12 songs with them, and then several more acoustically with me. Dave headed back to Music City, recordings in hand, and started sifting through the tunes. He decided to return to Charleston in August, and again as he was unpacking I played a load of new songs for him; three hit him hard, so we booked Truphonic for a half day, and hit record.
The next time Dave set foot on Charleston soil was a month later, with the intent to have a finished record when he left. We discovered the words “peace” and “forgiveness” in many spots. And we realized this disc wasn’t as simple as “electric” and “acoustic”, but was more a journey of emotional challenge and triumph. It was stylistically free, as my work often is, but in a way that was truly adventurous, visiting musical terrain I hadn’t traveled prior. The disc was a unified process of discovery for Dave and I, and allowed us to push ourselves once again, trying to reach new levels of creativity. We had multiple conversations about Prince, who we lost in April, and what his own challenging achievements meant to our individual musical growth, and that inspired us as well.
Ultimately, we discovered this collection of very honest, genuinely expressive songs, speaking of themes rarely put to melody. We found 24 more musical reasons to celebrate the friendship we have had since our time working with One Flew South. I’d say we both discovered the taste of freedom that music blesses us with – for me the freedom from The Cage I Was In.