The DMB member is now bringing that same passion to his first big screen project, "Faces in the Mirror," an emotional movie set to music recorded before any film was shot that tells the story of a man returning home to attend his negligent father's funeral. Tinsley conceived the film, which premieres live on Aug. 30 at SnagFilms.com, and served as music producer, executive producer and performer, and he even makes a cameo appearance.
Tinsley somehow found time between his many roles with the film and touring with DMB this summer to tell us about the making of his unconventional first film, seeing "magic" happen in the recording studio and DMB's influences on his creative process.
You created the music for "Faces in the Mirror" before you actually filmed it. What was the reasoning behind that?
I wanted to have a film that you felt emotionally, because to me, it's like when I go see a movie, it's just the most important thing for me is when I experience it, just feel something from it. Whether it's good, whether it's sad, no matter what, I just want to feel something. So the inspiration to do a movie really came back when DMB did "Crash Into Me," the video back in the mid-'90s. The director that did that did exactly that thing. He did a video that was just so visually beautiful, just so dreamy and bittersweet and haunting, the music reflected that … So I just wanted a movie that you could feel all the way through and that was like one emotion to the other, and it was like seamless. And it was something that required just dancing the film to the music.
Was it stressful to not really know where the film was going when you were making the music, wondering, "Is this going to fit with what we're going to later create?"
It was like right off the bat, we just saw amazing magic just happen. Musicians would get there, like we would play a song, but it's not like we had worked it out. Literally, somebody would just start playing the guitar, playing the drums or something, and a song would materialize. But incredible things like when it came time to go to a chord or to change, everybody went to the same chords and the same rhythm. It's almost like everybody knew where the song was going to go … I kept seeing stuff like this, and it just strengthened my faith and strengthened my belief. Oh wow. The only thing we have to do is to keep going and to keep unfolding this thing, and it will manifest itself, and it did.
It really seemed almost like this glimpse of magic in the beginning and throughout the whole process, because it is stressful. If you really just think about it, it is like you're hanging without a net to catch it. You know, you're just really having a lot of belief there. When you see amazing, inexplicable things happen, it just strengthens your belief, and you just go on. Even if you don't exactly know what this movie is going to be like in the end, we will figure it out in the making of it. It'll all unfold like that.
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Did working with some of the members of Dave Matthews Band on the film help all the musicians get on the same page when creating the music?
No, the musicians I'm talking about are all musicians outside of DMB. Although, later on, Dave [Matthews], Stefan [Lessard] and some of the other guys did put music on the soundtrack … I never played with them, and there were other musicians that never played together, and I was going to the same chords and the same places that they were going to, too ... It was just straight from the heart. We all found a common one, and we all played around that common feeling. We all knew what it felt like, and we all came from there ... There's so much music inside of us, that if we just let go and listen and trust, it just sort of comes out.
Did you approach creating music for the film any differently than creating music with Dave Matthews Band?
No, not really, because DMB is a very open process too. This year, we recorded again with Steve Lillywhite for our new album, "Away From the World," and it was so much fun … I get a lot of stuff I know now from Steve, the whole idea of vibe and creating this vibe where you are safe to be open to express yourself musically and to go to those places ...
So yeah, that really was a big influence on the way I went about making ["Faces in the Mirror"]. One, creating that vibe, and two, just allowing freedom. And from freedom comes great music, you know, and great art, and then taking that and further developing that … I mean, the influence of me making this movie, creatively? Oh my God, it's all from DMB … Freedom is a lot of this band. You know, freedom to explore your own musicality, but within the band, you know. So yeah, I definitely learned a lot from the process of making albums and being in DMB, and a lot of that process definitely applied to making the movie.
In addition to the non-traditional filming of "Faces in the Mirror," you're also premiering the film live on SnagFilms.com.
Yeah, absolutely. It's almost just like everybody who sees this movie and hears the story about it, they're just like touched by it. They feel something from it. It has almost cast a spell on them, and I think it's the kind of thing that should be spread, just from the word of mouth from people, particularly just in a raw, organic kind of way, because it's so raw in itself. The movie is straight from the heart. And it feels like to me, just get it out to people in a very raw way, digitally, but also to experience it live with as many people as we possibly can.
This is an unusual way to bring out a movie, but it's also an unusual way to make a movie, you know, so to me, it just seems normal. And it is. We're just following the path that we set out on this film, and it's been a dream. It's been an absolute dream.