When Tim Reynolds saw that Charlottesville’s Confederate statues had finally been removed, he was relieved and thought it was about time.
“They finally got that racist s*** out,” he said.
The two-time Grammy nominated composer and guitarist for the Dave Matthews Band got his start in Charlottesville, performing at Miller’s on the Downtown Mall almost every Monday night from 1986 to 1997. Reynolds met Dave Matthews while performing at Miller’s and the band was born.
When CommunityZ RecordZ, a non-profit record label, reached out to Reynolds about producing a charitable single, he said it was a no-brainer to give back to the city that gave him his start.
100% of proceeds from the previously unreleased single, entitled “Guardian Angels,” will go the Charlottesville Public Housing Association of Residents, more commonly known as PHAR. The Black-led organization is dedicated to advocating for and with public housing residents. They are entirely governed by public housing residents and one Section 8 resident. In April, PHAR founder and current chair Joy Johnson received a lifetime achievement award from the National Low Income Housing Coalition.
“I’m really happy [the single] was something that could benefit housing in Charlottesville for the actual residents and kind of push back against gentrification,” Reynolds said. “[PHAR] is really cool and authentic in what they’re trying to be.”
The single is based on a previously unreleased demo Reynolds recorded several years ago on a four track in his home. Reynolds’ friend Will Bradford, a musician and founder of CommunityZ RecordZ, expressed interest in collaborating with Reynolds on a charitable track. Reynolds was interested in giving back to the Charlottesville community, so he dug through his old unreleased recordings and picked one he thought would be perfect to release.
“[Bradford] is a super, super smart guy. You know, I’m just hanging around in a bunker during COVID and he has this great idea,” Reynolds said.
Fredericksburg native Nikki Glaspie, who has toured with Beyoncé and other acclaimed artists and is currently a member of the band The Nth Power, plays drums and percussion on the track.
“I had never met [Glaspie], but I’d heard her play live … I was aware of her talent, and who she was,” Reynolds said.
Reynolds and Glaspie made the recording about a year ago and had to put it together from their respective homes due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Reynolds and Glaspie both sent recordings back and forth to by music editor Will Holland, who synchronized them and adjusted the sound.
“It was amazing, especially when you can clearly hear someone with a level of skill and artistry on drums playing on a tune that I recorded a long time ago,” Reynolds said.
The music video for the single features footage of the removal of Charlottesville’s statues of Confederate Gens. Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. Reynolds said the timing of this was serendipitous as the Dave Matthews Band band had a tour rehearsal at the University of Virginia’s John Paul Jones Arena the following day.
Reynolds said he was thrilled that the statues had been removed.
“I used to hang out downtown for years and years. I remember walking through the park and seeing the statues and thinking ‘what the f*** is this doing here? I thought this was a cool liberal joint,’” he said. “I wondered why some racist guy who was a general and was not on the good side was still there.”
The end of the video features footage of Reynolds playing his guitar in front of the empty base where the Jackson statue stood only a day before.
“Charlottesville’s growing up. It’s a really great thing they can take that awful thing and turn it around and not have to make a big deal about it and not saying ‘look how great we are.’ We’re just doing it because that’s what we do,” he said. “I’m hoping and trusting that America’s growing up about racism.”
Reynolds said he was amazed at how well the music he wrote years ago accompanies the footage of the statue removal and captures the mood of the day.
“The tune has a montage-y vibe and is the perfect soundtrack as the Lee statue gets taken away,” Reynolds said.
When Reynolds recorded the first demo when he lived in New Mexico, he was trying out the groove and chill genres of music. He initially added a drum machine beat to his recording, but then removed it.
“It was more organic [without the drum machine beat] that way,” Reynolds said of the original recording. “It was just a groove … clean, simple and I just kind of let it be a groove … [Holland] could just kind of sync it to some beautiful, very beautiful kind of drums [performed by Glaspie].”
Reynolds said as someone who lived in Charlottesville for 20 years, the events of the deadly “Unite the Right” white supremacist rally in 2017 deeply horrified him.
“It really speaks to why I was compelled to do something to kind of reverse the energy of something that really was bad when the fascists came marching into Charlottesville. Like, what the hell was that?” he said.
Reynolds, who now lives in Sarasota, Fla., said Charlottesville will always have an important place in his heart. As for the title, “Guardian Angels,” Reynolds said it could mean many things to different people, but he thinks it describes the people of Charlottesville who have fought for equity and the removal of the statues perfectly.
“I had to come up with the title and this was before we had the video, or any idea … the statues would come down … this was in COVID when things were dark, dark,” he said. “I’ve always liked that idea of guardian angels. I don’t really believe in angels per se, but I also believe that we don’t know everything, so I certainly can’t disprove or display things beyond what we see. Physics describes the entire world, the most important world is invisible. There’s a lot going on that we can’t see.”
“To me … Charlottesville’s the guardian angel … after that terrible thing happened several years ago, the statues have been removed. Charlottesville’s such a great place,” Reynolds said. “The fact that they’ve quietly removed statues when people came and loudly tried to say how great it was and then Charlottesville quietly took them down … I think that’s a town with a big heart.”
“Guardian Angels” is exclusively available on CommunityZ RecordZ’s BandCamp site at https://tinyurl.com/bfbmr29u for a minimum donation of $5 with 100% of proceeds going to PHAR.