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Dave Matthews makes (and talks) history

By Kareen Wynter and Denise Quan, CNN
September 20, 2012 -- Updated 1534 GMT (2334 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • New album is sixth consecutive studio one to debut at number one on the Billboard 200 chart
  • No other group in Billboard history has achieved that mark
  • Matthews says he is concerned whether President Obama can win re-election

(CNN) -- Dave Matthews supported Barack Obama in the presidential race of 2008, and he's supporting him again in 2012 -- but not without reservations.

The multi-platinum Grammy winner laments, "I wish there was a third party, but right now, I will wholeheartedly support Obama -- even if I'm slightly heartbroken about it."

Matthews spoke with CNN's Kareen Wynter in support of "Away From the World," the sixth consecutive studio album from the Dave Matthews Band to debut at number one on the Billboard 200 chart. No other group in Billboard history has achieved this feat.

In the 11 new tracks, Matthews examines love, lust, the politics of relationships and the politics of politics. "Mercy," the lead single, is a plea for citizens to shake off their apathy and pull themselves out of the, quote, "mess we're making."

The 45-year-old singer-songwriter and father of three elaborates on his thoughts and creativity in the Q & A below.

CNN: Your new single, "Mercy." I want to read the first couple lines: "Don't give up, I know you can see all the world and the mess we're making." Those are pretty strong words there.

Dave Matthews: We spend a lot of time bickering at great cost, and very little time actually coming up with solutions. And I think we misuse our ambition for our own gains and rarely for the betterment of ourselves, and people around us and our environment. And I think that's sort of pathetic and desperate.

CNN: Are you angry or just disappointed?

Matthews: Not like The Hulk, but I think that I'm angry all the time. We've lost our way a little bit, and we blame each other, and we blame God, and we blame the world and we blame each other. But I think we should blame ourselves, and maybe get more things done. Point the finger in.

CNN: Do you think artists have a responsibility to speak out?

Matthews: I don't feel like I'm standing in a position where I have some right above other people to say what I think. We should all be talking to each other about what we think is important -- whether we're in politics, or whether we're checking out at a grocery store. We shouldn't put walls up between each other. I think we should all talk to our enemies and talk to our friends. Talk! That's the only way we'll find solutions.

CNN: When we spoke with you in 2009, you were pretty vocal about racism and the challenges we face.

Matthews: When I was a kid growing up in New York, I was pretty unaware of racism. I think when we're young -- before we lose our innocence -- we're sort of unaware of the more flawed qualities of each other. And when I moved to South Africa and I spent my teen years there (under apartheid), I became acutely aware of racism because it was institutionalized, even though I was on the favored side of the line. But when I moved back to America, I was suddenly so overwhelmed by how present (it is).

It's so hard for me to even acknowledge America without talking about race and recent issues -- you know, the genocide of the Indians and the incredible flight from slavery to modern days. If you look at our society, if you look at the prisons, if you look at the poverty and which side of the line the majority of people are, we have to acknowledge how we divide ourselves up, that there's racism alive in this country. And it's not in the law. It's in our minds. And that's what we have to actively battle.

CNN: So we're not bridging the divide? You think it's getting worse?

Matthews: I think we have to be active in teaching our children, and teaching each other. We have to be active about kindness and about peace. I've always fantasized that it would be great if there was a Department of Peace. You know, we have a military, but what if there was a department devoted entirely and truthfully to finding peaceful resolutions?

CNN: You supported Obama in 2008. You support him now and played a fundraiser for him in Seattle this past May. Are you concerned about his chances in this election?

Matthews: Yeah, I'm concerned about whether Obama can win. I'm also concerned about his policies, you know, because I certainly don't agree with him on a lot of his positions. I think he has a concern for the population that put him in power. A real concern for them. His environmental position -- although I'd like to see him push a little harder -- that's where I'm drawn to him, and that's where I agree with him.

I don't believe in trickle-down economics. I don't think that people who have the most are inclined to share it, generally. But I think it's going to be a close race, and maybe it'll be the ugliest election as far as empty falsehoods that the candidates throw at each other. When the truth is not really what's being used to debate things, then it's hard to see what will come out when it's just madness.

I think Democrats and Republicans survive on distracting us from the real issues, and so we get very little done when they stay in office. And I wish there was a third party, but right now, I will wholeheartedly support Obama -- even if I'm slightly heartbroken about it.

CNN: In 2008, there were so many entertainers pushing forth his message. Do you think that support has wavered this time around?

Matthews: I think he had a sort of single message, and it came from him, and it came from his heart or the hearts of a small group of advisers. But then, once he was in office, I think there were a lot more voices that made it harder for him to stay on that message. And so I think -- rightly so -- people are disappointed. Not that it's been easy, because I think that he's been up against an incredibly poisonous opposition during his presidency. Really disrespectful, I think, because he's still the president. But I think I was probably disrespectful of his predecessor. But I think it's reached a new high.

I'm disappointed, but I'd be more disappointed by having a president like Romney in there.

CNN: When you talk as an entertainer, people listen. Will you use that to encourage people to vote?

Matthews: I think people know what my opinion is. I hope that just what I sing about and how I relate to my audience is as much of a political statement as I need to make.

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