Dave Matthews Band violinist Boyd Tinsley has been sued for sexual harassment by James Frost-Winn, a former member of Tinsley’s side project band Crystal Garden, Consequence of Sound reports. Frost-Winn, a Seattle-based trumpet player who was a member of Crystal Garden from 2015 through 2016, accuses Tinsley of sexual harassment, sexual assault, and long-term grooming stemming from their meeting in San Francisco in 2007 when he was an 18-year-old homeless busker. Frost-Winn is seeking $9 million in damages against Tinsley stemming from claims that he created a “hostile work environment” by allegedly making unwanted advancements towards Frost-Winn and sending explicit texts.
Frost-Winn told Consequence of Sound that he and Tinsley struck up a friendship over a shared love of music upon their 2007 meeting, which eventually led to the trumpet player relocating to Seattle to join Crystal Garden after an invitation from Tinsley.
“It did feel good to know that this very experienced, talented, and well-off in the industry musician actually believes in what I’m doing. It felt amazing; I felt validated,” Frost-Winn told CoS. “As the years went by and I was in multiple bands and still trying to achieve a career in music … that’s when he started saying he wanted to start a band that was based around me.”
Frost-Winn said that by the time he joined Crystal Garden, he and Tinsley had been friends for about eight years and would hang out whenever Tinsley came through San Francisco. He also said Tinsley sometimes flew him out to DMB shows across North America and paid for Frost-Winn to relocate to Seattle. It was during Frost-Winn’s tenure in Crystal Garden and a handful of dates he played with DMB that the trumpet player claims that Tinsley started making him feel uncomfortable. From CoS:
Throughout this time of intense musical creation, touring, and success for Frost-Winn, the trumpeter says Tinsley started exhibiting strange behavior. During a stop-over in New York in 2015, after spending three tour dates with DMB, Frost-Winn casually mentioned that he and some friends were going to watch the New England Patriots-New York Giants game at a bar. Tinsley, as Frost-Winn explains, “immediately got five tickets. When he did it, he said: ‘You better suck my dick or something.’ I thought maybe that was a funny joke or something, but it wasn’t also 100% joking.”
During Frost-Winn’s stint with DMB, he says Tinsley made a strange request before going on stage: he wanted a pair of socks. “I went to grab a clean pair, but he said, ‘No, I want the ones you’re wearing.’ So I gave them to him,” Frost-Winn says, adding that other musicians had confided that Tinsley had made the same request to them.
“A couple things like that had thrown me off, but he hadn’t done anything aggressive. So I thought maybe he’s a weird guy. It was definitely like that’s not normal … but I didn’t feel uncomfortable around him.”
Frost-Winn said that Tinsley touched him inappropriately while he was sleeping on a couch following a late-night recording session, before allegedly waking up to find Tinsley masturbating beside him. From CoS:
“He was climaxing.” Frost-Winn freaked out and ran to another part of the house while Tinsley followed after him; he eventually came back to the studio.
“I sat there for hours; I was so freaked out,” he explains. “I felt assaulted. It was something I didn’t expect from him. I was contemplating how to stay in the project — it’s such a big opportunity, but my trust had been affected.”
Tinsley blamed the incident on “a pill mix-up” and said he wasn’t in his right mind.
Frost-Winn said that he left Crystal Garden in 2016 after Tinsley allegedly brought up the masturbation incident.
“This time he spoke about it in full clarity; he said, ‘The way you looked while you were sleeping, I couldn’t control myself,’” Frost-Winn told CoS. “At that moment, I knew he had lied about not being in the right state of mind … coupled with all the things that had happened in between, I immediately realized I couldn’t trust him.”
Frost-Winn said that he felt suicidal after leaving Seattle and returning to San Francisco following his departure from the band. According to a copy of the suit obtained by Rolling Stone, he’s seeking damages for “for loss of enjoyment of life, pain and suffering, mental anguish, emotional distress, and humiliation in an amount proven at trial,” in addition to loss of future earnings and back pay. From Rolling Stone:
The suit claims it was a “huge decision” for Frost-Winn to depart the band, stating, “He felt that if he had stayed, he would be living in shame. Plaintiff Winn felt there was no honor in simply staying for the money and the lifestyle he had lived through Defendant Tinsley – he knew it would not have felt right to continue living a lie – knowing that Defendant Tinsley had sexually preyed on him, lied to him, and would continue doing so.”
“We are hopeful that the defendant acknowledges responsibility,” Jason Hatch, Frost-Winn’s lawyer told Rolling Stone, “seeks to take advantage of the resources available to him that might allow him to break out of his pattern behavior and makes some reasonable amends for his actions.”
In February, Tinsley announced that he was taking a break from DMB in order to focus on his family and health. The 54-year-old has two adult children with his wife. According to Consequence of Sound, Tinsley made this announcement the same day that Frost-Winn sent him a legal demand letter in an attempt to settle his misconduct claims out of court. Dave Matthews addressed Tinsley’s absence in a recent Vulture interview, but didn’t specify why the violinist took a break. From Vulture:
I have a deep love for Boyd , and he has to deal with his stuff. In many ways I’m sure it would’ve been a lot easier for him to just say, “I’m good. Let’s go play.” But you can’t just throw yourself away, your wellness away, because you play violin in a band. It doesn’t make any sense to do that.
When asked if and when Tinsley will return, Matthews’s response was cryptic:
I can’t say, “I can’t wait till he comes back,” because I don’t know what’s going to happen. But right now being away is better for him. Nobody is happy about this situation. Except that we’re happy he can figure some stuff out. I hope he does. But I’m going to miss having that whirling-dervish Adonis-Muppet over there on my right. I know the audience is, too. But we can’t serve that desire.
We reached out to DMB’s rep for comment on Frost-Winn’s suit and received the following statement:
“Though Boyd is no longer a member of the band, we are shocked by these disturbing allegations and we were not previously aware of them.”