Famous Personality Assignment – Dave Matthews
By: Lauren Forcellina


Dave Matthews is the lead singer in a self-created band widely known as the “Dave Matthews Band”. The band has become one of the top grossing tours of our time, with one of the biggest followings known to music. Dave also has other projects, such as numerous acting roles and acoustic tours with his close friend, Tim Reynolds.
Dave was born on January 9, 1967 in Johannesburg, South Africa. At a young age he moved to New York with his family, and then briefly moved to Cambridge before moving back to the states. In 1977, his father died of lung cancer, which led to Dave and his family traveling back to Johannesburg to be close to family. While back in South Africa, Dave was faced with the issue of being put into their military service. Due to his disagreement with violence he returned back to the United States after high school to avoid the war.
Having played guitar all his life, he started getting gigs in Virginia with his good friend and fellow guitarist, Tim Reynolds. In 1990, he formed the “Dave Matthews Band” who started with small local gigs at pubs and frat houses around the country. In 1994, the band released it’s first record under a major label, debuting high on the charts. The following albums, including some live albums were also extremely high on the Billboard charts. Dave still tours with this band, along with solo shows to this day.
His music reflects his upbringing in many ways. Many of his songs deal with the different cultures he’s experienced, and the distinct lines that separate them. Some songs deal with global issues such as poverty and hatred. Other songs cover many themes, from drug use, to love and love lost, even one dedicated to the death of his sister. Matthews is extremely outspoken in his concern for the world, and has been active in many relief aids in the past.

Perspective 1 – Trait and Skill Approach: “The Big Five”

Gordon Allport, a well-known trait psychologist, believed that each person had an individual uniqueness to him or her. In order to define and measure someone’s personality, it is imperative to take into account their uniqueness, goals, and motivations.
The “Big 5” factors of personality are made up of 5 different traits that people have to a certain degree, and are reflected in their beliefs and behaviors. These traits consist of openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. Openness can be defined as an appreciation for arts and emotion, as well as your openness to different and various experiences, and level of curiosity. Dave would be considered very high in this category, mainly due to his love and appreciation of music. As a musician, he is extremely accepting and appreciative of the arts and the assortment of emotions that come from art. He sees music as something of entertainment and beauty, and talks about learning from other musicians rather than competing with them. Dave’s openness to experience also lies within his childhood, where he moved constantly to various cultures with extreme differences. He took his experiences from each location and used them not only in his music, but to help other people be open-minded as well. I would consider Dave to score the highest in this category above the others, mainly due to his artistic abilities and diverse background.
Agreeableness is another category Dave would score very high in. This trait can be defined as a tendency to be compassionate and friendly towards others. Dave is an extremely compassionate person. Not only is this shown through his music, but mainly his contribution to helping others around him. This includes participating in many charity events, and world-wide relief funds such as “Live Aid”. He’s dedicated a portion of his life to creating peace around the world through awareness. In an interview with CNN’s Bill Hemmer, Matthews said, “Awareness is the biggest thing that sometimes is what’s needed to really move the leaders of the world… Let’s become active participants in improving the possibility of Africa’s future” (Matthews, “Awareness” 2005). His empathy and concern for other cultures shows how agreeable he really is.
Extraversion can be defined as sociable and energetic, with positive emotions. Dave definitely is full of positive emotions, which is shown not only through his music but his love for life. Many may argue that Dave wouldn’t score high on extroversion because he has a tendency to rub people the wrong way with his behaviors and music. For example, he has been known to write dark and emotional songs, such as “Grave Digger”. On the other hand, he is known to constantly dance and laugh on stage during his concerts, which shows his positive energy. Dave once said in an interview “I have a pretty solid sense of joy and respect and that irritates people. You can’t please everyone, although I’d probably like to, which makes people hate me, as well” (Scaggs, 2004). Matthews would most likely score a 4 out of 5 on extraversion rather than a higher score of 5 out of 5, due to the dark side of him that seldom shows.
The last two factors are conscientiousness and neuroticism, both of which Dave would score lower on than the previous three. Conscientiousness can be defined as being competent, self-disciplined and persistent. Although Dave shows extreme competence and skill, he is extremely easy going. Matthews is well known as a laid back person that sometimes lets drugs and alcohol get the best of him. At the same time however, he is driven on certain issues and goals that he has. He would most likely score a 3 out of 5 because he falls somewhere in the middle of the conscientious category. The last factor is Neuroticism, which includes nervousness, vulnerability and depression. Dave would score low in neuroticism because he is generally emotionally stable and calm in situations. He’s definitely gone through low times in his life with the early deaths of his father and sister, however he is firmly happy.

Perspective 2 - Humanistic and Existential Approach

In this approach of assessing personality, the factors of measurement differ from those of the big 5. These factors focus on the meaning of life, existence, and purpose. This approach looks at human value, and whether or not the subject in question views themselves as worthy. Holding a very positive view of human nature, Dave’s personality can be accurately looked at through this approach.
In terms of the existential portion of this approach, personal human value is heavily weighted. An existentialist will point out the fact that life is hard and it doesn’t always go as planned, however it is how you respond to that information that matters. In a dangerous world of heartache, there needs to be some type of security. Dave is an excellent example of someone who is secure in their life. He grew up constantly moving, experiencing different cultures and drastic changes. He lost his father and sister in sudden, tragic ways, and was able to recover through acceptance and his music. Dave is outspoken on the hardships that life brings, not only from his personal experiences but what he has observed around him. He recognizes that there’s problems in our world that can only be solved if people open their eyes and their hearts, just like he did. Dave feels secure and posiive about the world through his music and through his confidence in people to help others.
Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a journey to “self-actualization”, which can be defined as someone who is eager to fulfill their potential, loving, creative, spiritual, and most of all, comfortable with who they are. According to Maslow, in order to become a self-actualized person you need to fulfill certain steps before moving on to the next. These needs that are essential to achievement are physiological needs, security needs, social needs, self-esteem needs, and finally self-actualization. Physiological needs include basic food and water, and security needs mean shelter and a secure environment. It might have been difficult at first to get past the security portion, due to his hectic childhood with moving everywhere. He had different lifestyles in each culture he lived in, which may have changed his look on security and safety. After moving back to the states permanently, he was able to start a concrete life and began singing with his friends and then formed his band, which fulfilled his social needs. In terms of his self-esteem needs, Dave struggled a little. When he first started performing and writing music, he didn’t see himself singing the songs he wrote because he didn’t see himself as good enough. After having a few gigs, he got the positive feedback he needed to continue with his journey. Now, as a self-actualized person, Dave tours the world with his band as one of the most successful acts of our decade. He is an extremely positive person who wants to help the world through his music and his acts of kindness. He is a true example of Maslow’s ideal self-actualized person.


Dave Matthews is an extremely positive person, who has been through a lot throughout his life. All of his experiences have made him a person of peace, love, and creativity. According to the big 5, he is definitely an agreeable and open person, and has levels of extraversion and contentiousness. All of these can be looked at through his past experiences, his world travels, and his music. In terms of a humanistic and existential approach, Dave is self-actualized and knows his own worth. His personality is one that is full of creativity, hope, and passion for his music, and the people of the world. Being a big fan myself, I never knew certain aspects of his life. I knew he was from South Africa, but didn’t realize how much he traveled and how he didn’t get settled in the US until later in his life. I also didn’t know how sudden the deaths of his father and sister were. I did however know of his music and his positivity, and therefore I knew a great deal about the basis of his personality. Through this research, I appreciate him more because of what he’s been through and how he’s taken numerous aspects of his life and created something so positive and uplifting.


Dave matthews: Biography. (2011). Retrieved from

Matthews: Awareness will influence world leaders. (2005, May 31). CNN Entertainment,
Retrieved from http://articles.cnn.com/2005-05

Scaggs, A. (2004, June 23). The devil in dave matthews.Rolling Stone, Retrieved from