We’ve Acquired A File On You options interviews wherein artists share the tales behind the extracurricular actions that dot their careers: appearing gigs, visitor appearances, random web ephemera, and so forth.
Matchbox Twenty are a kind of Nineties pop-rock acts that by no means ought to have lasted past their peak period. Take into consideration their contemporaries — Gasoline, Third Eye Blind, Blessid Union Of Souls, Bush, Three Doorways Down, Tonic, Stroke 9, Vertical Horizon, to call just some. You possibly can catch most of those bands on the reunion tour circuit, possibly a themed cruise (I might be the primary aboard that ship, to be clear).
However Matchbox Twenty are completely different. Their music, which firstly melded post-grunge and jangle-rock (slightly bit Hootie, slightly bit Eddie Vedder), finally developed to Maroon 5-type enviornment pop. There are a bunch of causes for the band’s longevity: First, frontman Rob Thomas is a capital “T” proficient pop songwriter, having created the 1999 #1 juggernaut “Easy,” which re-introduced Woodstock relic Carlos Santana to youthful audiences and unleashed a dam of elder A-listers reminiscent of Willie Nelson and Mick Jagger asking him to jot down them one thing.
Plus, Matchbox Twenty are constant. Save for one title change (Matchbox 20 to Matchbox Twenty) and a shift in lineup (rhythm guitarist Adam Gaynor left in 2004), the band have an arsenal of radio hits spanning three albums: 1996’s Your self Or Somebody Like You, 2000’s Mad Season, and 2002’s Extra Than You Assume You Are.
And eventually, Rob Thomas is a mensch. He clearly understands the place Matchbox Twenty fall within the annals of music historical past and consistently voices gratitude for the followers who’ve caught with them over three many years. He mentions remedy greater than as soon as, revealing a willingness to have interaction in robust discussions, be communicative, and self-reflect. Thomas additionally admits the sheer luck Matchbox Twenty loved within the ’90s with a debut album that appealed to a large swath of listeners, from the alt-rock children watching 120 Minutes to non-commercial radio heads to mainstream pop followers.
Matchbox Twenty have additionally been cautious about not relying too arduous on Matchbox Twenty. Every of its members have particular person careers other than the band (Thomas has been releasing solo albums since 2005’s …One thing To Be), although they at all times come again collectively to tour. This Friday, the band will launch their fifth studio album, The place The Mild Goes, which arrives greater than a decade after their final report, 2012’s North.
Forward of their new launch, Thomas sat down with me over Zoom to look again on a prolonged music profession (each solo and with Matchbox), why he by no means anticipated to make a brand new Matchbox Twenty album, his relationship with TikTok, and texting all evening with Carlos Santana.
New Album The place The Mild Goes (2023)
The place The Mild Goes shall be Matchbox Twenty’s first new album in additional than a decade. Why did this really feel like a superb time to re-enter the album cycle?
ROB THOMAS: Ever since our third report, we at all times had this settlement that we’d do Matchbox and we might do solo, after which we’d do Matchbox, and I might go solo. So when North got here out in 2012, we have been a touring band after that. There’s a 12 months and a half the place we have been touring that report all around the world. Then we took a break, and I’m selling [2015’s solo album The Great Unknown] and touring all around the world.
We have been going to exit in 2020 [Matchbox Twenty’s tour with the Wallflowers]. By the point we determined to exit in 2020, we had come to this conclusion that we have been going to cease making information. We didn’t know that we had it in us. We didn’t really feel like we had sufficient to offer. Paul [Doucette] was so busy movie scoring, and I used to be actually busy writing solo information. We thought possibly that may simply be what we’d do, [being a touring act]. Possibly every so often we’d launch a pair songs and simply have a pleasant time touring collectively and simply everyone going again and simply reliving the final 30 years of music or no matter.
In 2020 and 2021, everyone was locked down. That was a common place that everyone was in. Then all of us realized to make sourdough bread. Then 2022 got here alongside, and other people began to exit once more, touring began to occur. However due to issues in our private life, we had individuals at house within the band in my life with comorbidities, it wasn’t protected but and we didn’t really feel able to exit. So we needed to cancel in 2022, and that postponement was the one one the place we felt we have been letting individuals down as a result of we weren’t out with our friends celebrating that the world was opening once more.
That’s when Kyle [Cook] reached out and was like, “Properly, possibly we must always readdress the dialog that we stated we weren’t going to make one other report.” We began pooling collectively some songs that we had already had… “The place the Mild Goes,” the title observe, was going to be one of many songs that we have been going to launch once we weren’t going to place out a report. So once we have been going to tour, we have been going to launch three songs, and that was a kind of.
So we began pooling collectively what we’d been engaged on. I took some songs that I had from the solo report that I used to be [working on] and performed them for the blokes, and so they appreciated just a few of these. We began to get actually excited and realized, we’ve got one thing right here that we need to put our title behind. One thing that we like sufficient that it’s value leaving house for a 12 months and leaving your households behind and all the hassle that goes into making a report. All of it occurred actually naturally. And if it wasn’t for that 2022 cancellation, most likely we’d be having a a lot completely different dialog.
I discover it fascinating that Matchbox Twenty has this consistency and longevity when so a lot of your friends didn’t make it previous album one or two. What do you assume it’s concerning the band and your relationship with each other that has saved you going with so few lineup modifications?
THOMAS: I believe that actually says rather a lot proper there. It’s the concept that we do take pleasure in one another. We actually have a real love for one another. We’ve identified one another for a really very long time. We share a really specific expertise. I believe as a result of we don’t have any expectations once we make a report, we’ve been actually lucky for 30 years. Loads of our longevity is basically circumstance and happenstance. We have been fortunate that once we got here out in ’96, it was a a lot completely different world. The world skilled music otherwise. The music that we have been making was actually High 40 radio on the time. It was the Katy Perry and Beyoncé of the time. We received fortunate sufficient to come back out at the moment.
Then we received fortunate sufficient to get a sufficiently big fan base that they might go together with us into these subsequent couple information. Once you get to the third report [2002’s More Than You Think You Are], that’s while you begin to really feel like, “Wow, this is perhaps a profession.” Additionally, that’s while you begin to determine who you’re as a band.
We began to do extra collaborative work, which is why I began to do extra solo work. That approach Matchbox Twenty could possibly be a extra collaborative place. However clearly that took quite a lot of time away [from the band]. We’ve put out much less product than most likely one other band that’s been round so long as we’ve got, however we’ve actually appreciated every part that we’ve put out. We’ve by no means felt like, “Oh shit, we’ve received to place out a report now as a result of we’re going to go on tour.” Or, “We have to end this up and we’re simply doing it as a result of we’ve got an arbitrary obligation.” We by no means had that obligation. We made [Where The Light Goes] as a result of we needed to make a report, and we don’t assume that it’s going to be an enormous pop report, so we don’t need to compromise any of what we’re doing — [we just] try to simply what works for us.
It seems like everyone has diversified their portfolios in a technique or one other, and that locations a lot much less strain on Matchbox Twenty to be the one driver of revenue.
THOMAS: Yeah. I’ve been lucky over time due to being a songwriter for the band through the years. After I go solo, I tour as nicely. I’ve carried out actually, rather well touring. So I’ve that touring revenue. I believe everyone’s carried out nicely sufficient that if all they ever did was tour with Matchbox Twenty each three or 4 years, that may be [enough] for them. No one wants it of their life. Paul stated one thing the opposite day once we have been doing an interview collectively — he was saying it’s an issue generally for the band in the event that they need to exit however they’ll’t as a result of I’m [solo] touring. That may be a bummer. We will’t say it’s not. All of us have to deal with it, as a result of if we don’t handle it, then it’ll construct up in us.
[Paul also said], “Once we have been younger, this band was every part to everyone.” That’s what it must be while you’re beginning out. I examine it to in the event you’re courting us, it’s like being an Military spouse since you’re married to the band, your loved ones’s a part of the band, your dad and mom are pitching in for the band. You allow your life for years at a time and also you don’t assume twice about it as a result of every part’s in service of that. And you then grow old and also you get married and you’ve got kids and you’ve got different pursuits and different gardens that you simply’re tending to.
When that begins to occur, Matchbox Twenty stays essential, but it surely stops being every part. We will’t ever fault anyone for doing one thing that’s actually essential to them. We’ve talked about this in an nearly therapeutic approach. We’re one step away from being the Metallica documentary, sitting in with an precise therapist [laughs]. We’ve much more of these conversations now… At this level, it’s like a household as a result of we may divorce one another, however due to all we’ve been by way of, we’d nonetheless really feel like we have been associated.
Enjoying In Early Bands Tidal Wave, Honest Warning, & Tabitha’s Secret (1990-1995)
Earlier than Matchbox Twenty took off and also you have been gigging across the Orlando space, did you’ve got an finish objective in thoughts? Did you’ve got long-term objectives of being a Billboard Sizzling 100 or MTV band, or was it extra of a day-to-day kind of existence?
THOMAS: I didn’t have quite a lot of choices. I used to be a child hitchhiking across the nation after I was 17, after which sleeping on mates’ couches. [I met this] group of misfits – they have been musicians, and that spoke to me. Ever since I used to be 14, if I used to be house, I might be taking part in music. I had cowl bands taking part in ’80s songs. I dropped out of faculty as a sophomore for some time as a result of I received a gig at a Sheraton in Vero Seaside on the pool — it was a pool band. I believed I had fucking made it. I used to be like, “Oh, that is it. That is over. I’m gigging now. Take a look at me, I’m gigging.” And naturally, that was not the large break that I believed it was going to be.
And so when Matchbox — nicely, Tabitha’s Secret, which is me, Paul, and Brian [Yale] earlier than we have been Matchbox — we had a really tight-knit group of writers and musicians, greater than you’d assume for Orlando. Orlando has a distinct connotation. You concentrate on Common and boy bands and Lou Pearlman and people sorts of issues. However within the coronary heart of downtown Orlando have been quite a lot of actually good bands. We’re all mates. All of us appreciated one another. All of us supported one another, actually with gear or with a member of the band. If any person will get sick, the opposite individual would are available in and play.
All of us needed a report deal. We thought that was the objective. We by no means thought of what success meant. We by no means thought of going any additional. To a point, your naive model of success is [like a] quaint ’50s musical. It’s like Bye Bye Birdie. That’s what you assume it’s going to be. And also you don’t take into consideration the work that’s going to enter it. You definitely don’t take into consideration having a dialog 30 years later about nonetheless being round and making music. However you do need to have some type of willful ignorance, as a result of in the event you actually thought concerning the daunting job, really making it within the music world with everybody making an attempt so arduous to do it and all of the proficient individuals which are on the market, the minute you activate that a part of your mind, you’d simply exhaust beneath the burden of it after which it might by no means occur.
The bands on the time have been like, Stay, Bush, and Counting Crows had simply come out, and we have been large Toad The Moist Sprocket followers. All these bands, quite a lot of them have been simply taking part in large club-sized rooms, 1,000, 2,000 individuals. That was our concept of success. After which once we received signed, all we needed to do was make a gold report as a result of we heard that in the event you made a gold report, you bought to make one other report. And that in the event you didn’t go gold, you may not get the report. And so we had these sensible short-term objectives that have been specified by entrance of us.
I name these early years in any inventive discipline “the age of audacity.”
THOMAS: Yeah, and simply sufficient narcissism that you simply imagine that you’ve got a imaginative and prescient that different individuals actually ought to take heed to. Like, “I’ve one thing to say and you want to hear it.” That’s preposterous. You already know what I imply? Particularly as a result of I used to be in my early 20s on the time once we have been first beginning out and also you’re singing these songs about love and loss, and you don’t have any idea of any of those concepts. Each concept I had of affection and loss was actually simply knowledgeable to me by earlier musicians and different bands that I liked and listened to and poems that I had learn and books that I had learn.
When you consider your earliest Matchbox Twenty hits, what’s your present-day relationship to these songs? Say, “Lengthy Day,” “3AM,” or my private favourite, “Actual World”?
THOMAS: They at all times say that you’ve got your entire life to jot down your first report. So the band that we have been in earlier than had a extremely horrible falling out, stuffed with authorized issues. It received actually nasty and soiled with these two different guitar gamers from that band. I’ll again up: I used to be in a state of affairs the place I didn’t perceive something concerning the music enterprise, and one of many guys that was within the band understood rather a lot concerning the music enterprise. And so I wrote all of those songs and he got here in at some point with a copyright type and stated, “Right here, we’re all going to signal these.” So I simply signed away my copyrights to every part that I had written. And after I received a report deal, they needed to sue me for these songs as a result of they stated that, “No, we’ve got the copyright to those songs.”
So, what I did was – apart from “3AM” as a result of “3AM” was an essential track to me, it was my first track that I ever wrote that I believed was actually good — I went and rewrote that whole first report in six months as a result of I used to be like, “Fuck you guys. I’ll simply go write one other report so that you simply don’t have any declare to it in any respect.”
Every little thing I had written earlier than “3AM” was principally unhealthy Lionel Richie songs and unhealthy love songs. Then with “3AM,” I wrote about my mother having most cancers and about being younger and coping with that, and that scratched an itch in me to need to write issues that associated into one thing about my life.
I began to attract on these specific private moments in my life: issues I had at house, the issues I had in my household life, the issues that I had touring and hitchhiking, the issues that I had gone by way of. I at all times say: I’m okay if I by no means hear these songs once more, however I nonetheless take pleasure in taking part in them. I like taking part in them each evening, and I like the expertise as a result of there are some individuals at our reveals. In the event you have been my age, you’re nearly 50 now. They’ve had “3AM” of their life for 30 years or so. These issues are particular to me in that approach.
Will you humor me with a query I may most likely Google however I’d favor to simply ask you? What’s the story behind the camel within the video for “Actual World”?
THOMAS: We had thrown a bunch of concepts at this director. There’s this one scene the place Kyle’s in an ice cream truck and there’s all these children round and he’s handing out ice cream, however he’s handing out uncooked meat as an alternative of ice cream. These are simply little vignettes that we had created in our thoughts as a result of we thought: “Actual World” = surreal world. All these photographs, actually they don’t tie in any predominant narrative. They’re all simply these little surreal vignettes that we sort of crafted up.
So yours was, what if I had a camel?
THOMAS: Yeah. I simply thought it’d be actually enjoyable. We really needed a zebra, but it surely seems zebras are assholes and so they wouldn’t allow us to bodily be that near the zebra the entire time. However [we were] speaking to the animal individuals and the man’s like, “Camels are sweethearts.” I used to be like, “Fuck yeah, camels. That’s superior.” And let me inform you, the camel was superior. She liked me. Whereas we’re sitting in between takes, she would simply have her head right here [Rob points to top of his head] rubbing on my head. That was stunning.
In the event you have a look at the Wikipedia narrative of Matchbox Twenty’s rise, it seems very fast. First album, Your self Or Somebody Like You, bam, goes Diamond. Did Matchbox Twenty’s success really feel fast to you as you lived it?
THOMAS: I’m not going to lie, Rachel, nearly. It’s like an iceberg I believe. No one noticed the years within the van and trailer staying at Tremendous 8s, simply taking part in the native circuit and schools and four-hour frat gigs and faculty bars and taking part in half covers and half originals.
Then once we get signed, we’re nonetheless within the van and trailer, solely now we’ve got to journey across the whole nation. We put out “Lengthy Day,” however “Lengthy Day” really didn’t do nicely when it got here out. I keep in mind being in a lodge in San Francisco as a result of the video was about to come back on 120 Minutes on MTV, and that was every part to us. Once we first got here out, we have been performed on faculty alt stations — we have been an alt band. After which by the top of that report, the very same report, it was like pop High 40.
As soon as “Push” got here out, which was the second single, our report firm folded and we have been about to get dropped. We lucked out that this one program director in Birmingham, Alabama was taking part in “Push.” Atlantic seen that in Birmingham, Alabama, “Push” was the #1 track. In order that they have been like, “Properly, maintain up. Proper earlier than we drop them, let’s give this track an opportunity.” From that second on, we had that after which “Actual World” and “Again 2 Good.” We did so nicely that we thought we have been undoubtedly a one-hit surprise report. Take the Presidents Of America Of America. They’d that track “Lump” and “Peaches.” They have been sort of a novelty band. They have been actually good, however they have been sort of novelty and enjoyable, and so they offered 10 million information, proper?
So we thought, “Properly, that was good. That was good. We had that second.” Then our first primary single was “Bent” and I had simply gotten off of doing “Easy” with Carlos [Santana]. So there was just a bit extra fuel within the engine. Then the following report did rather well. Then my solo report did fairly nicely. So I believe that in the event you’re fortunate sufficient to have some type of success, you then try to do your finest to tug over a number of the foreign money that you simply gained from that success into your subsequent venture and hope that the followers will include you. We’ve been actually lucky that followers have carried out that. “3AM” doesn’t sound just like the band that did “Unwell” or “Illness,” and it doesn’t sound like me who did “Lonely No Extra” or “Easy.” I believe one of many the explanation why we’ve been so lucky is as a result of we’ve got so many individuals which have simply been keen to allow us to attempt issues and be like, “Yeah, all proper, we’ll go for it. Let’s do it.”