Matchbox Twenty // A Brief History of Everything

Matchbox Twenty is doing its first U.S. tour in four years this summer, but fans shouldn’t expect this outing to immediately be followed by a new studio album or another extended round of shows next year.

 

Instead, three of the four band members – singer/guitarist Rob Thomas, guitarist Kyle Cook and guitarist Paul Doucette – will return to solo projects following the tour, and it figures to be up to another two years before there is any new activity for the group, which also includes bassist Brian Yale.

 

“Everybody is just too busy (with outside projects) to do anything right now,” Thomas reported in a mid-July phone interview, adding that he definitely expects the band to make more albums. “But as soon as that (solo) cycle is over, I think we all want to clear up our schedules like we did for this tour, to go in and make a (Matchbox) record that feels like who the four of us are now.”

 

In fact, Thomas had planned to stay off the road this summer — until the idea of the Matchbox Twenty tour with the Counting Crows was proposed.

 

“Like I legitimately wasn’t going to go out this summer at all because I toured for the last three summers solo,” Thomas said. “But when this came up and the (other) guys from Matchbox really wanted to go out and the Crows wanted to go out, it just all made so much sense I was like ‘Ah hell, I’m in again.’”

 

Thomas toured behind his third solo album, “The Great Unknown,” last summer with the Counting Crows, the long-established group fronted by singer Adam Duritz. That 2016 tour was so much fun that the option of another tour this summer was too good to resist for Thomas. Plus, it was a good opportunity for Matchbox to renew acquaintances with their fans during what is looking like a long gap between albums for the band, whose most recent studio effort, “North,” came out in 2012.

 

“I’ve been friends with Adam for going on 20 years. We have so many mutual friends that even when we haven’t been in contact, we know what’s going on with each other,” Thomas said. “And then we decided this (tour) was the best way we could imagine to spend a summer.”

The show Matchbox Twenty is playing is something of a celebration for fans that have followed the group since its initial blast of success 20 years ago. Thomas said the group plans to showcase some early songs that haven’t been played live for a decade or more.

 

“It was important to us to first incorporate a bunch of songs from over the last 20 years that we maybe haven’t played since they came out on that record,” he said. “There are songs from that first record we haven’t played since that first tour, and the second record. So we wanted to bring back some old friends that we knew a lot of fans wanted to hear.

 

Those early years gave Matchbox Twenty exceptional success. Formed in Orlando, Florida in 1995, the group exploded onto the rock scene with its 1996 debut album, “You or Someone Like You.” Containing the hits “3 A.M.,” “Push,” “Real World” and “Back 2 Good,” the debut album piled up more than 12 million copies sold in the United States alone. A second album, “Mad Season,” followed in 2000, and topped 4 million copies sold on the strength of the hit songs “Bent” (which topped “Billboard” magazine’s all-genre Hot 100 singles chart) and “If You’re Gone.”

 

By that time, Thomas had already made an impact outside of Matchbox Twenty by co-writing and singing the Grammy-winning hit “Smooth,” on Carlos Santana’s blockbuster 1999 album, “Supernatural.”

 

The next step, though, was a third Matchbox Twenty album, “More Than You Think You Are.” It didn’t reach the heights of popularity of the first two albums, but produced hit singles in “Unwell,” “Bright Lights” and “Disease.”

 

A live DVD: “Show: A Night in the Life of Matchbox Twenty,” followed in 2004, as the group took its first hiatus to allow for solo projects. Much of the next decade was devoted to these outside projects, as Matchbox Twenty only reconvened in 2007 and 2008 for a greatest hits album supplemented by six new songs, “Exile on Mainstream,” and

a tour.

 

Thomas is the band member who has made the biggest impact solo. His 2005 album “Something to Be…,” showcased a more soulful sound and became a was a platinum-certified hit behind the singles “Lonely No More,” “This Is How a Heart Breaks,” “Ever The Same” and “Streetcorner Symphony.”

 

A second Thomas solo album, “Cradlesong,” followed in 2009, before Matchbox Twenty reunited to make the “North” album. After touring that album, Thomas made his third solo album, “The Great Unknown.”

 

Cook and Doucette, though, also have been busy outside of Matchbox Twenty. Doucette, after forming a side band, the Break and Repair Method, has delved into writing music for films, and according to Thomas, has two films to score next year.

 

Cook, meanwhile, has a new duo with singer/songwriter Sheila Marshall, Rivers and Rust, which recently released a debut EP and will have a full-length album out next year. The duo is opening for Matchbox Twenty and Counting Crows this summer.

 

Thomas, meanwhile, has started writing for his next solo album, which he plans to release next year. More writing is on his agenda after the summer tour.

 

“The way it works is I’ve probably written about three or four records by now,” Thomas said. “I start and I write 12 songs and I think ‘OK, I’ve got a record.’ Then my wife and I, I listen to them a lot and I get over the initial kind of love of them and I realize I’ve got (maybe) three songs that I really love. Then I start all over again. You make a whole other record and you add on to those three songs. After that process, you’ve got one or two more songs.  So every time, in truth I’ve probably got six or seven songs that I love, and then I’ve got about three records worth of stuff that I think is OK.”

 

During promotion for “The Great Unknown,” Thomas talked of stepping away on his next album from the poppy sound of his solo albums, going for something more along the lines of alt-country artist Ryan Adams or singer-songwriter David Gray. Thomas has since realized that setting out with a sound in mind only limits is creativity and might prevent him from finishing a song that could become a gem. But one thing he won’t do with his next album is try to tailor it to the synthetic, bubbly sound of today’s top 40. That would be disingenuous of him, Thomas said.

 

“The one thing that stuck was the idea of me in this kind of ultra-pop top 40 world, it just doesn’t make sense and it doesn’t fit. And I’m not going to try and make that fit anymore. So at least I know one thing I’m not doing, which is I’m not trying to participate in that marketplace,” he said. “(For me), trying to write a song for top 40 is like being a guy standing outside of a party that you don’t want to get into and beating on the door and asking to be let in.”

 

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