American band Matchbox 20, although still best known in their homeland, sold over 25 million records over their nine year career.
After enjoying success with Carlos Santana a few years ago, frontman Rob Thomas recently released his first solo album, Someone To Be.
musicOMH caught up with the Floridian native to discover if this new direction spells the end for the mighty Matchbox 20…
It’s a beaming Rob Thomas who shakes me firmly by the hand as tries his best to look interested – despite this being his third consecutive day of press. The only opportunity to play live on UK shores so far has been The Today Show, or as Rob clarifies with a wry grin: “playing, without really playing if you know what I mean?!”
These days, when he’s not miming for TV shows, Mr Thomas is otherwise battling to calm fans fears that his new solo album in in fact more than just a collection of Matchbox 20 B-sides: “Ha, yeah well there’s a mix of new and old on the album really – Lonely No More was written specifically for it, but then again if I’d suggested it to the band they may have not like it because we kinda have to stick within the guitar, bass, and drums boundaries so that everyone is represented, where as now I have more freedom to mix things up a little.”
Sniffing the age old ‘musical tension’ bug, I enquire as to whether the need for this new found ‘freedom’ is the reason behind his decision to undertake a solo project? “Well, yes and no, I mean this is the first time we’ve finished a tour and weren’t stoked to go right into the studio and start a new record, so we instinctively knew as a result that it was probably time to take a break.”
“As far as the limitations go, I mean take our drummer as an example, he’s an amazing musician, singer and for the past decade he’s been limited to being ‘just the drummer’ in Matchbox 20, so now he’s got the chance to do his album too, which he’s just finishing.”
– Rob Thomas deflects another ‘have Matchbox 20 split up’ question…
And what of the other somewhat faceless members of the band? Are they glad of the rest or are they eagerly awaiting your return? “Well, like I said, our drummer’s keeping busy, our bass player is building a studio in his house and playing a lot of golf! Pretty much whatever they didn’t have time to do before I guess!’
Sensing the approach of the million dollar question, which he must be bored to death of answering, Mr. Thomas pre empts my enquiry with the best rock star clich I’ve heard in many years: “As for the future of the band, I don’t really see this as the end for us at all, in fact it’s more of a new beginning really.”
Cringing over, Rob tells me how a man who’s written hundreds of songs over the years still gets butterflies when trying out new material: ” For me now, I think everything it starts with not being afraid to not be cool. That’s something, now that I’m 33, that I’m not so bothered about – at least like I was when I was 20! I think not being afraid to fail too, because otherwise the band and I would have kept making the same record over and over if we had been afraid of failing after such early success.”
– Rob Thomas on why he loves playing live…
As for their energetic live sets, Rob feels this is where he connects most with his audience: “It’s all about that moment you created when you wrote the song in your bedroom and then you get to share that with so many people. When we play live we want it to not be like idol worship time, but more like ‘we’re all here together to share this moment together’ you know? Ha ha, but really, I probably picked all that hippie shit up from Carlos though!”
Lastly, I turn to the subject of a non musical, yet equally enamouring project which caught my attention on Rob’s website, in the form of a charity called Sidewalk Angels: “My wife started it really. After we did some work with a local children’s hospital and an animal shelter in New York, we decided we wanted to support causalities of life in the big city, whether that be abandoned animals or people who can’t pay medical bills. We aim to support smaller non profit organisations through our activities.”
Practically, this involves Rob calling up friends such as Daryl Hall and Jewel in order to stage huge charity concerts: “Yeah, It’s amazing how many people say yes and want to be involved when there’s a chance to give back to society, and with anything like that, you feel good about it. It’s infectious, and as a result, we want to be more involved directly.”
With America’s very own Bob Geldof in such high demand, our time is at this point alas cut short, but I am wished farewell as pleasantly as I was received by a hard working musician who deserves every scrap of credit he gets, even if he does slip in a few clichs along the way!