When some bands get a taste of success, they will do almost anything and everything to stay in the public’s eye, especially in the age of the internet where people’s attention spans are arguably shorter than ever.
Matchbox Twenty is not one of those bands.
In the 17 years that have passed since the band’s multi-platinum debut record Yourself Or Someone Like You, they have only released a grand total of four studio albums. This does not include the 2007 release Exile On Mainstream, a record that served as a retrospective on the group’s first decade that also happened to feature six new songs.
In fact, if you exclude Exile On Mainstream from their catalogue, the group’s 2012 release North was the first studio album from the band in a decade. When you consider that The Beatles released multiple full-length records each year, having a ten-year gap between studio efforts is a virtual eternity.
With 30 million records sold worldwide as well as five Grammy Award nominations, it is tough to argue that Matchbox Twenty are somehow doing something wrong just because they aren’t playing the game the way that people might expect.
Matchbox Twenty vocalist Rob Thomas tells The Times & Transcript that while his band might not be the most prolific when it comes to releasing new music, they are more than happy with the way that their career has played out thus far.
“Ten years is a long time but there are a lot of factors that you have to take into account,” Rob says. “Every record released involves a 12 to 18 month tour schedule. In the time since [2002’s] More Than You Think You Are, I released two solo records [2005’s Something To Be and 2009’s Cradlesong]. On top of that, you have to find the time to fit living life in there too.”
Asked if there was any concern amongst band members that being out of the public eye for such an extended period of time would somehow hurt Matchbox Twenty’s prospect of success, Rob says the group never lost faith that their music would find an audience.
“We have always had this theory that if we like what we are making, people should like it and any new music we release should do well. The fact that I found some success as a songwriter and with my solo career helped keep both me and Matchbox Twenty in the spotlight between records too.”
To hear him say that he found some success as a songwriter just might be the understatement of the interview. Rob says that from day one of deciding to enter into music, he wanted to build a dual career where he would be able to perform with a band while also writing songs for others.
He was given his first taste of songwriter success with Santana’s 1999 hit “Smooth”, a song that he had written for the musical legend that he originally had no intent of performing on.
“When I wrote ‘Smooth’, the plan was to write the song and hand it off,” he says. “I was lobbying to get George Michael to sing the song but Carlos [Santana] heard the demo and believed that I was the guy to sing it. At the time, no one saw the success of that record coming; I simply figured that it was a chance to do something a little musically different and step outside of Matchbox Twenty for a moment.”
Santana’s Supernatural was a blockbuster hit, selling more than 15 million records and winning eight Grammy Awards. The massive success of the record helped to showcase exactly what Rob was capable of producing with his songs.
“I went from being the guy from Matchbox Twenty to being a songwriter that got the chance to write with Mick Jagger, Willie Nelson, Travis Tritt and Mary J. Blige. As a songwriter, my biggest fear is that I am somehow ripping myself off and so I love having the opportunity to work artists of all walks of music. When I look at a blank page, I see the possibilities and how I can expand the realm of what I do as opposed to writing ‘Push’ over and over. I think that is a big reason why Matchbox Twenty is still around. There is no questioning that we are a pop-rock band but I think we are a rather diverse pop-rock band.”
Rob says that returning to work with his band mates in Matchbox Twenty is very much like coming home each and every time they get together. The work that he and his band mates Paul Doucette, Kyle Cook and Brian Yale have pursued outside of Matchbox Twenty helps to make a stronger, more unified band at the end of the day.
“We are all trying to make the best music that we can. Being in a band together for almost 20 years is a lot like a marriage in the sense you have to work on it and be mindful of the feelings of others. We aren’t ones to get into personal fights; any disagreements we have are always creative. We all have to like what we are putting out there, after all. We are all very meticulous about the sound of the band while also not wanting to repeat ourselves. I think it is a big reason why we’ve stayed so close all these years; there is a lot to be said for that.”
What: Matchbox Twenty with Goo Goo Dolls
When: Wednesday Aug. 28, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Moncton Coliseum, 377 KIllam Drive, Moncton
Tickets start at $59.50 plus service charges. Advance tickets are available at the Moncton Coliseum Box Office, online at tickets.moncton.ca and by phone (506) 857-4100