Article With Paul

Neil Baron
Calendar correspondent

Matchbox Twenty is one of the best-selling bands of the past four years. Its first album, from 1996, "Yourself or Someone Like You," sold more than 13 million copies.

But drummer Paul Doucette has no pretense that the band is anything more than a group of musicians having fun.

"What we do is, we just write songs," he said by phone from a hotel room during a tour stop in Illinois. "That's it. There's no great story behind it. There's no rock star to it. We're a pop rock band that's just playing songs."

Some of those songs became huge hits, including "3am," "Real World" and "Push." And lead singer-songwriter Rob Thomas did reach superstar status last year when he teamed with guitarist Carlos Santana to record the No. 1 song "Smooth."

In a year when Matchbox Twenty had little contact with one another, Thomas won three Grammy awards, including song of the year, record of the year and best pop collaboration with vocals.

Doucette, who was good friends with Thomas before Matchbox Twenty was even formed, can only laugh.

"Right now as I'm talking to you, I'm watching TV," Doucette said. "I'm watching 'Change of Heart' and there's this girl on here who's kind of cute. And the guy she went out on the date with has Rob's haircut and a blue jacket like Rob wears."

After more than 600 shows in support of its first record, Matchbox Twenty needed a break, Doucette said. While Thomas was making himself a household name, the rest of the band was relaxing and listening to old popular music, such as the Beatles.

But when the five members Thomas, Doucette, guitarists Kyle Cook and Adam Gaynor and bassist Brian Yale returned to the studio last fall to record its second album, "Mad Season," nothing had changed between them.

"(Thomas' fame) didn't affect us at all, as friends or as musicians," Doucette said.

"It was just something he did and had success at. We were proud of him as a friend, but it was like, 'OK, we're going to make a Matchbox Twenty record now.' It was never anything that was really prevalent."

Thomas' celebrity status did provide the other four members a chance for some light-hearted ribbing, though.

"If he wanted to take a break, we'd be like, 'Oh, so Grammy man doesn't want to work' or 'Whatever you say, Mr. Thomas,'" Doucette said, laughing. "But it was all out of fun and love."

In truth, Doucette has tremendous respect for Thomas' songwriting ability. "I think Rob has a really great talent for writing really catchy melodies," Doucette said. "And he talks about things that are very common. He talks about feelings that most people have in a way that a lot of people can understand it."

The band's second CD shows a maturity that didn't exist on its first album, Doucette said.

"We knew a little bit more of what we were, where we were and what we were into," he said. "We all were leaning toward an older pop rock sound but we wanted to do it the modern way."

After Matchbox Twenty's initial success, many music critics wrote the band off as a one-album wonder. But because of Thomas' success with "Smooth," that's not happening anymore.

That makes Doucette laugh, too, simply because Matchbox Twenty was so popular before Thomas' success last year.

"I think it's interesting the reaction we got coming out (with "Mad Season") where suddenly Rob was a name," he said.

"Suddenly, Rob entered celebrity status. Everyone viewed ("Smooth") like that's the biggest success that he had. But at the same time, we sold 13 million records before he did that. I always thought that was really funny."

And while Doucette still considers Matchbox Twenty to be just another pop-rock band out of Orlando, Fla., he also feels it's earned some respect with its second release. The album is getting generally good reviews, even from critics who panned the first record.

"You can't really write us off anymore," he said.

"We are here. We are relevant at least from a radio standpoint. We are getting a substantial amount of radio play and that does make you a little relevant."

Thanks to ZenLaup20 for the article!