Q & A With Rob Thomas Of Matchbox Twenty

by Aidin Vaziri

Selling just over 10 million copies of Matchbox Twenty's 1996 debut,"Yourself or Someone Like You," was not enough for Rob Thomas. On his time off, the band's front man collaborated with Carlos Santana on the Grammy Award-winning No. 1 single "Smooth" and married model Marisol Maldonado. The nuptials were taped for an ABC special, "Celebrity Weddings InStyle."

He also found time to make another album with the band, "Mad Season by Matchbox Twenty," which is light years ahead of the formulaic modern rock sound of the first offering. It will probably sell 20 million.

Rod Stewart said it best: Some guys have all the luck.

Q: Because of the "Smooth" video, do people expect a block party to break out when they see you on the street now?

A: Yeah, right. (Laughs) It's so funny, wherever I'm going my wife just starts dancing in front of me.

Q: Because you are getting all the attention in the band, do you think the other guys secretly hate you?

A: No, because it's like, we all go to an airport and I can't make it through because I'm signing autographs and everything. The guys are like, "I don't want that job." They think the best thing in the world is wealth and obscurity. If they can somehow manage to get both, then they're happy guys.

Q: Do you like all the attention?

A: You know, there's a natural tendency for people to connect with the front man. Everybody knows lead singers. Our job is to try to not perpetuate that too much.

Q: Maybe you shouldn't be allowed to speak in public anymore.

A: Well, we turned down Rolling Stone once because they just wanted to put me on the cover without the band. We thought that by doing that we would consciously be saying something.

Q: Well then, how exactly did your wedding wind up on ABC?

A: That was all my wife. My wife is a very stylish lady and she's friends with some people at InStyle magazine. You don't say no to that one. That's one of those fights you don't want to have. (Laughs)

Q: Do the other guys give you a hard time about that?

A: No, they haven't said a word about it yet, which could be even scarier.

Q: Did something happen to you when you were a kid to make you drive so hard to succeed?

A: It's funny, man, because it's a fine line being a successful musician and a 40-year-old loser who doesn't have a job. When you start doing this, you're tenacious and you put off everything else, like all these other career opportunities that keep popping up as you're young. Next thing you know, there's nothing to fall back on. When you realize that, you just realize, "I'm not a good waiter. I'm not good at cars or sports. This is just what I do." So I don't think it makes me that special.

Q: Are you just a lucky guy?

A: Oh God, yeah. You listen to a Jayhawks record and you go, "The Jayhawks haven't sold 10 million records.'' And then you look at the Grammys and you see Macy Gray didn't win best new artist. You see all these things that put perspective on things and you realize it only means what it is. Selling 10 million records only means we sold 10 million records. We still have the same shortcomings we did going into it.

Q: The first song on the new record is called "Angry," but overall I have to say you sound pretty happy today. Do you think you are less angry now ecause your wife is a model and you have a million dollars and Carlos Santana is your friend?

A: Well, we're not angry guys. It's kind of funny because that's the tongue-and-cheekness of the song 'Angry' itself. It takes a lot of people a while before they actually listen to the song. People used to tell us, "'Push' is mine and my girlfriend's song.' And I'm like, "You've never listened to those lyrics at all, have you?"

Q: Unless they all beat their girlfriends.

A: Yeah, like my mother said, it could be a prom song, but when you hear the lyrics you go, "Oh, OK, well, maybe not." It's really a f-- sick song. With "Angry" it's the same way. It sounds so angry, but the whole idea of the song is that we've mellowed out.

Q: Did working with Santana make you want to do more Latin-style love ballads on this record?

A: Well, I would have probably been more inclined to not put some of the songs on this record. Because it's like, OK, these are the songs I'm writing for Matchbox and these are songs I'm writing for who knows what.

Q: It's funny how a few Grammys can change your attitude on something like that.

A: Exactly. I was doing worse damage than any critic because I was limiting us to the style of songs we had on the first record. By opening up to all songs, it made me realize that we define ourselves by each record. I also think it softened the blow for people. Because now it was Matchbox Twenty plus Rob Thomas and Carlos Santana and "Smooth" equals this record. Maybe we won't get ragged on as much.