Matchbox Twenty's Rob Thomas and Dan Doucette: Interview

Sure singer-songwriter Rob Thomas found success with matchbox twenty. Sales of its debut album, "Yourself or Someone Like You," have surpassed the 10-million mark, and anybody who hasn't heard the songs "Push" or "3am" are probably living under a rock.

But last year, Thomas strayed from the band to pen the Latin-flavored "Smooth" for Carlos Santana. After winning three Grammys for the tune, Thomas has received his fair share of harassment from his band members.

"We definitely gave him a lot of s*** for it," drummer Paul Doucette said of the awards. "Like, right afterward we rehearsed for a couple days, and he couldn't say anything without us saying, 'Oh, Mr. Grammy man'; or Adam [Gaynor, guitarist] was calling him Grammy Davis Jr. or Gramuel Jackson. That was a good one."

Name-calling is big with matchbox twenty these days. The group announced recently that it changed its name to "matchbox twenty"—all lower case, with 20 spelled out. And "Platinum" is a word that matchbox twenty would once again like to see next to its name. On Tuesday, May 23, matchbox twenty released "Mad Season," its follow-up to "Yourself or Someone Like You." Thomas' extracurricular songwriting is evident. Horns ("Black and White People") and lush orchestration ("Bed of Lies") are wrapped around Thomas' Cher-like vocals.'s Christina Fuoco talked with Doucette and Thomas about the Grammy, being a newlywed and FedEx. In the opening track of the album, you sing, "I'm not angry anymore." After the 12 months you've had, there's probably not much to be angry about. 

Rob Thomas: Yeah. It definitely fits in there with the first song. It's such an angry song. [Laughs] That was one of the reasons we put it at the beginning of the record. It just seemed to announce something, but we're not quite sure what. But it did kind of state how we were feeling. But you're right. I gotta be an a**hole if I'm angry.  

Q: How did your marriage inspire you musically?
I think it's made me more analytical writing-wise. When you're married, you'll take a situation and you'll have to dissect it and enlarge it and examine it and bring out that part of it. Take a song like "You Won't Be Mine" or "If You're Gone." One was written after I was married [and the other] right when I met my wife. Both were written about our relationship, one turbulent time. Instead of saying, "Well, now I'm a happy guy so my art is dead." There are emotional undercurrents no matter what you do for a living.   

Q: Your last album sold more than 10 million copies. Was it difficult to deal with the stardom? 
A: You know what was really cool with the way that matchbox twenty happened? We were out on the road for like three years. Everything was such a slow build. It was the slowest overnight success in the world. We'd get to one point and then we'd have a little time to digest that. Slowly, we'd get to the next point. So it never felt like one day I walked out and boom. When we got signed, we thought we were big f****n' rock stars. Then you sell a million records and you're like, "Oh my God. I'm world famous." Around five or six million, you're like, "Hold on. Hold on. We're not that good."  

Q: What do you think it is about matchbox twenty that so many people could relate to? 
A: 'Cause we roooooock. [Laughs] When something like that happens, you want to say it's a good record. But that's like the starting point. There's a lot of great records out there that don't see the light of day. So, with something like that, everything is the right time, the right management, the record company doing the right things. There's so many links in that chain. Without one of them, you wouldn't have that success. You all have to realize that it's all kind of happening around you. If you touch it, you might knock something out of balance. Don't take too much credit for it, because then all that might just fall out of line.  

Q: Did the songwriting process change for "Mad Season"?   
A: On this record, I went back to playing piano from guitar. I'm not a great piano player, but I'm just a real s****y guitar player. I wrote most of the first record on guitar, which is why there's a lot of similar corporations going on. There's a similarity on the record if you listen to it all at once. On this record, to us, it sounds more like an album. It has more peaks and valleys. It takes you on more of a journey. That's because I wrote a lot on piano.  

Q: During the making of "Mad Season," were you nervous at all about matching the first album's success?  
A: No. I think it was such a freakish success that none of us expected to ever compete with that. It didn't seem like it was such a big deal. It seemed like the pressure was off, really. Five or six million, conceivably you can do it again. This was like, we're never going to sell another diamond record. It's a wonderful thing. Now it's just about staying in the game.   

Q: You were able to maintain your footing with a little single called "Smooth." 
That's another thing that [I was] so lucky with. I wasn't even originally going to sing on it. Then I sang on it. Then I was involved in another thing that became so freakishly huge. You could never prepare for that. You could never plan that. It was like falling backassward into luck again.  

Q: Where did you put your Grammys?  
A: I haven't even seen them yet. They don't give you your Grammys there. They mail them to you. They got sent to my mother-in-law's house but they're broken. FedEx broke them. So now they're going to get me new ones.  

Q: What did you learn from Carlos Santana that you were able to use with matchbox twenty?  
A: It was nice to branch out writing-wise because that was something else I brought back to matchbox. I realize I don't have to write songs for matchbox. I can just kind of write songs. It gave us a little window that people would be more accepting of us trying different things on the record and not necessarily doing "Push" over and over and over—even though our single ["Bent"] is the closest thing to "Push" on the record.

Also, Carlos reminds you that here he is without the benefit of lots of record sales or without the benefit of a lot of radio play. He's a legend. He's such a great musician. He's never forgotten ever that when you're playing music you're connecting with everyone who's there. That's the purpose of being there. He once told me that our job as musicians, our only job is to change people's molecular structure through sound. For that one minute, hit a note that's gonna make someone either feel happy or feel sad. ... He teaches you to not really focus on your career, but your music. Then your career kind of falls into place.