Matchbox Twenty Strikes Up the 'Storytellers'

"We've been waiting for this for a long time, actually." Matchbox Twenty singer Rob Thomas smiles when asked how he feels about taping VH1's Storytellers. "We wanted to do it with the first record. But then we figured, 'Well we just don't have enough songs.' So when we came out with the second record, that was one of the first things: We're going to do a Storytellers."

A lot more has happened to the Florida quintet since they initially set their minds on chatting and rocking VH1 style. Their 1996 debut, Yourself or Someone Like You, sold 10 million copies and launched a slew of radio faves like "Push" and "3 A.M." In 2000, the band released Mad Season, a disc packed with just as many hummable Thomas tunes and embraced, so far, by 3 million fans.

Except now that he's in the Storytellers studio, Thomas admits he's getting cold feet.

"It's funny, the only things I'm nervous about are talking and talking," he laughs. "Playing, that's your gig. That's what you do. You're much more comfortable playing than talking about playing. But it's nice to explain some of the meanings of these songs."

The opportunity of performing in a more intimate setting than the arenas they're accustomed to has inspired the band members to revisit and rework some of their material.

"[Doing the show] gives you the freedom to play with your songs a little bit," admits drummer Paul Doucette. "Because when you're on the road you're pretty much doing the same [arrangement] every night. Now we get to walk in and think of different versions."

It's also inspired Thomas to call in some additional players, augmenting the Matchbox Twenty brass ensemble with a string section.

"In the middle of rehearsal," he says, "we thought, 'Hey, can we get some string players? That would be great.' They all came in and did like a crash rehearsal. It was fun. On the road we've been playing along with them on a tape. So now it's the same thing, but it's a lot more robust."

Thomas doesn't take long to get over his initial apprehensions.

"I think by nature, if you're a musician, you have a huge ego and you like to talk about yourself," he says. "This facilitates that. I can talk about myself for the entire show. It's gonna be good."

"For us," jokes Paul, "it's just going to be a normal day with Rob."