By M. SCOTT MORRIS, Tupelo Daily Journal
A guy looking for coolness points more than a decade ago couldn't have worked things any better than Kyle Cook.
"I started playing guitar at about age 13, but I played violin about four or five years leading up to that," Cook said during a phone interview from Phoenix. "At that age you just realize you're in the geek camp. I love classical music and I always have, but there was nothing cool about playing violin when you're 13."
Classical music lovers may argue the point, but legions of matchbox twenty fans would probably endorse Cook's switch.
Tupelo fans will get to sample Cook's cool guitar licks for themselves Tuesday when the multi-platinum-selling band visits the BancorpSouth Center for the "More Than You Think You Are Tour 2003."
Consider this an invitation - "Everyone should come out and have a couple of beers with matchbox twenty," Cook said.
Before matchbox twenty steps on stage to deliver melodic pop songs like "Unwell," "Bent," "3AM", "If You're Gone" and many other Top 40 hits, Sugar Ray and American Hi-Fi will be charged with getting the crowd revved up.
"Hi-Fi is just kind of in that Good Charlotte, Green Day high-energy vibe," Cook said. "The whole set is a lot of guitars and a lot of jumping around.
"Sugar Ray is just the shiniest, happy music in the world," he added. "No one can listen to it and not have a good time."
There's also a certain amount of fun attached to matchbox twenty's music. The latest album, "More Than You Think You Are," has been picking up positive reviews from magazines ranging from Rolling Stone to Seventeen. The first two singles, "Disease" and "Unwell," have shot up the Billboard charts.
Cook said the band took a stripped-down approach for this album after exploring complicated string and vocal arrangements on 2000's "Mad Season."
"The idea was to go to this place in the Catskills that's pretty secluded and really focus on the record," he said. "It seems to be shining through that there is a very live kind of feeling overall and a sense the band is having a good time."
One of the more light-hearted songs, "All I Need," has been teamed with a Beatles' tune during the tour.
"We play She Loves You, Yeah, Yeah,'" he said. " All I Need' has almost got that mop-top jangle to it, like the early Beatles."
Speaking of rock 'n' roll pioneers, Cook was surprised to learn Tupelo was the birthplace of Elvis Presley. That's easily forgiven since his coming of age with the electric guitar coincided with the rise of bands like Pearl Jam and Nirvana.
"Then I went back and kind of found Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix," he said. "Jimi has always been a huge influence."
Eddie Cramer, a longtime sound engineer for Hendrix and Zeppelin, is currently working with Cook on a side project called The New Left. (Find out more about the project at www.pastelinc.com.)
Cook also earned classic cool points up close and personal when Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones asked him to perform for a song on Jagger's 2001 solo album, "Goddess In the Doorway." Thomas and Jagger co-wrote "Visions of You," and Cook was invited to add some guitar licks.
"He greeted us at the door. He was really polite and short. You expect Mick Jagger to be like Shaquille O'Neal or something," Cook said. "He was really involved. I didn't expect him to be there. It was kind of like meeting the wizard. You think little elves are going to run around and take care of all the magical things, but he was right there at the sound board, singing ideas and working.
"Now I get to tell people I know Mick Jagger," he added. "That's probably the most important thing."
With such a bevy of classic rock connections, there's a good chance the members of matchbox twenty will tip their hats to the King of Rock 'n' Roll now that they know Tupelo is where it all began.
"(Thomas) has a pretty good Elvis impression," Cook said. "He used to have an Elvis guitar he played. It was one of these big-bodied custom guitars that had something about the King on it. I'll have to pass (the Tupelo connection) on to him because maybe we'll pull out Suspicious Minds' or something."