Matchbox Twenty On the Road With "More"

Guitarist Adam Gaynor realizes that his band, matchbox twenty, features one of music's most consistent writers of hits in Rob Thomas.

In addition to authoring such hits as "Bent," "If You're Gone," "Push" and "3 am," Thomas also co-wrote and sang "Smooth," the smash hit that propelled Carlos Santana's CD "Supernatural" toward stratospheric sales. He also penned three more songs for Santana's current CD, "Shaman," and four songs on Willie Nelson's two recent CDs, "The Great Divide" and "Stars & Guitars."

But ask him to describe Thomas' growth through matchbox twenty's three albums -- "Yourself Or Someone Like You" (1996), "Mad Season" (2000) and the newest effort, "More Than You Think You Are" -- and songwriting is not the first thing that comes to Gaynor's mind.

"His development as a singer is just phenomenal," Gaynor says. "You've got to listen to the twang in his voice when he's singing songs off the first album. It's like he's got that whole South Carolina twang thing going. And then you hear him in "Mad Season' where his voice starts to get more mature. And now you hear him as this like balls-out rock singer that's just very structured in tone and very seasoned. That to me is so much more impressive than his songwriting."

Gaynor isn't dismissing Thomas' improvement as a tunesmith. He pinpointed one fast-developing skill that has helped Thomas write better.

"When Rob first started in this band, he knew like three chords," Gaynor says. "I'm not even being a wiseass. It showed on our first album because there are like three or four chords in every song. Then he started playing more and more guitar, but he started playing a lot more piano, and he was writing a lot of stuff on piano as well. A good example is "You Won't Be Mine' off of "Mad Season."'

Gaynor continues: "You can now kind of tell that his song structure gets a lot more complex. And that lends to more sophisticated sounding songs, which he still lends his pop sensibility and his melodic catchiness and friendliness to. That's what I've noticed as being an insider-outsider viewer of the Robby T. show."

The growth in Thomas' songwriting is readily apparent on "More Than You Think You Are," anchored by first-rate tunes such as "Disease" (the CD's lead single, which Thomas co-wrote with Rolling Stones singer Mick Jagger), the rocking "Feel," the piano-centered ballad "Bright Lights" and the winsome mid-tempo track "All I Need."

The new CD also presents a leaner and slightly rockier sound. "We notice when we play our shows live, that really feels more like the right representation of what we do and who we are," Gaynor says. "What we wanted to do was go out and go into the studio and try to bottle the essence of matchbox twenty per se." "More Than You Think You Are" is the third straight platinum CD for the group, which came together in Orlando, Fla., in the mid 1990s.

Gaynor's reference to "The Robby T. Show" may be his way of poking fun at Thomas' higher profile, but Thomas has always emphasized that matchbox twenty is truly a group, and not his backing band.

While there's no getting around Thomas' leading role, the group grew more collaborative on "More Than You Think You Are." Drummer Paul Doucette and guitarist Kyle Cook get co-writing credits with Thomas on two songs -- "Feel" and "Soul" -- while a Doucette original, "Could I Be You," also made the cut.

Alan Sculley is a freelance writer.
Jodi Duckett,
Arts and Entertainment Editor
Morning Call (Allentown, PA)