By Julia Ann Weekes, The Union Leader (Manchester NH)
PAUL DOUCETTE is relaxing in a hotel room outside of Detroit, watching "Grosse Point Blank" on cable television and punctuating the first part of an interview with lazy yawns.
Despite the laid-back feel of this afternoon chat, Doucette's life these days isn't often filled with idle moments. As drummer for Matchbox Twenty, whose 1996 blockbuster debut recording "Yourself or Someone Like You" has been certified platinum a dozen times over in the United States alone, Doucette hit the road two weeks ago in support of the band's third release, 2002's "More Than You Think You Are."
The Northeast portion of the tour will bring the band, along with Sugar Ray ("Fly," "When It's Over," "Someday") and Maroon 5 ("Harder to Breathe"), to the Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester Monday. The tour will continue throughout the United States, Australia and Canada by year's end.
"I'm tired now only because I had a really hard time falling asleep last night, so I was up all night. But I am used to touring," said Doucette. "It's weird. We'd actually been off for a year and a half, touring wise. When we got back ... it was exactly the same, like we had never left it. It was like no time went by at all.
"I was really surprised, too, because from the first show on, we were really kind of at the top of our game," Doucette said. "There's usually a period of time when we're getting used to it again, and this time it didn't happen that way. We just kind of went on and played, and played well, from the beginning, which I'm pretty happy about."
Matchbox Twenty's music -- a bluesy, emotive rock with a knack for melodic hooks -- is a measure of a Grammy-winning band that has successfully created its own sound while avoiding industry tendencies to put as much focus on a group's image as its tunes.
"The thing about our band is we've always been more famous for our songs than for who we are," Doucette said of the group, which also features lead singer Rob Thomas, lead guitarist and background vocalist Kyle Cook, rhythm guitar player and background singer Adam Gaynor, and bassist Brian Yale.
With chart-topping tunes like "Push," "3 a.m.," "Bent" and "If You're Gone" from the group's first two releases, Matchbox Twenty has created a songwriting rhythm that has led the band to its latest release, "More Than You Think You Are," on Melisma/Atlantic records.
"With this record, it was, 'Let's just make a record we really like -- we know how to do this,'" Doucette recalled. "That's definitely an element of the band that we have now that we never had before.
"When we're on stage now or making a record, there is a confidence level, and also a competence, that we've never had before," he said. "You get to play music for a living and you don't have to really worry about doing anything else, and that's a great thing. We wanted to do that our whole lives, and we've now created a life where we can."
Doucette, who grew up in Pittsburgh, moved to Florida at 20. Answering an ad for a drummer in a local paper, he teamed up with Thomas and Yale in an earlier musical incarnation and formed Matchbox Twenty a few years later.
Still, the road to a handful of hit songs isn't always a smooth one. The creative process for Thomas and Doucette, especially, can be a daunting one, filled with disagreements.
"Yeah, we always do" butt heads, Doucette admitted. "It depends on what it is. Sometimes, we totally don't see eye to eye. We both have very strong opinions that don't always necessarily match, and we're both going to stand up for our opinions. So it's a recipe for fighting."
But the ingredients usually blend together in the end.
"We do make it work," Doucette said. "Usually one of us will see the other one's point or it will make us have to go in another direction, because neither of us will budge. Working on songs, is a good example. I'll say when something is not working and he'll say, 'No that's my favorite part.' I'll say, 'That's the part of the song I can't stand.'
"We'll go back and forth and back and forth and come to some sort of compromise, like, one of us will say, 'Well, what if we just took this part and put it together with this part?' or maybe Kyle will come in and say, 'Hey since both of you hate that part or since you hate that part and you like that part, why don't we try putting this part in there.
"Usually it's good," he said. "At the end of the day ... we know that our goal is the same. It's just that our definition of that goal is sometimes different."
For "More Than You Think You Are," Doucette co-wrote, along with Thomas and Cook, the songs "Soul" and "Feel" and for the first time served as solo author behind one of the band's tunes.
"'Could I be You' is about how I'm amazed by people who can find joy in tiny little things, people who are like 'Oh, look, M & Ms, I love M & Ms'," Doucette joked. "That is so amazing to me because I cannot relate to that at all. (For me to have the same reaction) it would pretty much it would have to be, 'You won a million dollars and you're going to stay young forever,' and I'd be like, 'Really, oh, okay,' and that might make me start to smile."
The first track released off the new CD, the well-received radio favorite "Diseased," originally was penned by Thomas -- with a little help from Mick Jagger -- for Jagger's latest project. But it was handed over to Matchbox Twenty when Jagger used another Thomas song instead.
"Mick wrote a couple lines in the second verse -- 'Take me to the fire, left me there to burn' was one of Mick's lines," Doucette said. "We were playing in London and Mick came to the show and said, 'You know, I've decided I'm not going to use 'Diseased.' So you guys should put it on your record.'[yen]"
Like many of Matchbox 20's offerings, the new album, with "Diseased" and "Unwell" lighting up the charts, touches upon frustration and anxiety in relationships, though Thomas and Doucette say each is happily married.
"In Rob's situation, I think he writes about ... little moments. He amplifies those moments, and for him that's how it gets it out of his system," Doucette said. "My songs are more personally based, more like about how I'm personally feeling about myself and the outside world. In the case of 'Soul,' a lot of my lines in there is like you talking to yourself.'
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