Lifestyle choice has Rob waxing lyrical

Rob Thomas is sitting inside his Sydney hotel room, laughing about crazy show-biz rumours.

Well, more specifically chuckling about a particular false rumour from the United States that he had become close (in no uncertain terms) with Tom Cruise.

"Unless I really did have a blackout period, that one's false," says Thomas, with a laugh. "That one's been the height of entertainment for us, it's pretty funny . . . I mean, that's an A-list rumour, you know."

But Thomas, who is married to model Marisol Maldonado (who visited Sydney with him this week), said there was a serious side to such frivolous gossip because it insulted his relationship with his wife.

"A rumour like that which says I would cheat on my wife, guy or girl, offends me. I'm not a person who would get offended if people think that I'm gay, but it does offend me that people think I would cheat on my wife and that she would be cool with it." (Of course, Cruise has always fiercely and legally defended himself against any suggestions he is gay.)

Rumours aside, Thomas arrived in Sydney on Wednesday afternoon accompanied by his wife, tour managers and band members for a short promotional tour, which included a gig at the Metro last Friday night.

The singer has already sold tens of millions of records as a rock'n'roll frontman with Matchbox Twenty, but his debut solo album released this year has also been a phenomenal success worldwide, including reaching No.1 in the US charts.

For Thomas, it was an absolute thrill to know his album Something To Be had made such a splash, but he says he was relaxed about the outcome no matter what.

"This is the first thing I've done that didn't feel nerve-racking," he says, chain-smoking inside a suite at the Four Seasons Hotel. "I could fail and still suspend that gap over to the next Matchbox record . . . I mean, if it fails, nobody knows about [it], so I could have just gone on and made another record with the band. I felt like I had a licence to fail," he says, laughing.

Of course, the result has been the exact opposite. Toned up, slimmed down and showing off his sexy side, Thomas has wowed his long-term fans (plus a new set of listeners) with singles including Lonely No More.

The singer looks taller in his video clips than in real life - he is about 170 centimetres tall, with fresh, clear skin (with no make-up for photos) and those very wide, alert eyes. His voice is deep, with a rich timbre, even in conversation.

Thomas says he has slimmed down significantly from his early days as the Matchbox Twenty frontman, but mainly for emotional reasons: "It's like a drug for me. Once I stopped my complete and total partying phase, when I was about 50 pounds (23 kilograms) heavier, which in itself isn't so bad except it was all bloat - it was alcohol heaviness, you know, and the shows were suffering.

"Once I started to change my behaviour the shows started to get better, everything started to get more concise. Everything gets better [with the exercise and gym routine] so that winds up feeling like a drug. I don't go to the gym to aesthetically look better but just to feel better and be more focused," he says.

Adorned with a few leather wrist bracelets and a small piece of pressed metal in one ear, Thomas's demeanour screams rock'n'roller, but he's also comfortable talking about the way his success has changed his life - from blue-collar kid living in Florida and South Carolina to very wealthy musician.

"It's impossible to come from nothing then have a lot of money and say you're completely unchanged," says Thomas. "It would be a waste of money," he adds, with a laugh. "My wife and I are picky about nice restaurants and clean hotel rooms, that's about the only thing we're up our own arse about."

There's no doubt Thomas is enjoying his lifestyle, but the music has always come first. After promoting his solo stuff, and undoubtedly working on other solo projects because of the current success of his album, Thomas plans to return to the Matchbox Twenty fold.

"Now I'll just go back to the band with a bigger head," he says, smiling.