By Jacqui Swift, The Sun

AS one of the most successful writer and producers in rock, he has sold more than 75million records and won three Grammys.

And as lead singer in Matchbox Twenty, he is one of America's biggest music stars.

Yet in the UK, Rob Thomas can walk down a High Street in any big city without a blink of recognition from passers-by.

But now he is hoping his debut solo album ...Something To Be, already a No1 in America, Australia and Europe, will change things here.

He says: "There are plus sides to not being famous here. My wife Marisol and I went out last night and no one knew who I was. We were dancing, making out and getting drunk without a care in the world. It was great."

Best known here for Smooth, his No3 duet with Carlos Santana in 2000, Rob is taking a break from Matchbox Twenty. He says: "I've been in Matchbox for ten years and there has always been a compromise.I've always wondered what I could do on my own and so ...Something To Be includes tracks which I have never been able to record before. I listen to everything from Miles Davis to Kasabian and I wanted my record to be as diverse as that."

...Something To Be has a funkier sound than Rob's more basic Matchbox Twenty sound. Imagine Justin Timberlake getting on stage with Maroon 5.

The album contains tracks which Rob jokes are Matchbox Twenty "cast-offs". He says: "For instance, Problem Girl and I Am An Illusion are tracks the guys just weren't into but I liked them and thought they should be heard."

A lot of songs were also influenced by Marisol, who became ill when he started to write the album.

Rob reveals: "She has a serious problem with her immune system and there was a time when we didn't think she would make it. Ever The Same and When the Heartache Ends are all related to this period."

For all those wondering, Rob, who has penned songs for Mick Jagger and Willie Nelson, hasn't left Matchbox Twenty for good.

Rob says: "We are all the best of mates and we will make another record together one day soon."