Matchbox Twenty on 'unfinished business,' how touring does 'vile things' to their bodies

On Matchbox Twenty’s new single, “Don’t Get Me Wrong,” Rob Thomas sings, “I’m feeling calm but I’m never relaxed.”

It’s a universal sentiment, but one that seems particularly suited to a Matchbox Twenty resurgence.

“Everything after (you turn 40) is this sense of, I’m not always comfortable in my own skin and that’s perfectly OK,” Thomas says. “It’s part of the human experience to feel that way.”

After nearly 30 years of existence, a procession of ubiquitous radio hits (“Real World,” “Bent,” “3AM,” “Unwell,” “How Far We’ve Come,” “She’s So Mean”) and five albums – including Friday’s “Where The Light Goes” – Matchbox Twenty could easily fill venues for years with the millennial faithful who matured with them and a crop of newer fans who might also be familiar with Thomas’ extensive solo work (“Lonely No More,” “Smooth”).

Matchbox Twenty (from left), Kyle Cook, Brian Yale, Rob Thomas and Paul Doucette, kicked off their Slow Dream Tour in Vancouver May 16, 2023, and will stay on the road through August.

But instead, the quartet of Thomas, bassist Brian Yale, guitarist/drummer Paul Doucette and lead guitarist Kyle Cook, are bulldozing through 50-plus dates on their just-launched Slow Dream tour and rewarding fans with a solid new album – their first in more than a decade ‒ that reflects their unchanging casual-button-down-and-jeans style in songs such as “Friends” and “Wild Dogs (Running in a Slow Dream).”

All of the guys have hit 50 (excepting Cook, who is 47) and they’re approaching this next phase with a combination of enjoyment and gratitude.

Thomas and Doucette tell us more about why they’re still comfortable in a changed music industry.

Question: It’s been more a decade since you last recorded an album, so what was it like getting back in the studio and why did this feel like the right time to do it?

Thomas: As a band we had come to conclusion that we didn’t think we’d make another full length record. Maybe the business model would be to tour every few years, do a song or two for us and our fans. But after the (COVID-related) 2020-21 tour postponement and then postponing again in 2022, we felt a real commitment to fans that maybe a tour wasn’t enough. Kyle started the idea of making a real record and having something for the fans that’s a little more exciting than just waiting three years to hear the songs they know.

Matchbox Twenty's fifth studio album, "Where The Light Goes," arrives May 26, 2023.

The industry has changed so drastically since your first albums, and especially your 1996 debut (“Yourself or Someone Like You”), which sold 12 million copies. Do you think we’ll ever see artists achieving Diamond status (10 million sold) with an album again?

Thomas: The biggest artists, like the Taylors and Beyoncés, I don’t even know if they’re doing Diamond (numbers).

Doucette: I don’t see how that comes back. How do you introduce that business model again? That ship has sailed. When you bought a CD you were buying a physical thing and unless there’s another thing that comes with music, I don’t know why people would buy it.

Thomas: And that new physical thing has to become the standard. Record sales are no longer the carrot they used to be and that’s not the litmus test anyone is judging by now. There are so many factors of engagement. I just think our bar is moving ‒ not higher or lower, but just what the bar is and what we consider success is changing.

Doucette: When you look at the charts and see the No. 1 album in the country sold 20,000 records? 

That would have been a really bad sales week for the band in 2000.

Doucette: We probably wouldn’t have done anything else after that.

Matchbox Twenty members (from left) Brian Yale, Paul Doucette, Rob Thomas and Kyle Cook, are touring behind their first new release in a decade, "Where the Light Goes."

When working on “Where the Light Goes,” did you think about how the industry might view it or was it simply a feeling of, we want to make a new album?

Doucette: It was way more of a personal decision and that we had unfinished business. We haven’t finished doing everything we wanted to do as a band that puts out new material. Over these past 11 years, that was a hole for a lot of us. When the stars aligned, that’s why we wanted to do it. How the album does, I don’t know how much we thought about it. There’s the understanding it’s been 11 years, we’re in our 50's, and it’s a huge Hail Mary pass if you’re looking at it only through that lens.

You’ve got a lengthy tour this spring and summer and it’s your first time out in about six years. How do you feel about getting back out there?

Thomas:  We’ve always been a live band. Before we were signed we were the band that was gigging and trying to play frat parties. When we put our first record out, we were touring, touring, touring, so for us it’s always been part of the cycle. It starts with the inception and creation and then the promotion. The presentation is what closes the loop when we get to share it with fans. It’s inherent to who we are as a band to get out there and really care about a good live show.  

Matchbox Twenty kicked off its Slow Dream Tour May 16, 2023, and will tour the country though August.

Why are you calling it the Slow Dream tour?

Thomas: It sounds pretty.

Doucette: There were two things we liked about it. It connects to the single “Wild Dogs (Running in a Slow Dream)" and it felt like a tour I would go see in 1983 or '85, like, it’s Level 42 and the Slow Dream tour! We’re children of the ‘80s and we embrace that more and more as we get older.

What are some of your road routines?

Thomas: I have to come in and sing way too hard, way too often, lose my voice, build up those callouses and then get it back before the tour because that’s when it’s strong. I’ll tell you at the end of this tour what it does to our bodies (laughs). We forget time has passed and we do really vile things to our bodies up there. We throw them around like rag dolls. My chiropractor was like, no more jumping off the piano, that knee isn’t going to take it. People forget sometimes that it’s our good time, too. This is our escape. That’s the best part of this whole thing, those couple of hours a night. You have buses of crew guys, all the local vendors, all of the fans who have to get babysitters and parking all for this two hours and it’s like a circus tent. You tear it down and you take it to another town and set it back up. It’s that whole micro universe.

Doucette: You also get spoiled. I’ll walk into a venue and someone will be like, “Paul, can I get you a coffee?” That doesn’t happen to me in my normal life (laughs). So I’m like, I can enjoy this for a few months.

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