A Smooth New Yorker

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Matchbox Twenty's Rob Thomas is vocal about falling off stage, singing at the Superbowl, and his new album
By Angela Barbuti Rob Thomas' name is nearly synonymous with success in the music industry. With hits like "Smooth", "Push", and most recently, "She's So Mean", his relatable lyrics and infectious beats have found a way into our ears and hearts for the past 17 years. With a mega-hit career with his band Matchbox Twenty, as well as a solo venture, Thomas has written pop rock anthems that are part of our nostalgic memories.
"We got to build up this fan base, and those 15-year-old kids are now 30. They grew up listening to our music, and now they got their kids listening. So I think that we kind of hit a sweet spot," he said.

Thomas is on tour with his bandmates Paul Doucette, Kyle Cool and Brian Yale for their newest, album, North, and is proud to call New York his hometown gig. When the 41-year old isn't performing, he can be found dining at Pastis with his wife Marisol.

How is playing a New York show different from anywhere else?

I moved to New York 15 years ago. My wife is from Queens and we lived in the city for a while before we moved to Westchester. New York is the center of fashion, finance, culture, and food. Even before I moved here, New York, for me, was the epicenter of everything that makes life worth living. When you come here there's an energy - it's palpable. It was always an exciting place to play, but now, it's my hometown show. For me, playing Jersey, Long Island, Capitol Theater at Port Chester, Mohegan Sun, Atlantic City - those are my home gigs. In a lot of ways it's all about trying to juggle tickets, to make sure that everybody who wants to get in can get one. That I get a chance to see everybody I want to see. You got the label, your family, and all your friends there. You know, your contractor wants a ticket.

Why do you think Matchbox Twenty is still relevant today?

I think we're relevant to the people who want to hear the music that we're making. We came out at a time when people were selling records. You know what I mean? A record. Our shows are literally from ten-year-olds to sixty-year-olds.

What can you tell us about this tour?

It's about a 2-hour set, so we try to fit in as much as we can. It's a healthy amount of the new record without it being like you're coming to see just the new record. I hate that when I go see a band. You can't presuppose, but you figure someone out there has a favorite song they're waiting to hear. You also realize that after 17 years, somebody's gonna leave unhappy.

Any funny stories?

I fell off the stage the other night. I don't know if it's funny or if it's tragic that now that I'm 41 my equilibrium is all out of whack. The stairs weren't in a normal place; they had these big risers on stage, and I turned around and face-planted right off the stage. I don't think anybody saw it - and it was a big fall. I'm not that kind of celebrity, so I don't even know that anybody would care. Like if Beyonce gets a run in her stocking, that's gonna be on the front page of the Huffington Post. I would literally have to sacrifice a goat and kill a priest for someone to care enough to want to write about it.

How do you think the music industry has changed?

Oh man, how has it not changed? Now, if you're an 18-year-old kid with 3 million Facebook followers, you're probably more savvy in this new social network music media world than somebody like me whose been doing it for 17 years. There's an entire new way that people are experiencing music and buying music. It's funny to think that when I put out my first solo record and Matchbox put out our greatest hits record, Twitter didn't exist. Now it's so ubiquitous and the way that you hype everything.

What do you think of the scarcity of record stores?

Every generation pines for the way that they used to do things. I used to love going to the record store, but that's more of a symbolic memory. The last thing you want to do is get left behind because you're the guy sitting there going, "Well, in my day, we had records, and those records were big." But if I want to get practical, how great is it that if I hear a song when I walk into Target, I can hold up my phone and find out what that song is and own it by the time I walk through the checkout line?

How was singing at the Superbowl?

Oh, that was fun. Even for most of us who aren't even football fans. It's something that's even bigger than the game. It's this moment in the time that the entire world is paying attention to. Any chance you get to sit there and watch these people who are literally at the top of their game do what they do, it's really exciting. It's awe-inspiring to see someone who is built by God to do something.

What's on your iPod?

A little bit of everything. A lot of jazz. A lot of My Morning Jacket.

Is there really going to be a Matchbox Twenty cruise at the end of the year?

Yeah. [Laughs] I'm a little scared to be on a cruise in general. But it's literally the last thing we're gonna do at the end of this year before we take a break and figure out what our next move is. At some point we were sitting around having beers and the offer came to us and Paul said, "It's us for three days on a boat-we play some music and drink a lot. Doesn't that sound like a good way to end everything?" I couldn't argue with him. The truth is I would never go on a cruise on my own. I said I would never go on a cruise even if someone paid me. Well I guess I would.

To learn more about Rob's music, visit www.robthomasmusic.com

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