Having spent over 600 nights on the road since the release of their explosive 1996 Melisma/Lava/Atlantic debut, "YOURSELF OR SOMEONE LIKE YOU," matchbox twenty has grown into a creative musical machine firing on all cylinders. Thomas’s rich vocals have ripened in both strength and maturity, as have Kyle Cook and Adam Gaynor’s heartfelt harmonies and chiming twin guitar arrangements. Binding these elements together is the inventive, propulsive rhythm section of bassist Brian Yale and drummer Paul Doucette.
"When we made our first record, we hadn’t really been a band for very long," Thomas says. "We hadn’t had any really good fights, we hadn’t had any really good laughs, we hadn’t done much of anything together. But now, so much has happened to us that we’ve formed a character within ourselves. So this is really the first time we’re saying, ‘This is matchbox twenty making a record,’ because now matchbox twenty is its own entity. This is the first one where we can really say, this is our sound."
Recorded in Atlanta and Nashville during the second half of 1999, "mad season by matchbox twenty" was produced by dual Grammy Award-winner Matt Serletic ("Record of the Year"/"Album of the Year"), the man behind the board for "YOURSELF OR SOMEONE LIKE YOU." Late last year, that album – a Billboard Top Five smash – earned the RIAA’s prestigious Diamond Award, marking certified U.S. sales in excess of 10 million units and adding matchbox twenty’s name to a very elite roster of artists who have reached this major career milestone. "It was freakish," says Thomas of the group’s incredible achievement. "You can’t compete with it and you can’t recreate it, so we were in a good position. All we had to worry about was making a great record."
"mad season by matchbox twenty" highlights the continuing development of Thomas’s gifts as a writer, with songs that focus on the binding elements of our increasingly unconnected world. Where many sophomore records reflect an artist’s newly isolated existence – with songs either telling of bus windows and endless highways, of the terrible traumas of fame and fortune – here Thomas spins poignant stories of love and loss, of life and how to live it. "Your career is just one aspect of who you are," Thomas notes. "Most of the things I write about are still basic emotions. If you sell a billion records, and the only thing you can come up with to write about is selling a billion records, then you’re probably a pretty shallow person. There has to be something else in your life that you can draw on other than ‘I’m rich and famous.’" Thomas was recently honored with three Grammy Awards for "Smooth," his 1999 chart-topping collaboration with Carlos Santana. The track earned him "Song of the Year" honors; the "Record of the Year" trophy (along with Santana, producer Matt Serletic, and engineer/mixer David Thoener); and the "Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals" award, which he shared with Santana. Thomas’s hat trick was the second-highest tally of the 42nd Annual Grammy Awards, following Santana himself with eight. "I just fell bass-ackwards into luck again," says Rob. "Everything about ‘Smooth’ has been so special and so beautiful. We were taking our time making ‘mad season,’ so ‘Smooth’ became this really good bridge. We needed a break, and it kept us from the ‘Where Are They Now?’ file." Thomas – who won in every category in which he was nominated – had previously earned a Grammy nomination for matchbox twenty’s hit single, "Push," which received a 1998 nod in the "Best Rock Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocal" category. Among his other honors, Thomas received the 1999 "Pop Songwriter of the Year" award from the performing rights organization BMI. He was recognized for penning three songs on the year’s most-performed songs list, and shared the "Pop Songwriter of the Year" title with Mariah Carey, Shania Twain, and Sarah McLachlan. In addition, BMI presented three tracks from "YOURSELF OR SOMEONE LIKE YOU" – "3am," "Real World," and "Push" (previously awarded for being among 1998’s most-performed songs) – with their 1999 "Pop Award." "Every great spirit lined up the right way so that we could be afforded this success," Thomas says. "And I think we’ve taken that success and done the right things with it. We don’t take ourselves too seriously, and we haven’t forgotten what it’s all about, which is the music."
Born on a military base in Germany, Rob Thomas spent much of his youth shuttling between his grandmother in South Carolina and his mom in Florida. After dropping out of both high school and his difficult home life, the 17-year-old Rob drifted around the Southeast, hitchhiking and crashing where he could. The only constant of the young man’s life was music, an inspiring soundtrack which included artists ranging from Al Green and Van Morrison to Elvis Costello and R.E.M. He released the pressures of his life in his songwriting, just as he developed his gutsy vocal style fronting a number of local rock bands. Settling in the Orlando area, he found common musical ground with drummer Paul Doucette and bassist Brian Yale, and the three formed a partnership. They recruited guitarist Adam Gaynor from his job at Miami’s Criteria Recording Studios and guitarist Kyle Cook from his studies at the Atlanta Institute of Music. matchbox twenty was born.
As quickly as they’d come together, the band found themselves signed to Lava/Atlantic and were soon recording their debut album with producer Matt Serletic (Collective Soul, Aerosmith). With the release of "Push," the band scored a dramatic multi-format breakthrough single and a video channel favorite, pushing matchbox twenty and 1996’s "YOURSELF OR SOMEONE LIKE YOU" into the spotlight. They kicked off Summer 1997 with an early set at the massive Blockbuster Rockfest at the Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, a performance which was deemed the long day’s highlight. That July, the group made their network television debut, blowing the roof off Late Show with David Letterman with a knockout rendition of "Push." They returned to the Ed Sullivan Theater late that year to perform "3am", after taking the stage in September for their debut on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. All four singles released from "YOURSELF OR SOMEONE LIKE YOU" – that is, "Push," "3am," "Real World," and "Back 2 Good" – became radio favorites, topping the airplay charts at most formats. Proving that the band’s talents are visual as well as sonic, the arresting companion video clips were Heavy Rotation hits at both MTV and VH1. The accolades began piling up, as matchbox twenty won the illustrious "Best New Band" award in Rolling Stone’s 1997 Reader’s Poll, as well as Billboard’s 1997 "Duo/Group," and the "Favorite Group: New Artist" trophy at 1997’s Blockbuster Entertainment Awards. The album was also listed among the top 10 in Spin magazine’s 1998 "Year In Music" issue, while Thomas’s charismatic frontman persona prompted People to include him in their 1998 "50 Most Beautiful People In The World" issue.
All the while, matchbox twenty toured constantly, to ever-larger, always-sold-out houses. In early 1998, the band taped a blistering performance at New York’s Hammerstein Ballroom for MTV’s Live At The Ten Spot in-concert program. With America plainly captivated by the band’s sweeping sound and songs, the next step was to bring their music to the rest of the world. Following a series of acclaimed dates and promo appearances in Europe, matchbox twenty embarked on their first tour of Australia. The band, which had clicked with fans Down Under on a level par with the U.S. – with the album reaching #1 on the charts – arrived in Oz to find all dates sold out, including a five-night stand in Sydney. The tour was filmed for posterity, with performances from all points gathered together to form "matchbox twenty LIVE FROM AUSTRALIA," the band’s first full-length home video release. On the global front, the band accumulated an impressive list of certifications for "YOURSELF OR SOMEONE LIKE YOU": eight-times platinum in Australia, quintuple platinum in New Zealand, quadruple platinum in Canada, platinum in the Philippines, and gold in Ireland and Indonesia. "Rob’s message is universal," says guitarist Adam Gaynor of the band’s global popularity. "What he’s saying appeals to so many people."
1999 was spent vacationing, woodshedding, and readying to record the second matchbox twenty outing. When the group convened at Atlanta’s Tree Studios in August, it soon became clear just how much the band had grown since their debut. "The difference was monumental," Gaynor says. "We’re all really proud of the first album, but we’re a much more mature band now. It was a lot more fun this time. You’re so nervous the first time you make a record, but now it’s just about making good music and taking it up another notch." "We’ve matured as people, which I think is reflected in the music," guitarist Kyle Cook points out. "I think we took some chances, but not at the cost of the songs. The first record was more a straight-forward rock band record, and I think we’ve taken the next step." "Everyone really stepped up," says bassist Brian Yale. "The difference between matchbox twenty four years ago and now, performance-wise, is just night and day."
Where "YOURSELF OR SOMEONE LIKE YOU" is marked by the passionate energy of a young band hitting the studio for the first time, "mad season by matchbox twenty" features a no-holds-barred sonic approach which incorporates new textures – such as intricate orchestrations and fierce horn sections. With the able assistance of producer Matt Serletic, the band grew comfortable in the recording studio and was able to take control of their music. "Matt’s the sixth member of the band," Thomas enthuses, "and that makes working in the studio more interesting and fun. We can trust him to say ‘Try this road’ or ‘Do this,’ because we know in the end we’re all going to decide on what’s best." Though Thomas is, of course, matchbox twenty’s central songwriter, the album features the first-ever composing contributions by Doucette. The drummer shares writing credit with Thomas on "Stop" – which Doucette describes as "the oddest and hardest song on the record."
"mad season by matchbox twenty" captures this unique quintet at the height of their powers, remarkably unburdened by any pressure to follow the monumental success of their debut. If matchbox twenty has learned anything over the last few years, it is that making great music is ultimately what matters. "It was amazing the way it all happened for us," Rob Thomas says, "and because of that, you realize that you don’t have as much control over things as you thought going in. And that gives you this freedom. You’re not really holding onto the reins, you’re not really flying the plane, you’re not really driving the car – you’re really just a passenger. The only thing you’re in control of is the record – you write the song, you go into the studio, you put everything into making it – but once you shrink-wrap it and put it out, it’s not up to you anymore. All you can do is hope that people like it."