Rob Thomas of Matchbox Twenty On Recording in the Woods, Knowing When an Album is Ready
Matchbox Twenty’s Rob Thomas called Craig and Company to talk about the unique creative process the band went through recording their new album “North,” how he balances a solo career with the band dynamic, and how he would change his earlier music with the knowledge he has now.
Matchbox Twenty just released their new single “She’s So Mean,” and it’s hard to believe their new album “North” will be their first in a decade… sort of. “The last one, I was on the road with my solo record for a year… we did the Greatest Hits record… and then I did another solo record,” Thomas clarified. “It’s not like we’ve been sitting around doing nothing.”
“North” was recorded in Nashville, with all the band members living under one roof. Thomas explained the reasoning for the unique session, as he recalled “We wanted to do a lot more collaborative stuff. Instead of spending a couple hours a day in the studio, we needed to go move into a studio that we lived in.” Their Nashville studio was pretty far off the beaten path– in the middle of the woods in fact– and the band lived there for months writing a huge of material.
It wasn’t until the band returned to Los Angeles in January that they started to narrow down what songs they wanted to feature on the album, and the record began to take shape… as well as get its title. “It’s kind of the idea for ‘North,’ just finding our direction again.”
Rob is on a short list of artists who can manage having a successful solo career and still keeping the full band intact and (relatively) drama free. Thomas believes it’s because of their long-term friendship and how much everyone loves to work together. “We had a rule years and years ago, which was the minute we stopped really liking each other– the minute we stopped having fun– we just won’t do it anymore,” said Thomas. And whether playing as a band or flying solo with other projects, keeping in touch is always important. “We check in with each other at the end of every project.”
Thomas has had a great career, but there’s definitely things he would change about his musical output in hindsight. “When you make a record, you have to remember that you’re making the best record right then, at that time,” he admitted. “Hopefully when you go into the next album, you start to grow and change, and have different ideas.”
The singer also credits this growth as the reason some classic tunes will play out live in a completely different way than they were recorded. “Sometimes when you come to a show, there’s certain songs that come from the first record, that has kind of morphed into something a little bit different…” said Thomas. “It’s more the idea of what we would have done to begin with.”
Of course, there comes a point when a band just needs to pull the trigger, to avoid getting too buried in minute details and let the album spread its wings. While mixing “North,” guitarist Paul Doucette wanted to add another keyboard part, but Rob and the rest of the band felt it wasn’t necessary. “We were mixing, we were done,” Thomas stated. “It kind of felt like, you have to put the brush down.”
–Bill Sencio, 96.5 TIC/ Hartford