Matchbox Twenty had an embarrassment of creative riches for their first all- new album in a decade, writes James Wigney
Band that writes together, stays together.
WHEN Matchbox Twenty came together to make their first album of all- new material in a decade, they soon found out you can have too much of a good thing.
With lead singer Rob Thomas returning from a solo career that yielded two albums ( both Top 10 hits in Australia), guitarist Kyle Cook starting his own band and turning his hand to producing, and drummer- turned- guitarist Paul Doucette also creating and fronting his own outfit and writing film music, the ideas were coming thick and fast.
So much so that they and fourth member, bassist Brian Yale, struggled to sift through the avalanche of inspiration and find a focus.
In the early years, Matchbox Twenty had effectively been a vehicle for Thomas’ songwriting. Their 1996 debut album Yourself or Something Like You sold more than 15 million copies worldwide thanks to hits such as Long
Day, Push and 3AM. But as the band’s career progressed with the 2000 release Mad Season and 2002’ s More Than You Think You Are, Doucette and Cook began to contribute more and more. By the time they released a greatest hits collection in 2007, the seven new songs that accompanied it were credited to all the band members ( pictured).
But having so many skilled songwriters proved a blessing and a curse when it came to writing what would become
North, the band’s fourth album, which is released tomorrow.
Rather than having Thomas bring ideas to the rest of the band to flesh out, Doucette and Cook kicked off the creative process without their frontman, who was still touring his second solo album, Cradlesong.
‘‘ Kyle and I were out working with other people constantly and bringing all that back into the band and developing other ways of working,’’ says Doucette, sharing a couch and lunch with Thomas at their record label’s towering New York office.
‘‘[ Back then] Kyle and I weren’t as strong as writers – it was never possible. In order for us to get to that point, we were working on our craft while Rob was off doing his thing.’’
The singer, a three- time Grammy- winner for his solo work, concedes at first it was weird to embrace the collaborative relationship, but after he learned to leave his ego at the door, he found there was an upside to sharing the load.
Australia has always been a happy hunting ground for Matchbox Twenty and Thomas and Doucette are looking forward to returning in October for a national tour.
Their last dates here were among the first Doucette felt comfortable playing guitar, having recently relinquished his drumming duties.
‘‘ We played a winery in the Hunter Valley,’’ he recalls. ‘‘ It started raining and my favourite rock moment I ever had was when I went to stand on the speakers and I looked at my guitar with rain pouring down off it and I was thinking, ‘ This could never happen as a drummer’.’’