Florida-based Matchbox 20 delivered enough hit tracks from its quadruple-platinum debut, Yourself or Someone Like You, to ride the wave of music stardom on that release alone for three years. First appearing in the alternative rock market and then crossing genres into pop and easy listening, the band has built a large and diverse fan base. Band members claim to have enough songs tucked away to keep them recording new albums for years to come, and the group is working hard to continue in the harmonious, solid, fraternal momentum that drives them to perform continuously on the road. They consistently report in interviews, chat groups, and responses to fans on their website that they are aware of what brought them success and that they will strive to keep those factors alive. Hard work, camaraderie among band members, and interaction with fans keep them grounded and focused on being creative.
Lead vocalist and songwriter Rob Thomas, bassist Brian Yale, and drummer Paul Doucette formed the band in the mid-1990s after quitting the band Tabitha’s Secret. The name “Matchbox 20” was inspired by a patron of a
Members include David Kyle Cook (born August 29, 1975), lead guitar, background vocals; Paul John Doucette (born August22, 1972), drums; Adam Gaynor (born November 26, 1963), rhythm guitar, background vocals; Rob Thomas (born February 14, 1972), lead vocals, songwriter; Brian Yale (born November 14, 1970), bass.
Group formed in the mid-1990s in Orlando, FL; released debut album Yourself or Someone Like You on Lava/Atlantic label, 1996; contributed to Legacy: A Tribute to Fieetwood Mac’s Rumours, Lava/Atlantic, 1998. Thomas contributed to Santana’s 1999 hit single “Smooth.”
Awards: Best New Band Rolling Stone Readers’ Poll, 1997; Best New Rock Act Performance Magazine Readers’ Poll, 1997; Billboard Album Artists Duo/Group, 1997; NARM Convention Best Selling Recording by a New Artist, 1998; Diamond Award by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for selling over ten million albums in the United States, 1999; Thomas was recognized as one of BMI’s Songwriters of the Year, 1999.
restaurant Thomas and Doucette were waiting tables at. The man was wearing a jersey marked with the number 20 that was covered with patches. The only word Doucette could make out on the shirt was “matchbox.” Influenced by legendary artists like Van Morrison, R.E.M., Neil Diamond, Elvis Costello, Ani DiFranco, and Elton John, Thomas tapped into his adventurous and troubled experiences as ayouth to pouroutsoulful, autobiographical lyrics and stirring tunes that grabbed audiences with a punch of acoustic sparring like other contemporary post-grunge bands, such as Collective Soul and Live. Lead guitarist (David) Kyle Cook, rhythm guitarist and background vocalist Adam Gaynor, and producer and keyboardist Matt Serletic joined the trio to form Matchbox 20. Serletic, who also produced two albums for Collective Soul, was instrumental in leading the band into making quality demos and getting them on the road to perform in gigs around the United States. He felt that this would help the group secure a grassroots following and a name in the industry. They opened for bands like the Lemonheads, Offspring, and Jackopierce.
The band signed with Lava Records in 1996 and recorded Yourself or Someone Like You, which was released the same day it was announced that Atlantic Records acquired Lava. This was a big break for the band in the way of publicity and marketing for the new album; a huge label like Atlantic had superior resources for promoting its bands. “Long Day,” the first track released to alternative rock radio stations, received a promising response and remained on the Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks chart for 22 weeks. The sophomore release,“Push,” pushed the band to the number one spot on six of the modern rock, alternative, and pop charts during the summer of 1997 and put them in the music news headlines as well. The cut’s lyrics—“I wanna push you around, I will, I will”—raised the ire of women’s advocacy groups who interpreted the song as condoning violence towards women. Thomas, who wrote the song, dismissed the allegations because he felt they had come from simple-minded people who obviously did not listen to and understand the lyrics. The song was inspired by an unhealthy romantic relationship Thomas experienced, one in which he was the receiving party of emotional abuse and manipulation.
Matchbox 20’s next release,“3 AM,” hit number one on the alternative and adult contemporary charts and put the band in the news again. Former Tabitha’s Secret band-mates filed a lawsuit against Thomas, Doucette, Yale, and Serlectic in 1998 for a cut of the profits from the hit single. The conflict essentially centered on determining on what terms the three Matchbox 20 members left Tabitha’s Secret, which still existed and was even about to release a CD entitled Don’t Play with Matches. Thomas wrote and performed the song “3 AM” in the early 1990s as a member of Tabitha’s Secret. The song is about a tumultuous period in his life when he had to contend with his mother’s battle with cancer and her efforts to overcome a drinking problem. During 1998, Matchbox 20’s fourth single,“Real World,” brought them more praise among their staple fan base—young modern rock listeners—as well as increased notoriety across genres as the single worked its way up the pop and adult contemporary charts. In early 1999, Matchbox 20’s fifth single,“Bad 2 Good,” got huge radio play and its video was a favorite on the MTV and VH-1 cable television networks.
Thomas and other band members have a wealth of songs already composed and the ideas and inspiration to write many more. In an interview with “The Dude on the Right” on the Internet’s Entertainment Avenue, Thomas explained why the band is not in danger of going down in music history as a one hit wonder: “For a lot of people’s first record they have their whole life to write that record. They’ve been working on it since they were ten, culminating it into a record, and then the next record they have a year to put together twelve songs. Now you’ve got the pressures while you’re writing, worrying if people are going to like this.” Apparently Thomas is a natural at expressing himself in song and is not bothered by writer’s block. He even writes for other artists. However, the band recognizes that the industry can be at fault for the ill sales of an artist’s second release as it is always looking to promote new names. Sometimes the success of a next release may be luck in trends and timing and in how it is distributed to and received by audiences. In the fall of 1998, Matchbox 20 joined the ranks of bigtime bands like Pearl Jam and Foo Fighters as an opening act for the Rolling Stones’ Bridges to Babylon tour in Texas.
Despite the charisma and genuine star quality of the band, Matchbox 20 focuses on being true to the music and to the fans. Chuck Taylor of Billboard observed,“Like any group of guys who suddenly find themselves living in the rock star dream instead of pursuing it over a bowl of rubbery macaroni, Matchbox 20 is conscious of remaining grounded and keeping the focus on the music.” Frank Tortorici, in his report on MTV’s “Live at the 10 Spot” segment that featured Matchbox 20 in early 1999, hailed the band’s performance in its first nationally televised concert. He described the band as playing “like a group of college kids looking for a record deal. The idea was to show that its mega-platinum debut album is no studio-manufactured fluke and thatthere is a real rock ‘n’ roll band behind the flashy videos and radio-friendly singles.” In concert Matchbox 20 enjoys playing some of its favorite covers, such as Marvin Gaye’s “Mercy Mercy Me,” Cyndi Lauper’s ’Time after Time,” and “Always and Forever,” which is always an opening number as a good luck measure for the show. In preparation of its second release in 2000, the band played tracks from the CD at its concerts in 1998 and 1999. Aftershows, band members stuck around to meet fans and sign autographs foras long as their schedule would permit.
In 1998, Matchbox 20 joined artists such as Jewel, Elton John, and Shawn Colvin in recording a tribute album of Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours, performing “Never Going Back Again.” In thesummer of 1999, Thomas released a single with Santana,“Smooth,” which enjoyed overwhelming success among music critics and fans, going triple-platinum by the fall of 1999. The single also earned Thomas an excellent reputation across a wide fan base and respect as an artist who could be flexible in creating music across genres. In August of 1999, Matchbox 20 recorded its second album, scheduled to be released in 2000.
In 1997 Rolling Stone and Performance magazines named Matchbox 20 Best New Band, based on readers’ polls. The band was nominated for a Best Rock Performance Grammy and the Favorite New Artist/Pop Rock and Favorite Album/Pop Rock American Music awards in 1998. In October of 1999, the group was awarded a Diamond Award by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for selling over ten million albums in the United States. Only 62 other artists, such as Pink Floyd and The Beatles, have had sales to qualify for this distinction in music history. Also in 1999, Thomas was recognized as one of BMI’s Songwriters of the Year, praised specifically for his band’s hits,“Push,” “Long Day,” “3 AM,” and “Real World,” all included on Yourself or Someone Like You. Pleased with being prestigiously recognized by his peers in this way, Thomas commented, according to an article found on SonicNet,“I think it means more than any other [award]. At the end of the day, you’d much rather be noticed as a songwriter than a pop star. That’s what I want to do—write great songs.”
Keeping in touch with their fan base is important to band members. Despite their hectic touring schedule, they respond to most of the mailthat comes into their website, www.matchbox20.com. Gaynor, who has been playing guitar since the age of 12, responded to a fan’s question on the website regarding advice for start-up bands this way: “The main thing is you play because you love it. …You should do it because you HAVE to play. It’s in your heart. … Music is a very special place to visit. Sometimes I never want to leave.” Band members express a sincere desire to communicate the meaning and motivation for their songs to fans. They feel performing for live audiences is crucial to retaining a fan base and continuing to get their music airplay and sales. As a hardworking band, they believe that toughing it out on the road, hitting as many towns and cities as they can, is the way to stay creative and stay on top. Thomas emphasized on Entertainment Avenue, “All we can do is play and play and play and do the best we possibly can.”
Yourself or Someone Like You (includes “Push,” “3 AM,” and “Back 2 Good”), Lava/Atlantic, 1996.
(Contributor) Legacy: A Tribute to Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours, Lava/Atlantic, 1998.
Billboard, May 17, 1997; June 21, 1997; May 9, 1998.
People, May 11, 1998.
Atlantic Records, http://www.atlantic-records.com (November 27, 1999).
Entertainment Avenue, http://www.e-ave.com (November 18, 1999).
MTV’s Website, http://www.mtv.com (October 28, 1999).
“The Official Matchbox 20 Website,” http://www.matchbox20.com (November 18, 1999).
“The Original Unofficial Matchbox20 Page,” http://www.surf.to/mb20 (November 18, 1999).
Rolling Stone Online, http://www.rollingstone.com (November 18, 1999).
SonicNetMusic News Service, http://www.sonicnet.com (November 18, 1999).
—Melissa Walsh Doig
"Matchbox 20." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. (November 13, 2018). https://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/matchbox-20
"Matchbox 20." Contemporary Musicians. . Retrieved November 13, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/matchbox-20
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