For Rob Thomas, coming to Atlanta is “second home” terrain.
The Matchbox Twenty frontman and his bandmates recorded their first two records in the city with producer Matt Serletic – those would be the ones that catapulted the band to radio superstardom with the hits “Real World,” “Push,” “Back 2 Good” and “Bent.”
Thomas has also maintained a long-term professional relationship with renowned Atlanta vocal coach “Mama” Jan Smith (more on that later) and returned to the scene of his youth to write his new solo single, “Trust You,” with OneRepublic’s Ryan Tedder.
Thomas, 43, will be back on Sunday for a solo concert at Chastain Park Amphitheatre — a makeup date from July when he took some time to be with Marisol, his wife since 1999, as she endured a medical ordeal. (Thomas updated the media recently and said the possible lesion that was found on her brain will be removed soon through minimally invasive surgery.)
In a conference call with reporters earlier this summer, Thomas discussed his new solo album, “The Great Unknown,” the status of MB20 and how he wound up writing in Atlanta again.
On the state of Matchbox Twenty:
“Unless somebody knows something I don’t, we’re still a band. We have our 20th anniversary of our first record next year, so I know that we’re going to do something there and we’ll definitely always go out and tour and make music. We have too much fun not to.”
On the title of the new album, “The Great Unknown”:
“There’s a song on the album called ‘The Great Unknown.’ It was actually originally called ‘Hold On’ and my wife was like, ‘No, that’s stupid. It needs to be ‘The Great Unknown’ and that’s the album title. Done.’ I was like, ‘OK. You’re right.’ Probably my favorite song on the record is called ‘The Great Unknown.’”
On the backstory of “Trust You,” the first single from “The Great Unknown”:
“Ryan (Tedder) and I wrote it in Atlanta. We started off with this vibe and it made us start thinking how everybody has that one friend that calls them up and when they do, no matter where they are in their life, no matter how stable they are and no matter how good things are going, they’re going to go out and they’re going to make a lot of bad decisions with this friend. Everybody has one of them. You’re going to somehow end up in some dive bar at 7 in the morning with something on your shirt and you don’t know your own name. Everybody has that one friend, so this is about that, ‘Hey look at me. I’m an adult. I’ve got my (stuff) together. Everything’s fine.’ Then the phone rings and then you’re off on some crazy adventure.”
A little more on writing the song in Atlanta:
“(Ryan and I) we were working on it out by Stone Mountain Park. We were sitting by a lake and I got the whole thing started out there. I just came out to meet him on the road. We finished it among the miles. I went back home and he stayed on the road and he would send me a more finished version and I would write some lyrics and then sing to it and send it back and he would build on that. It was fun.”
On what vocal coach Jan Smith has meant to him:
“It’s funny. I still reference Jan. I call her many times when I have questions about something on the road. She has made me a vocal warmup tape. It’s what I swear by every day, every show. I think you never stop learning. If you’re fortunate enough and you have more success, I think the demands that are put on your voice between all the talking, all the press, the actual shows, wanting to really shine every night, I think that it ramps up what’s expected of you. I think that you have to rise up and meet that. Jan’s always been really helpful with that.”
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.
For more music news, concert reviews and interviews, visit The Music Scene blog at AJC.com.