Remember The Time: Rob Thomas Talks 'Smooth's' Monster Grammy Night

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Rob Thomas

Adele was the undisputed champ of last year's Grammy Awards, winning major categories like Album of the Year, Record of the Year, Song of the Year and Best Pop Vocal Album for her mega-selling sophomore album "21" and its lead single "Rolling in the Deep." Only a few artists have ever enjoyed such a massive haul in the general categories on Grammy night, and one of them was Santana, whose multi-platinum "Supernatural" album presided over every aspect of the 42nd annual Grammy Awards in 2000. The LP scored the Album of the Year trophy, and its lead single, the No. 1 smash "Smooth" featuring Matchbox Twenty's Rob Thomas, earned Record of the Year and Song of the Year honors, as well as the Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals trophy. In between award wins, Carlos Santana and Thomas performed the song together in front of a mammoth band in one of the most spirited performances of the evening.

Thirteen years later, Thomas and the rest of Matchbox Twenty are still going strong: "North," their first new album in a decade, debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart upon its release last September, and the group has stayed busy on the road supporting its latest full-length. But for Thomas, the 2000 Grammys ceremony was a watershed moment -- performing alongside the legendary Santana, whom Thomas calls "a member of my family" now, the Matchbox Twenty leader got to shine in front of his musical idols and consider an ultimately successful solo career.

Join Thomas as he reminisces about 2000 Grammy Awards -- including meeting Bono, wearing leather pants and his acceptance-speech flubs -- in the latest edition of Pop Shop's "Remember The Time" series.


Rob Thomas: If I were to have a conversation about that night 13 years ago when aliens landed on my roof and probed me, that wouldn't be any more surrealistic than what happened that night. It was one of those moments when your biggest moment is viewed and shared. Like, it was my biggest moment, it was Carlos' biggest moment, and it was one of the biggest moments in the history of the Grammys, and I got to be part of that. "Supernatural" was the parade at that Grammys, and "Smooth" was the lead float.

As appreciative as he is for any accolades that he gets, Carlos is not the kind of person that gets nervous about whether or not he's going to win. He was really happy to get nominated, but every time you hear Carlos speak about motive and intent and life and spirituality, those things are really him, it's not a put-on. I was just this kid, stoked to fucking be there and be a part of it. I was nervous! I had lost Grammys before, so I know what it's like to not have your name called. But I don't think that he really cared, as far as whether he won or lost. He's kind of mastered Daoism -- he was just completely in the moment. If I've learned anything from Carlos over the years, it's a lot from that moment.

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[The night] is kind of a blur. I remember certain things. I remember the fact that Bono handed me a Grammy. And when I walked up on stage, he said, "Hey Rob." And I was like, "Fuck, Bono knows my name!"

I remember going up to accept it with ["Smooth" co-writer] Itaal Shur and making sure that I didn't speak so much so that Itaal had a chance to talk. I wanted to make sure that I thanked my wife, but then I forgot to thank Matt Serletic, who produced "Smooth" and who's one of my best friends. I called him the next day and was completely apologetic… I left him out of the speech because I got so nervous. I felt like he was my Chad Lowe.

For me, personally, that would probably be the minute that my solo career started. That was the minute where I decided, "Hey, I wanna make some solo records," where I could appreciate working with other musicians and step outside this box -- not to leave Matchbox ever, but to be able to step out and explore what it's like to work with other people. Before I could even do ["Smooth"], I went to Matchbox and asked them if it was cool if I did it. And at the time, when you're doing a record with Carlos Santana, nobody had any idea that it was going to be this big. It was one of those things where I was like, "I'm gonna work with Carlos because I love Carlos, and I'm gonna have to tell all my friends." I came to Paul [Doucette of Matchbox Twenty] and asked him if it was okay to do it, and he said, "Is it like 'Livin' La Vida Loca'?" And I went, "No dude, it's nothing like that, it's a real Carlos Santana song." And he said, "Oh, okay. Have a good time!"

Don't get me wrong -- the leather pants were cool. I just don't wear leather pants anymore. I'm 40. There's a cutoff point to wearing leather pants. If not, there should be.

I'm looking in the audience, and everyone that I love, all these artists, are looking at me. It's not like we were all a party or whatever; for those four minutes, they were looking at me. I just had to push that outside of my head so I could perform the song and not make it feel false. And I didn't want to fuck it up for Carlos!


There are certain successes that you have that you're only a small part of, and then they have this life of their own, and this was one of those moments. You felt like it was this ride that you got to be a part of, and you moved with it but definitely didn't control it. Me and the band have this joke where, if I'm somewhere anywhere in the world and someone comes up to me and says "I love that song," we know what song they're talking about. We've had a lot of well-charting singles as a band, I've had a few more solo [singles], but when someone comes up to me and says, "I love that song," we know, immediately, and say, "Oh thank you, Carlos is great."