With just two weeks left before the Nov. 19 release date of its third album, “More Than You Think You Are,” matchbox twenty has finally put the set to bed. Frontman/main songwriter Rob Thomas tells Billboard.com that the group finished mixing the set about two weeks ago, and finished recording about a week and a half before that.
The Atlantic release is the follow-up to last year’s “Mad Season,” which debuted at No. 3 on The Billboard 200 and has sold 3.7 million copies in the U.S., according to SoundScan. The 13-track album (including the unlisted cut “So Sad So Lonely”) is led by first single “Disease,” which is No. 8 on Billboard’s Adult Contemporary chart and No. 44 on the Hot 100.
As previously reported, the song was written with Mick Jagger, and Thomas says it was originally planned for the Rolling Stones frontman’s latest Virgin solo album, “Goddess in the Doorway” (another song they co-wrote, “Visions of Paradise,” appears on that set).
“I didn’t want to write a Stones song,” Thomas says, “and I didn’t know what a Mick Jagger solo song sounds like, so I was like, ‘OK, I’m gonna write a song that I think Mick Jagger would sound great singing.’ And Mick came in and wrote, just such a Mick line, he wrote the ‘they drove me to the fire/and left me there to burn’ line.”
Soon after, regret began to kick in, Thomas admits. “It was one of those things where it was the most I had ever written of a song that I had given to someone. It was like, having a song that was basically done, and then giving it to somebody, and going, ‘Wait a minute. What did I do with that? That would have been great on a matchbox record!'”
Luckily Jagger liked the sound of Thomas’ voice on the song, and decided it didn’t fit in with the rest of his album. “At first I thought, ‘What’s wrong with the song? There must be something wrong with it that I’m not hearing.’ But you would hope that he just didn’t want to do it [for those reasons that he said.] And, so, I couldn’t have been happier, because it’s not like I could take it back once I had given it to him.”
On much of the rest of “More Than You Think You Are,” Thomas shared songwriting duties with other members of his band. “It takes some of the pressure off of me and it takes pressure off the band of being one dimensional,” says Thomas, who has co-written songs with Carlos Santana, Willie Nelson, and Marc Anthony, among others. “Which is part of all my outside writing stuff, it’s really just to widen myself out as a writer. If I work with a pop guy and a Latin guy and a country guy, and I come back to matchbox, that has expanded my idea of what a song is.”
Thomas notes that album track “Bright Lights” is one of his personal favorites. “It started off as just this great piano song, so much so, that we didn’t know what to do with it. [But it became] a song that starts off like an Elton John song and by the end of it, it sounds like a Black Crowes song. That’s, I think, my favorite. I’m trying to push for that as the next single.”
Thomas says the band will likely not hit the road in support of the new set until early next year, with a trip to Europe pegged as the probable first location. “Once we get out, though, we’ll be out for a while,” he says. “We’re a bar band, and bar bands play. We can’t wait to get out there to play this for our fans.”
For an in-depth look at the new record, see the Nov. 16, 2002, issue of Billboard, due on newsstands tomorrow (Nov. 8).
Here is the “More Than You Think You Are” tracklist:
“All I Need”
“Hand Me Down”
“Could I Be You”
“You’re So Real”
“So Sad So Lonely” (unlisted hidden track)