During an interview earlier this month with Matchbox Twenty’s Paul Doucette, he paused to consider the longevity of his popular band.
“It’s hard to stay together for 30 years,” he said. “That’s why a lot of bands don’t do it.”
The group is currently out on its Slow Dream Tour, a jaunt that was originally supposed to launch in 2020, but was sidelined and rescheduled twice by the COVID-19 pandemic. The outing — which hits the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles on Monday, May 22; FivePoint Amphitheatre in Irvine on Sunday, May 28; and Cal Coast Credit Union Open Air Theatre in San Diego on Tuesday, May 30 — is in support of the band’s first new studio album in more than a decade, “Where the Light Goes,” which drops on Friday, May 26.
To be completely accurate, Matchbox Twenty won’t hit their 30th year as a band until 2025, but the guitarist knows a thing or two about how difficult it can be for a band to remain intact for so long.
In Matchbox Twenty’s case, there have been several periods where the band went inactive – usually involving times when singer Rob Thomas was making and then touring behind one of the four solo albums that have made him a major star in his own right.
Those projects had idled Matchbox Twenty for stretches of time since 2005. In the early years, things were busy, and the quartet became one of the most popular bands out there. The 1996 debut album, “Yourself or Someone Like You,” sold some 12 million copies and yielded four hit singles, including the chart-topping songs “3AM,” “Push,” “Real World” and “Back To Good.” The 2000 follow-up, “Mad Season,” added four more hits, including the multi-chart-topping “Bent,” and 2002’s “More Than You Think You Are,” included the Top 5 hits “Unwell” and “Bright Lights.”
But then Thomas, who has gained individual fame for co-writing and singing on the monster Carlos Santana hit “Smooth,” in 1999, launched his solo career. And since then, Matchbox Twenty have released only three albums – including 2007’s “Exile On Mainstream,” which combined 11 hits with seven new songs. The most recent release was “North” in 2012.
Doucette admitted Matchbox Twenty’s sporadic schedule had created points where the group could have split up. Guitarist Kyle Cook, in fact, left the band briefly in 2016 before rejoining in time for a tour the following year that seemed to put the band back on solid footing.
And Doucette reached a point where he had concluded Matchbox Twenty were done making albums. He, Thomas, Cook and bassist Brian Yale would tour from time to time, but that would be the extent of the band’s activity. It was not a notion he welcomed.
“When I sort of got to the point where I was like ‘Yeah, I think that we’re done making records,’ I legitimately grieved that process. Like that was a loss to me,” Doucette said. “But once I went through that process, I could look at it differently. I could look at it and be like ‘You know what, we can go out and we can play. We’re ridiculously fortunate to be able to do that and people will still come.’ And I have all these other things that I can do and I can concentrate on doing this (scoring). And maybe that’s not so bad.”
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So Matchbox Twenty remained together, and after Thomas finished his solo tour in 2019, plans were formed for the band to return to touring. But of course, the pandemic hit. But there was a major silver lining to that unforeseen delay. With the schedule cleared for 2022, Matchbox Twenty got in the studio and created “Where the Light Goes.”
For this album, the guys reinvented their process for writing music. Where on past albums, the band members tended to send each other acoustic solo versions of songs and build out the arrangements together, Doucette, Thomas, Cook and Yale worked separately on the songs this time – a process necessitated by the pandemic and the fact the four band members live in different cities.
Doucette said the band found that by working separately and e-mailing in-progress tracks back and forth to each other (as well as to producer Gregg Wattenberg, who was heavily involved in helping the band members to complete the songs) they were able to explore song ideas more thoroughly. In some cases, they were able to fully realize songs that might have been abandoned in the past if the song hadn’t come together quickly either in the writing/demo stage or when the four musicians gathered to flesh out the acoustic demos of songs.
The new approach to songwriting didn’t alter the core pop-rock sound of Matchbox Twenty, and “Where the Light Goes” features a fairly even mix of concise and catchy uptempo tunes (“Friends,” “Don’t Get Me Wrong” and the title track), and richly melodic ballads (“Hang On Every Word,” “Warm Blood,” “One Hit Love”).
This summer’s twice-delayed tour will feature some songs from “Where The Light Goes,” Doucette said, but he noted that some fans held onto tickets purchased in 2021 and 2022 expecting a greatest hits show, and the band will play a good mix of new and older material.
“It’s a longer set than we’ve done on the past couple of tours,” he said “That gives us the advantage of being able to play a solid two hours a night. So we have more time, which is great. And we think we’ve got a good balance of it.”
Matchbox Twenty’s Slow Dream Tour
When: 7:30 p.m. Monday, May 22
Where: Hollywood Bowl, 2301 N Highland Ave., Los Angeles
Tickets: $25-$500 at Ticketmaster.com.
Also: 7:30 p.m. Sunday, May 28 at FivePoint Amphitheatre, 14800 Chinon, Irvine. Tickets are $39-$211 at LiveNation.com; 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 30 at Cal Coast Credit Union Open Air Theatre at SDSU, 5500 Campanile Drive, San Diego. Tickets are $60-$350 at Ticketmaster.com.