Interview with Matchbox Twenty’s Kyle Cook
Matchbox Twenty’s Kyle Cook often keeps very quiet but we caught up with him to ask him about matchbox, the new left and his studio in Nashville. Read the interview below.
Hi Kyle, thanks for joining The Lights for a quick chat. How are you?
I’m well, Thanks. Just writing heavily and trying to improve as a lyricist and storyteller. Nashville has been a great environment for that.
So you’ve finished touring with The New Left, how has your longtime band been received after all the time you have spent with Matchbox?
They were received as well as one could hope them to be without a “worldwide” push for the EP. I don’t think all the appropriate business decisions were made as well as internal decisions about touring and other management choices. We had some really great fans who came to many shows though, and that was fantastic to see. I wish we could have got more people to the site and i-tunes so that we could have funded more touring to expand that audience.
Do you think that being in Matchbox Twenty has had an effect on the musical direction you took with the new left?
Yes. I don’t think there is any way it couldn’t have effected the sound. I spent nearly a decade exposed to the chemistry of a certain group of people and a style of songwriting. Whether or not it was a positive thing or not I think would depend on who you ask.
Have you tried things with TNL that you couldn’t have done with Matchbox?
Oh yeah. There is a sense of composition and experimentalism in TNL that wouldn’t fly in MB20. MB20 is a lot more commercially sensible. That’s the audience. TNL had more freedom as a new band but maybe that freedom was taken too far, to the extent that it limited the amount of labels interested in the project. Who knows?
The New Left started back in your high school days as a mostly covers band, what kind of covers did you play?
Red Hot Chili Peppers, Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Beatles, Journey, Eagles, Rage Against The Machine, Bob Seger. Anything Top 40 at the time. It was pretty diverse. Probably to the point of confusing our audiences but we didn’t give a fuck because we were just discovering what we liked and what the audiences responded to.
What sparked your interest in forming a band?
I just loved playing and creating my own riffs and songs. I got obsessed with playing the guitar and the only way I was going to get out of the house for any period of time was to form a band.
How long have you been a musician?
I started playing violin at age 10 or 11 I think and I’m now 31.
You were approached by Matt Serletic back in 1996 to join Rob Thomas, Paul Doucette & Brian Yale to form Matchbox, was it an easy decision to make?
Yes. I knew the songs had merit. Especially considering the musical climate of the day. Hootie and the Blowfish, Counting Crows, Live. Simple folk rock with relatable lyrics and good melodies. But it’s weird to me because I think the songs got better on later albums but that record sold so many copies. We just tapped some invisible faucet at the time, some void that needed to be filled.
The first matchbox album was predominantly written by Rob Thomas, and the bond between the three ex Tabitha’s Secret musicians must have been well embedded, was it hard for you to come in as a new influence, or did you all gel right from the offset?
I was a new influence to the project. It initially was pitched to me by Matt as an acoustic thing. That’s what the direction was going to be. I brought a bit of loud energy and virtuosity to that first record I think. Which may have balanced how simple the songs were a bit. We all got pretty tight right off, I think. We were probably tighter then than we are now, with life, money and distance taking it’s toll. I think it’s the same with a lot of bands.
After the success of “Yourself or Someone Like You”, did you have any second thoughts?
I did. I wondered if this was what I wanted my name to be built from. It got so big, so fast I began to wonder if this sound and style of song was a fit for me. Would I forever be typecast because of the association. And the answer is yes! With age and a lot of life experience, though, I’ve come to appreciate what we’ve achieved and ignore the critics.
How was Matchbox’s success received by your band mates in TNL?
It wasn’t received all that well. To them it was and still is fluff and music for the masses. I think there’s some songs where they appreciate the sincerity and bluesyness at times but for the most part it’s not their cup of tea. I struggled with balancing the two worlds, TNL on one side and MB20 on the other. They were two extremes. I appreciate both elements. Things that are stictly gut and abstract and things that are broader in appeal. This is a balance most songwriters will face at some point in their career. And they will have to make some business and artistic decisions that are based on this dilemma.
When did you settle into your role as a musician? Did it ever become normal to you, or is it still very surreal?
It still gets surreal. When I get preferential treatment at clubs and shows sometimes I feel “unnormal”. I still love what I do and thank the “Gods” for the ability to somehow not have to wait tables or roof houses.
You have recently been pushing your studio/label Pastel Inc, how is that going?
To be honest, not as well as I had hoped. I’ve struggled to get a deal for a production project of mine called Virgin Millionaires and obviously The New Left are not touring the globe to sold out concerts. The Matchbox fans have not snatched up TNL’s EP like I had hoped. I think I discovered that we have a lot of radio listening fans and they are fickle and follow trends.I’m looking for another investor to complete my studio and my label is what it is. A great idea but no significant income. I do want to make it a reality but there is considerable research and the right artists to be found before that will happen.
You must be meeting new faces all the time, is it hard to keep track?
Yes but the information age equips me with many devices to help me keep track.
Do you have any interest in expanding Pastel Inc to other countries?
Absolutely! I think it has because of the internet and i-tunes being available to certain countries. But there again, it’s not exposed to the masses like other labels. Marketing money and smart corporate tie ins are the way to make the advertising impact necessary.
You’re working with several bands & artists at the moment in and around Nashville; can we expect to see any of them around the UK any time soon?
Actually you can expect to hear songs that I have written here in the UK. I haven’t been doing any producing here only songwriting at the moment.
What’s the most memorable experience of your music career so far?
The most memorable experience is probably opening for the Rolling Stones. It’s a no brainer. It was at the Dallas motor speedway for over a hundred thousand people and the stage set up was ridiculous. Gargoyles and gigantic screens. Truly a legendary experience.
What’s the most embarrassing thing you’ve done whilst on stage?
The most embarrasing moment was probably just falling over a monitor during a live performance. Not something that’s easy to look cool after.
Speaking of which, I have to mention this, on the Live matchbox DVD “Show” there’s a hidden clip of you guys on stage getting roasted by Triumph the Comic Dog, it must have been crazy!
That was some funny shit indeed! I feel kind of fortunate to have friends touring with us that could have even hooked that up. It was a brilliant idea!
You seem to maintain a real connection with your fans, with your new Myspace profile and your dedication to TNL’s website, why do you like to keep things personal, rather than setting up a fan club to deal with fans?
I just know that that’s what works. It’s that simple. As long as I can manage the data flow I’ll continue to do it. I mean I may have to limit the small talk with every single person a bit, but I try to answer as many legitimate questions as I can. The bottom line is that these are the people who have made it possible for me to make a living doing this. Myspace is a way for me to tell them that personally. I or at least as personal as Myspace can be.
Your Solo music is incredible; the new songs you have previewing on your Myspace profile are so different, are you planning on releasing a solo record?
I do. The timing has to be right though. I have learned so much from the TNL experience that needs to be channelled into the promotion and effort put behind my solo work. I’m finding my voice more each day I write songs so I really want to do something creative but relatable to a broad audience and that’s no easy task.
This is a question you must get asked all the time, but when are matchbox going back into the studio? Will you be using Bearsville again?
Well, one thing I can say for sure is that it won’t be made at Bearsville. That was a bad experience for most of us, physically and mentally. As far as a new record, everyone wants to see it happen and is well aware of the fans desire to see it happen BUT there are creative energies that need to be harnessed with us in a room alone together just like the old days. We are very different people now and life throws a lot at you. There are mental dynamics that can’t be ignored. Rob has had a big record on his own. What drives him to make another record with us? If he’s doing it for us or management or Atlantic and not for the sake of making the best record the band can make then it will not shine and probably isn’t worth making. The same goes for each of us in the band. We have been quietly making music in the shadows for two years and I believe if we are all willing to give ourselves to the process of making a record as a band. It will be a fantastic record. And if and when it’s made everyone will know about it.
Thanks for joining us Kyle.
MT+ People, you can keep up to date with Kyle by adding up his Myspace profile @ www.myspace.com/kyle_cook.