Matchbox Twenty Songwriting: Then and Now


This article was written by on Tuesday, February 1st, 2011 | has written 12 articles

Rob Thomas In the Studio

Rob Thomas In the Studio

Over the years and with the coming of different albums by Matchbox Twenty and Rob Thomas, I’ve been impressed with their quality.  I love listening not only to the music but I love to ponder the lyrics, wondering about each word and what it means to me at that time.  At different times, the lyrics have come alive for me and have taken on different meanings.  I still remember how healing Little Wonders was for me when it came out as it spoke to me “in these small hours” and “it’s the heart that really matters in the end.”  Okay, so maybe my kids enjoyed watching Meet the Robinson’s a few too many times but I still love that song!

When I was first introduced to Matchbox Twenty, I didn’t have a formal introduction, no one I knew seemed to be “into” them at that time, I suppose that it was destiny that I happened to hear “I think I’ve already lost you, I think you’re already gone” playing overhead which stopped me cold and I had to listen.  Later, I made an effort to find out who sang this song.  Mad Season was the first Matchbox Twenty album that I ever bought and I became an instant fan.  I really loved so many of the songs right from the start where others have grown on me over time.  Simple song names yet unforgettable messages with Bent, Crutch, You Won’t Be Mine, Rest Stop, Bed of Lies and, of course, the title track Mad Season.  Honestly, the lyrics have spoken volumes to me while personally helping me through good and bad times.  I’ve listened to that album over and over again and have understood that “there is something in me in everything in you” and the memories I’ve compiled from these songs brings a smile to my face even now.

So, this had me thinking about what it takes to produce such great songwriting.  Songs that create memorable experiences, leave me pondering and prove their worth over time.  What’s the process?  What happens behind the scenes?  Where is the dynamic of the language and music coming from?  How has it compared over the years even between being a band for Matchbox 20 and going solo for Rob?  As I’ve become interested in the journey that songwriting must take on, I wanted to learn more about it.  A lot of what I’ve learned about writing lyrics has come from Matchbox 20/Rob Thomas interviews and magazine articles I’ve read.   Also, reading and listening to their songs is the strongest vantage point to get a glimpse into this process.  Lately, I’ve been enjoying the official Matchbox 20 tweets about how they’re back in the thick of this process again.  To illustrate the answers to these questions, I’ve found some YouTube videos of Rob talking about songwriting from when he was young and just starting out to presently after becoming solo.  To me, it’s interesting to listen to him talk about how he has come about writing songs from then to now.  After all, it’s true what he says “writing is very cathartic.”

Let me know in your comment what you think about songwriting or which songs have meant a lot to you.

“I like the way it feels to write. I enjoy the process of coming up with something out of nowhere”

[Click here to view this video]

“Writing the song “visions of paradise” with Mick Jagger:”

“It’s always about the first line for me.”

“Interwoven between being a band and going solo:”

  • @jflamingo2 talks about Matchbox Twenty Songwriting: Then and Now

  • Ben

    Great Post Julie, Mad Season is my fave album as well, i love the massive “over-production” of the album.

  • RT @MB20Plus: @jflamingo2 talks about Matchbox Twenty Songwriting: Then and Now

  • RT @MB20Plus: @jflamingo2 talks about Matchbox Twenty Songwriting: Then and Now

  • Robin

    The thing that always impresses me the most about Matchbox Twenty’s music is that they always have something fresh. I’ll hear their latest hit for the first time and think “Wow. This is such a great song. But who sings this? It doesn’t sound like anyone I know. It must be some new, up-and-coming band.” Then I’ll find out later that it was Matchbox Tewnty and think, “Man, I should have known. But that’s so different from anything else they’ve done.” So many bands, even really great ones end up producing album after album that sounds pretty much the same. Not these guys. I can always count on them for quality and innovation- if you can apply those words to music…

  • Ben

    Good point’s Robin, i’ve always thought they sort of jerk you out of your comfort zone – you get used to an album and grow to love it, then they release somthing totally different – almost every time they have released a new album i’ve taken a dislike to it, but made myself give it a chance becuase i love their other stuff so much, and sure enough every time i end up loving the new stuff just as much! More so in some cases! It’s the sign of a great band in my opinion – Keeps you on your toes!!!! 🙂

  • RT @MB20Plus: @jflamingo2 talks about Matchbox Twenty Songwriting: Then and Now

  • RT @MB20Plus: @jflamingo2 talks about Matchbox Twenty Songwriting: Then and Now

  • Nick Rainmaker

    It’s easy to trade on your name like U2 (Urgh!) and Coldpay (Urgh, Urgh!) and make the same crappy album over and over for an easy ride. Luckily they never go down that road. Even if there’s something that isn’t 100% it’s still 95% betther than everyone else and comes from a desire to make great music reagrdless of the reception. That is a band.

  • Ben

    @Nick Right on!

  • Matchbox Twenty Songwriting: Then and Now | Matchbox Twenty Lyrics: A look back at Rob Thomas and Matchbox Twent…

  • Hi everyone! I wanted to thank you all for reading, re-tweeting, and commenting on this article. Thanks for sharing plus I loved reading what you had to say and your reactions! Very cool!
    I enjoy this album still. I agree that it was wonderfully theatrical as Ben suggested. I also agree with Robin with how ‘fresh’ MB20’s music is and that I love that they are so ‘innovative’ too. I wholeheartedly agree with Nick that they ‘never take the easy road’ and I love them for that ‘quality’ too!

  • Marie

    One of my favorite bands, but in my opinion the depth and strength of the lyrics has declined of late. Yourself or Someone Like You was amazing, Mad Season was unbelievable, but with More Than You Think You Are, I think the lyrics took a backseat to some of the other things the band was playing with. My feeling is their later work has a bit more emphasis on the chorus and a bit more repetition than some of the earlier stuff, and if you look at Rob’s solo album Something to Be, you find simplification of the lyrics and a lot of experimentation with song styles and sounds, which makes for good music, but aren’t the qualities that drew me in to their music in the first place. I will always be drawn to the powerful imagery in songs like “Kody” and “Rest Stop” that so strongly convey feelings of isolation and resignation or the palpable sense of frustration almost boiling over in songs like “Long Day.”

  • Thanks for your comment, Marie. I can understand what you’re saying here plus you’ve listed some of the very songs I’ve been drawn to over the years as well as “Rest Stop” being one of my ultimate favorites. I do think Rob is back to his strong emphasis on songwriting in his album “Cradlesong.” That is just oozing with variety and deep lyrics too.
    I can’t wait to see what comes next from MB20!

  • gdfonda

    Jflamingo et al,

    What is the draw to MB20? I love their songs, but I feel like it’s more from the standpoint that they are catchy. I don’t find myself getting emotionally attached to them. I guess I’m trying to discover more about the band because I think they’re really cool.

  • gdfonda, Thanks for your question. I’ll attempt to answer why I’m personally drawn to MB20. First, I agree with you that I also “think they’re really cool.” So, right there is a great start. 🙂
    Their tunes can be ‘catchy’ but for me I feel I have an attachment to their lyrics. Perhaps, not every song but so many of them take something “from all our lives.” I think their words mixed with music possess a meaning that reaches my heart & soul which gives me “some relief from these hard times.” I don’t have this with all musical artists although I can always appreciate what a musician does. I suppose that’s why we have our favorites. I love music that others don’t. It’s like describing salt – it’s hard to put to words. It tastes a certain way – that’s it. I believe you can listen & see if in time this emotional connection happens for you. If it doesn’t, don’t be discouraged because there is more than one way to appreciate a band or music.
    I hope to hear from you again!

  • Btw, I was quoting lyrics above from MB20’s song These Hard Times – give it a listen again. 🙂

  • Ben

    @Marie, i do agree with some of what you’re saying Marie, but i’m not sure that its because the lyrics got weaker, i think some of the lyrics from More Than You Think You Are are still very clever and inspiring, i think actually is that alot of people felt a strong attachment to the first album.. and i think whilst the world was hoping for more of the same, matchbox twenty was still evolving and so things just had to change. One things for sure, there would be no Matchbox Twenty if they hadnt spent that time focusing on a new direction.

  • Nick Rainmaker

    @All, im in the middle with this. I do agree that there has been a weakening but to me it came after MTYTYA. Up to that point, they were firing on all cylinders but I think that Exile was a weak point. To me when Rob did the solo thing he changed as a songwriter and his lyrics had less ‘real world’ relevence. I think Cradlesong from a lyrical and musical perspective is a lot stroger, but in general it feels like he took his foot off the gas and played it WAY too safe and general. I do like it, I was just expecting more (insert my next post here). When they retured for Exile that “lets just see what happens if”experiment seemed to continue. But to be fair, that was to be expected right? Change of producer; lost a memeber; writing together. Like Mad Season, it had to be a new record because they were a new band. (insert my next, next review here). I am hoping that this new record will summon the past but with a bright and honet take on the present.

  • Ben

    @Nick, – Humm.. going to be some very interesting reviews coming from you shortly then! I do know what you mean, i actually Loved How Far we’ve Come from Exile, but i thought the other 5 new tracks from the album were pretty forgettable. I think it was a bit rushed, i guess they had to either do a greatest hits album, not tour, and probably hang matchbox up, or do the album and do a tour, and re-assure people that matchbox lives – i think they did that but at the expense of the new music – i do think the new album will make up for that, they all seem pumped and they’ve been together writing for weeks – unlike the 6 new tracks on exile which i think were written over a weekend.

  • Nick Rainmaker

    Ha ha “written over the weeknd” thats funny! How Far We’ve Come is by foar the bst and All Your reasons is okay too. I think you’re completely right about th echoices they had in front of them too. Hopefully they’ll get back to heartbreak in 4 chords or less.