Go Columbia

Playing Columbia Sunday: Rob Thomas looks to ‘Great Unknown’

Rob Thomas will play a solo show at Township Auditorium Oct. 25.
Rob Thomas will play a solo show at Township Auditorium Oct. 25. Provided photo.

Chris Rock calls Matchbox Twenty singer Rob Thomas “Lake City Rob Thomas,” because Thomas spent part of his childhood living in the tiny tobacco town near Florence.

Rock, who was born in Andrews, couldn’t believe Thomas was from Lake City, Thomas said.

Yet Rock’s mother, Rosalie, was the one who inducted Thomas into the South Carolina Music and Entertainment Hall of Fame in 2001.

Now, the “Streetcorner Symphony” singer lives in New York, but he recalled his time in the Palmetto State fondly during a recent interview.

“We used to come up to Elbow Room in Columbia – that was a great place,” he said.

After 20 years as the frontman of Matchbox Twenty and 10 as a solo artist with a new CD out, Thomas is in a great place himself.

So great, in fact, that he started touring for the album this summer before it was even finished.

“At this point in my career, I can go on the road if I want to go on the road,” Thomas said.

He’ll play at The Township on Sunday, Oct. 25.

On his latest record, “The Great Unknown,” Thomas worked with several producers and co-writers, including OneRepublic’s Ryan Tedder, Ricky “Wallpaper” Reed (Jason Derulo) and Shep Goodman and Aaron Accetta (American Authors).

“I wrote everything for my first two records,” Thomas said. “Now, I’m not trying to prove anything to myself; I just want to do what I can to make the best record, to see who can add something that I don’t have.”

The album is in the same pop-rock vein as Thomas’ past works, with a few fresh twists.

“I’ve been really fortunate over the past 20 years that my fans have been very generous with me trying different things,” he said. “So I can do something and have a ready group of people who want to hear it.”

Before you hear it live for yourself at the Township show, Go Columbia spoke with Thomas about the “sexy guy” in his most recent music video, his spoiled dogs and how he still hears from his “Smooth,” co-collaborator Santana every once in a while.

Q: On Facebook, you said that “Hold On Forever” was the easiest song on “The Great Unknown” to write. Why?

A: It was while I was going to a doctor’s appointment with my wife and we had to take separate cars. I wrote the entire song in my head, just tapping on the steering wheel. By the time I got home, the entire song was written. Sometimes when you’re not trying to listen to something, it finds you.

I do a lot of writing in the car. Sometimes if I’m having a hard time (with a song), I’ll go for a long drive to get out of my own head and try to find a missing piece of a melody or whatever I’m working on.

Q: And you just finished shooting the music video for the song, right?

A: We shot it in Brooklyn and everything was going great until the end. The last scene was outdoors, and it started raining. So everyone runs to a hiding place inside, has a beer, then runs back out when it stops raining.

We basically found younger versions of myself and my wife, and it’s a remembering of us in our mid-20s running around New York. It’s funny because I’m not the sexy guy in the video anymore. I had to hire a sexy guy to be in the video.

Q: How is your wife doing? I understand she recently had some health issues.

A: She’s been home recovering. She had a lesion removed from her brain. The recovery takes a long time, but we’re expecting good things.

Q: Your charity organization, Sidewalk Angels, does a lot to support animal shelters. Is it safe to say you are an animal lover?

A: I would have a zoo if I wasn’t on the road all the time. We’d be the house that has 19 dogs running around. We do have two “(tour) bus-size” dogs. Honestly, we dote on them so much, I can’t imagine having energy to spoil any other animals. We let them run our lives.

It’s funny because I’m not the sexy guy in the video anymore. I had to hire a sexy a guy to be in the video.

Singer Rob Thomas

Q: At your shows, do you stick to your solo work or do you throw in some some Matchbox Twenty songs, too?

A: We try and mix it up. We’re in the service industry, so at the end of the day you want to play the singles people want to hear. But with Matchbox still being a band, I don’t want my band playing Matchbox. I don’t think anyone plays songs as well as Matchbox, but a lot of the songs I wrote, so I might pull out acoustic versions or alternate versions of them. We finally figured out a great rock version of “Smooth.”

Q: Speaking of “Smooth,” does Santana still send you flowers on your birthday?

A: Yes, every year. And every now and then I’ll get random nice texts from him in the middle of the night. He’s one of sweetest people on face of the earth.

Q: What’s coming up for you? Will you go back to work with Matchbox Twenty after your solo tour?

A: I hope to still be out promoting (my) album next year, but we do want to commemorate the 20th anniversary of Matchbox. I would love to do something where we do 20 shows for the 20 years, but it’s hard to say right this second.


If you go

Rob Thomas at The Township

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 25

WHERE: 1703 Taylor St.

TICKETS: $30-$70

INFO: www.thetownship.org