On the heels of ‘Push’ in ‘Barbie,’ Matchbox Twenty rocks Jiffy Lube Live

Hear our full chat on my podcast “Beyond the Fame with Jason Fraley.”

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews Matchbox Twenty at Jiffy Lube Live (Part 1)

“Barbie” moviegoers got reintroduced to the song “Push” when it was featured in the movie, as the Kens try to woo the dolls by serenading them.

Now, Matchbox Twenty is ready to rock Jiffy Lube Live in Bristow, Virginia, Thursday night.

“Some rocking will be had,” lead guitarist Kyle Cook told WTOP.

“It’s going to be a night of songs that people know and love from us, and a sprinkling of some of the new albums. We’re definitely not a band that nostalgia is lost on. … I feel like I research all of our songs when I go to buy toothpaste at CVS. Who knew that we were going to make perfect music for retail shopping? I’m picking through ripe tomatoes and I get a journey of our recorded history!”

The latest tour is called “Slow Dream,” which comes from the new song “Wild Dogs (Running in a Slow Dream)” off the band’s newest album “Where the Light Goes,” which also happens to be a profound single.

“‘Where the Light Goes’ is an important song,” Cook said. “I liked that idea of, ‘Can you tell me where the light goes every time your eyes close?’ It’s more of this larger, metaphorical light. That conceptually was cool. … And I think that theme worked good coming out of a pandemic and coming out of a world where we lost some loved ones.”

The title track is almost as impressive as the new single “Don’t Get Me Wrong,” which features lyrics about attempting to save a strained relationship, “I know you think I’m gone, but I’m all in, don’t get me wrong.”

“That chorus is just so infectious,” Cook said.

“Rob [Thomas] was like, ‘Hey, I’ve been doing a lot of these Zoom cowrites and here’s a handful of songs.’ He prefaced it by going, ‘Look, I realize there’s not much precedent of us recording songs I’ve written with other people.’ … Rob wrote with a couple of guys from Nashville. … Something that stands out on this particular record is this is the first time we’ve recorded songs that have been written outside of the band.”

Born in Indiana in 1975, Cook grew up listening to rock in the land of cornfed folks shooting hoops.

“I’m a Hoosier, great movie, I come from the land where people’s grandmothers can shoot a proper free throw,” he said. “I grew up in rural Indiana surrounded by corn fields with not a lot to do, so that’s when I found Guns N’ Roses. I was playing violin before that in school, but ‘Appetite for Destruction’ came out and that just floored me. Right away, I wanted to chase girls and do all the rock stuff, I wanted to be Slash, I’m like, ‘Mom, I need an amp.'”

While attending the Atlanta Institute of Music, Cook met Collective Soul producer Matt Serletic, who came looking for a guitar player for his Florida band Tabitha’s Secret fronted by Rob Thomas. They formed Matchbox Twenty in Orlando, Florida, in 1995, signing with Atlantic Records for the album “Yourself or Someone Like You” (1996).

“He gave me a demo tape and ‘3AM’ was on it,” Cook said.

“I don’t know if I would have been that interested in pursuing [the band] if I hadn’t been so taken by ‘3AM.’ I just had a gut feeling that song was going to be really meaningful when recorded in its fully realized form. Turns out, that was the only song that actually made it on that first album and, not surprisingly, it’s become one of our most beloved songs these days when we play it live.”

In addition to the smash hit “3AM,” the album also featured the popular singles “Real World” and “Push,” the latter of which earned the band its first Grammy nomination for Best Rock Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group in 1998.

“‘Push’ came later in the game,” Cook said. “[Rob] had heard of this songwriting game of ‘what if we choose some words and write an entire song around a word, I’m gonna provide you with 10 words that are interesting or evocative, then we’re going to select one and write about it as an exercise. ‘Push’ ended up being one of those words. … I hope the story is that Rob was eating SpaghettiOs and saw ‘Real World’ and wrote a song about it.”

The second album “Mad Season” (2000) earned a Grammy nod for Best Rock Album, featuring hits like “Bent.”

“‘Mad Season’ was a huge leap toward something more creative and adventurous,” Cook said. “‘Bent’ is one of my favorite arrangements, I love Rob’s melody, but what we did with it as a band [with] ethereal guitar sounds. You get to the bridge and it’s like strange little alien guitar sounds trying to get out. … The opening of that song was an accident. … The bend [sound] that comes in … I started in the wrong key and self-corrected as it was happening.”

The album also featured the tender song “If You’re Gone” about touring while your loved one waits at home.

“We were at the peak of Matchbox-dom,” Cooks aid.

“It was one of those times that we all understood was going to be very hard to ever return to because you’re never gonna be in your early 20s and on top of the charts and on top of the world again. … ‘If You’re Gone’ came from a place where [Rob’s] wife Marisol wasn’t sure if she could hang with that lifestyle, he just wasn’t home, so he wrote that as an ode to that idea: ‘I need you in my life.'”

Matchbox Twenty earned another Grammy nomination for Best Rock Album with their third album, “More Than You Think You Are” (2002), which featured beautiful tunes like “Bright Lights,” as well as the catchy single “Unwell,” which was nominated for Best Pop Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group at the Grammys.

“I actually think we scaled it back [on that album],” Cook said.

“We went up to Woodstock to make ‘More Than You Think You Are’ and we wanted to get it back to a band feel. … ‘Bright Lights’ is a great example of that, Rob starts on piano, very small, very intimate, just in the room with him, then builds and builds and builds. … ‘Unwell’ features this really dry banjo. … It’s like, ‘Why would Matchbox Twenty feature banjo on its current single?’ Why not?”

Their next project was a double-disc retrospective album “Exile on Mainstream” (2007) where the second disc featured the band’s greatest hits and the first disc featured all new songs, like the upbeat “How Far We’ve Come.”

After that, the band went on hiatus until their next album “North” (2012), while Thomas pursued solo efforts like “Lonely No More,” “This is How a Heart Breaks,” “Streetcorner Symphony,” “Little Wonders,” “Her Diamonds” and “Someday,” as well as collaborations like “Smooth” on Carlos Santana’s smash album “Supernatural” (1999).

However, don’t expect to hear Thomas’ solo stuff at the Matchbox Twenty show at Jiffy Lube Live.

“I don’t think that we’re opposed to it, we just pay a lot of attention to keeping the brands separate,” Cook said.

“Defining what sounds like the band is hard enough. When you finally achieve it, to not allow it to have its own space isn’t really doing it justice, so that’s how we’re treating it going forward. I assume Rob feels that way about his solo stuff. He wants it to exist in its own space and if you start mixing it up, maybe it makes it less special.”

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews Matchbox Twenty at Jiffy Lube Live (Part 2)

Hear our full chat on my podcast “Beyond the Fame with Jason Fraley.”

Jason Fraley

Hailed by The Washington Post for “his savantlike ability to name every Best Picture winner in history," Jason Fraley began at WTOP as Morning Drive Writer in 2008, film critic in 2011 and Entertainment Editor in 2014, providing daily arts coverage on-air and online.

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