Rob Thomas on the right side of history and the future of Matchbox Twenty

The pop star and Matchbox Twenty front man talks being recognized as an LGBTQ ally and the future of the band.

Rob Thomas comes to the SOEC Aug. 31.



Pop music star Rob Thomas is likely best known as the front man for Matchbox Twenty, despite years of putting out solo hits, but there is a recent air of uncertainty surrounding the future of the band.

In April, Matchbox Twenty guitarist Kyle Cook announced via his Instagram account that he was leaving the band, focusing on his duo Rivers and Rust.

However, Thomas hopes that there is still a future for Matchbox Twenty, who last put out an album, North, in 2012.

“I heard about it probably a couple hours before everyone else did. Listen, I think what’s happened, I’m hoping, it’s just kind of a knee-jerk reaction to how my schedule has made it where if they wanted to work this summer, they can’t because I’m working,” Thomas said. “I don’t mean to say in any way that they can’t live without me, but they can’t go out and tour Matchbox without me and I think that’s really a bummer.”

Thomas is a man with little downtime. He said he hasn’t had time off in 20 years. Recording, promoting and touring his solo efforts while trying to record and promote albums with Matchbox Twenty simultaneously.

“I think he got to a certain point where (Cook) said ‘I’m just not going to wait around anymore.’ What I’m hoping is next year we get all our ducks back in a row and make a decision to do something together. I just can’t imagine Matchbox without Kyle,” Thomas said.

For him, it was the first time the two worlds have overlapped to this degree.

“This is the first time that it has really kind of conflicted with what everyone wanted to do,” Thomas said.

Matchbox Twenty is always going to be a part of Thomas’ life.

“I don’t feel like I need it, but I hope that I don’t step out from it because it’s still a giant part of my identity. I put all of my youth into that. I wrote and wrote and wrote and some of the best songs I’ve ever written are kind of during that world. So it’s not something I’m ever trying to run away from,” Thomas said. “No matter how long I go solo, or if I stay solo for the rest of my life, if people say ‘Rob from Matchbox Twenty,’ that’s always going to be true.”

Outside of the music world, Thomas has been lauded as an ally to the LGBTQ community.

He hopes one day people will not be recognized for being allies, it will be the norm.

In April Thomas was the recipient of an Ally Award from the Trevor Project, a nonprofit suicide hotline specifically made for LGBTQ youth.

“It seemed to me like the most absurd thing to be in a world where someone has to point out that there is something special about recognizing other people’s civil liberties and other people’s right to be exactly who they were born to be,” Thomas said.

With many friends in the community, Thomas would play shows and attend events in support, but that’s not where he starts as an ally.

“It probably starts with common sense, and recognizing that you have it,” Thomas said, calling the support being on the “right side of history.”

“Eventually that’s what’s going to happen is everybody that has that backwards ass way of thinking is dying off and people are becoming — I don’t want to call it tolerant. I tolerate my neighbours loud stereo. To say you tolerate something is saying ‘well, I’ll allow it. It’s not right, but I tolerate it.’ I think acceptance is more what we’re talking about.”

While pointing to individual instances of discrimination or bullying can create the illusion of lack of progress, Thomas notes that strides are being made.

“It’s easy to fall back and say we haven’t made any changes,” Thomas said. “But if you also realize that the law of the land now is gay marriage is allowed and it’s legal — which I probably could never have imagined a decade ago — you see this progress being made.”

He likened the fight for LGBTQ rights to racism, the fact that it is still a complex issue with many incidents of cultural relapse can overshadow progress.

“Having a black president does mean we have made a stride in one direction that we are moving towards the right side of history, something better, even if it takes way longer than it should,” Thomas said.

Thomas’ music is not political, focusing more intimately on the ins and outs of relationships between people, but he professes that he is a “news junkie,” likewise with politics. He has made multiple appearances on HBO’s political roundtable Real Time with Bill Maher as a panelist.

“Me in my personal life (I’m) much more outspoken. I don’t usually use my music as a platform to do that, unless somebody asks, it’s not something I shy away from, but also I’m not U2, I’m singing 3AM not Sunday Bloody Sunday,” Thomas said.

Rob Thomas plays the South Okanagan Events Centre on Aug. 31. Tickets are available at the SOEC box office or online at www.valleyfirsttix.com.

 

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