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Matchbox Twenty Biography

Upon the release of their debut album Yourself or Someone Like You in the fall of 1996, Matchbox 20 was pigeonholed as one of the legions of post-grunge guitar-bands that roamed the American popscene in the middle of the '90s. As their first single, "Push," climbed the charts, it was widely assumed (at least by cyncial critics) that they were a one-hit wonder, but Yourself or Someone Like You continued to spin off singles well into 1998. By that time, the group's blend of '70s arena rock and early '90s American alterna-rock -- closer to Pearl Jam and maybe REM than Nirvana -- had become the sound of mainstream American rock. That transition slipped underneath the radar of many pop music critics and fans. Yourself or Someone Like You sold millions of copies without ever truly dominating the charts -- by 1998, it had gone platinum five times; by 2000, ten times. At no time, did the record top the charts, but it was always around, a staple of modern rock, adult alternative and Top 40 radio alike. Matchbox 20 were omnipresent because they managed to blend the structure and sentiment of '70s arena rock with '90s hard rock, thereby winning a large audience by seeming simultaneously classicist and modern. It was a little more classicist than modern, but that's the reason why they became America's most popular rock band of the late '90s ... even if nobody quite realized that they had achieved that status. The de-facto leader of Matchbox 20 is lead singer and songwriter, Rob Thomas. An Army brat that was born on a military base in Germany, Thomas spent much of his childhood between his mother's house in Florida and his grandmother's place in South Carolina. The stress of the constant movement spilled over into his schoolwork and he dropped out of high school at the age of 17. He spent some time wandering around the Southeast, singing in a variety of rock bands, before he made Orlando, Florida his homebase. There, he met bassist Brian Yale and drummer Paul Doucette, and the three spent several years drifting through local bands before Matchbox 20 officially formed. They rounded out the lineup with Adam Gaynor (rhythm guitar, vocals), who had previously worked at the Criteria Recording Studios in Miami, and Kyle Cook (lead guitar), a former student of the Atlanta Institute of Music. The band hooked up with Collective Soul producer Matt Serletic and recorded a batch of demos, which helped the band secure gigs throughout the U.S. Soon, the band signed to Lava, a subsidiary of Atlantic Records, and recorded their debut, Yourself or Someone Like You, also with Serletic. The album was released in October of 1996 to little attention, but Matchbox 20 continued to tour America, cultivating a fan base. They eventually landed their single "Long Day" on several influential radio stations, which paved the way for their breakthrough hit, "Push." In the spring of 1997, "Push" began climbing its way to the top of the modern rock charts, as it received heavy airplay from radio and MTV. By the summer, the single was in the modern rock Top Ten, and Yourself or Someone Like You had reached the album Top 40 and gone gold. As it turns out, "Push" wasn't the culmination of their work, but the beginning of a somewhat surprising success story. During the fall of 1997, the record picked up momentum, as "3am" became a bigger hit than "Push," propelling Yourself or Someone Like You to multi-platinum status. Early in 1998, the group was named "Best New Band" by Rolling Stone's annual Reader's Poll -- proof that, even if Matchbox 20 wasn't winning critics, it was winning over a wide, mainstream audience. The band and its debut album continued to sell at a steady pace throughout the year, as the singles "Real World" and "Back 2 Good" joined "Push" and "3am" as radio favorites. Throughout it all, Matchbox 20 stayed on the road, at home and abroad. They did well in foreign territories, including Canada, but they truly connected with Australia, where they went platinum eight times; in neighboring New Zealand, the band went quintuple platinum. Matchbox 20 reserved 1999 as the year to record their eagerly-anticipated second album, but they didn't disappear from the spotlight, due to the unexpected success of "Smooth," a Santana song co-written and sung by Rob Thomas. "Smooth" was one of many songs sung by celebrities on Santana's cameo-studded comeback album, Supernatural, but it was the one chosen as the lead single. A wise choice, as it turned out, since it became a true pop phenomenon, topping many radio charts and driving Supernatural to multi-platinum sales and many industry awards. Throughout the second half of 1999, "Smooth" was inescapable, as it and Supernatural sat on the top of the pop charts. Its success brought more attention to Matchbox 20, and Yourself or Someone Like You rocketed to over 10 million copies sold ... which now qualified it for the RIAA's "Diamond Award," which is only granted to records that have moved over 10 million units. On top of that, Thomas was named BMI's 1999 "Pop Songwriter of the Year," for "Smooth" and his work with Matchbox 20. Early in 2000, Thomas won three Grammys for "Smooth" -- Song of the Year, Record of the Year, and Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals. All of this success happened as Matchbox 20 was recording its second album, again with producer Matt Serletic. The success raised expectations for the new album, entitled mad season by matchbox 20, which was released in May, 2000. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, All Music Guide


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