Matchbox Twenty are back with their new album North and it is their first record release since Exile On Mainstream five years ago.
I caught up with Paul Doucette to talk about the new record, how more of the band have been involved with the songwriting process and what lies ahead.
- You have just released your new album North but for anyone who hasn't heard the record yet what can we expect from it this time around?
I like to think of it as what we do but better. I know that that is a little vague but we are a band that has really existed on a respect from craft and song craft and we have really focused on that on this record.
- This is another very melody driven record and there are some really anthemic songs on there so how would you describe the sound of the album? And how does this record differ from those in the past?
It is different because Rob would write all of the songs but this time around there is a lot more song-writing from Kyle and I and me, Kyle and Rob wrote a lot together. So the inherent sound of the album is different.
Plus we are ten years older than when we made out last record and so you can only hope that the sound would be different.
- It has been five years since the release of Exile on Mainstream so what have you and the rest of the band been doing in that time?
Rob did another solo record in between Exile and this while Kyle and I have been writing and producing for other people.
- And how have you found writing and producing for other people compared to doing it for yourself?
Well you get to stay home so that is great. I like it. I love getting up and playing and all that but I like the idea of helping someone else figure out where they are going.
- And now that you have dipped you toe into that area as it were is it something that you are keen to continue in the future?
Oh definitely I would love to continue it. What is great about what we do is we can get out there and tour but when you are touring you are away from home quite a lot and we all have kids now and so I am sort of going ‘well I don’t know if I want to tour when I am not with Matchbox Twenty. So what else can I do?’ (laughs).
- How have you found the response to the record so far here in the UK as well as round the world?
It has been really great. When you put out a record there are going to be people who are going to like it no matter what you do, there are people who are expecting something and it is not what they are expecting and they are disappointed.
Then there are people who didn’t like the band before but like us now and there are people who just always hate us.
- Matt Serletic serves as producer on the album so how did that collaboration come about? And what were you looking for in your producer this time around?
Matt we have worked with for a long time, we did our first three records with Matt and then did Exile on Mainstream with Steve Lilywhite.
When we started working on this record we weren’t sure who we were going to work with. What we did to make this record is we wrote a lot of songs and then we locked ourselves away in a house in Nashville and tried to go through what we had.
We got kind of lost in that process and Matt came down to help up figure out where we where and out of that conversation we were like ‘why don’t you just produce this record? You are here anyway’.
- As you say you have worked with him before but he has worked with a whole other range of artists over the years so how do you find working with him? And what does his experience bring to this record?
I think it is different when we work with Matt than whenever anyone else works with Matt because we all came up together - we were all just starting out together. So we have a very different relationship with Matt than a lot of people do.
We hadn’t done a full record we Matt in ten years and so we are different people and we are different musicians and writers and Matt is a different producer.
We agreed from the beginning that any pre-conceived ideas that we had about each other we were just going to let out of the door because we all recognised that we are all in a different place. When we work with Matt now it is just a bunch of people who are working on the same thing.
- You have mentioned the passage of time a couple of times now and it has been ten years since you recorded an album of new material. So in that time how do you feel that you have developed as a musician and as a song-writer?
I hope that I have developed as a better songwriter - when you are in a band with Rob he is an immensely good songwriter and so the bar is set very high.
So I think from the perspective of Kyle when we first starting writing and presenting songs we had one song for every twenty of Rob’s and our one song was not nearly as good as the twenty of his.
So we have had to really work on it over the years. So both of us can say that we have worked on it and we have got to the point where we feel confident enough that we have got something that we can bring to the room.
Just being an adult I am a lot less precious about things - I think that we can all share in that too - as you get perspective with age and that is awesome because when you are younger you end up really overly fighting for things that probably aren’t that important.
- You have touched on the song-writing process and it is very different this time around and far more of a collaborative process than ever before. So can you talk about just how the song-writing works within the band?
When we write together… there are always songs that we have individually wrote and then playing them to people and saying ‘do you like this?’ And then it is yay or nay.
And then when we write together we just come up a core version that we like and then we just start singing nonsense word melodies - all we are looking for is a melody that we get excited about and that gives us the basis of where we are going to go.
Sometimes in that process a word with pop out and you go ‘right, what am I trying to say here?’ And you sort of follow that path of where the words are going - sometimes if leads you there and sometimes it doesn’t. But it is usually a good place to start.
- I was reading that you had said that the title 'North' refers to the band finding its way - can you tell me a little bit about that?
It was referring to our time in Nashville. We really changed things up with the way that we make records with the collaborating of the song-writing.
Kyle and I had a lot more to do with this record from a production standpoint and we just changed the dynamic of how we worked.
And that took a little bit of time of figuring out how to do that and we didn’t quite know where to start. So there was a little bit of ‘we are kind of lost here’ and then there is the idea that if you now where north is then you can find out where you are going and that is what it refers to.
- You have mentioned that you recorded the album out in Nashville so how was that experience? And how did it compare to recording experiences of the past?
It was an interesting experience. We all lived together in this house too and we are all older and I don’t want to live with them (laughs).
I love them but I don’t want to live with them. It was fun from a ‘hey this is fun as we have out own fraternity’ aspect and then you can get lost in dynamic.
You end up having late nights and long conversations that spill into the morning and suddenly you don’t feel like working with that person right now.
We had a studio downstairs so while two of us where upstairs one person was down there working on stuff and the two others would come down and go ’wow, I really hate that’. So it became sort of like what are we doing? And who knows where we are going? But that said we did have a good time.
- Since Exile on Mainstream five years ago the band went their separate ways and have been working on other bits and pieces so what was it like getting back together? And what brought everyone back together?
We were always going to get back together. Periodically we would always play shows and we were always in contact with each other and we would set up little writing trips to each others homes and studios.
So we were always in contact so it never really seemed as long a break to us as it did to everyone else. So it was always the plan to get back together.
When we get together - even when we change things up - it still feels relatively natural because we have known each other for so long and we have played together for so long.
- Talking about playing live shows will we be seeing the band tour here in the UK?
Well we were here last night as we play the iTunes Festival at the Roundhouse last night but I think we are going to come back in March or April - well we are hoping.
- Is the plan for the band to stay together for a little while?
I hope that we are staying together - I guess anything can happen. We have the agreement that as long as people want to do it then we are going to do it but if someone isn’t feeling it at that time you have go to go ‘aright go and do what you have to do and then come back’. Right now we are all feeling it.
- Away from Matchbox Twenty you have had your side projects so have you got any plans to do some solo work?
Maybe. I write a lot of songs so there are songs that I know will be good for Matchbox while others are great for the person that I am writing with that day but then there is a lot of stuff that I just know is my thing.
So I have those and I might do those - it is not high on my priority list - but I do have the songs. But maybe.
- As you said earlier most of the band are parents now so how do you find balancing work with your parental responsibilities?
It is incredibly difficult. We always say that that is what we get paid for - it is not to play music and it is not to hang out and stay in nice hotels -we have a nice life but we are not getting paid for that we are getting paid for the fact that that life takes us away from our kids, wives and girlfriends.
So that balance is hard and it is hard to be a parent from a thousand miles away. But you figure it out and we have done it for so long. My daughter has never known me do anything else so she is use to it.
But the great thing is when we are off I don’t have to get up and go to work I am thee none stop.
- So what does your daughter think about dad being in a band?
She is just getting to the age where she is understanding it. It would come on the radio and at first she was relatively unimpressed and I was like ‘Really? Nothing?’
But now her friends will tell her that they have heard the song or seen us on TV and so it is becoming more real to her.
- You have a huge fanbase all over the world so for those fans reading this interview do you have a message for them?
Thank you. I know that we are not the most prolific of bands and so it takes a lot to spend any time with us and we appreciate that.
- Finally what's coming up for you and the rest of the band until the end of the year?
Well we have a tour in Australia starting in October. We have five weeks out there and then we will be doing some various until the end of the year and then we are going to do a full American tour at the beginning of next year.
Matchbox Twenty - North is out now.
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