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Thomas brings solo tour to Youngstown

Amphitheater closes inaugural season Sept. 5

Rob Thomas has plenty smile about, chipped tooth or not.

“Chip Tooth Smile” is the fourth solo album for the Matchbox Twenty lead singer, and his tour in support of it comes to the Youngstown Foundation Amphitheatre on Sept. 5 as the final concert of the venue’s inaugural season.

Thomas wrote or co-wrote all 12 tracks on the new record. He told the Dallas Observer this summer that his approach to writing hasn’t changed, even if the results have.

“You still sit down with a guitar or sit down at the piano and get a little track going,” he says. “The things that I’m writing about at 47 are different than 37, and that was different than 27. If you’re evolving in the way that humans are supposed to evolve, you have different experiences and different opinions about those experiences.”

“One Less Day (Dying Young),” the lead single from “Chip Tooth Smile,” was written after the deaths of singer George Michael in 2016 and Matchbox Twenty’s tour manager the following year.

In an interview with Huffington Post, Thomas said, “You hear people say, ‘I don’t want to get older’ or ‘Getting older sucks,’ but the truth is, you lose friends who don’t get that opportunity, and you realize it’s a privilege that’s not afforded to everybody. I have things I’ve accumulated in my life that I don’t want to lose. I have relationships with people, and I’ve lost people who are close to me. … I mean, getting old is up to you. I know people who are in their 70s who I would not call old. But getting older is something, if you’re lucky, you get to do.”

Starting with “Push” and “3 A.M.” from its 1996 debut “You or Someone Like You,” Matchbox Twenty released hits that topped the pop, adult contemporary and adult alternative charts. Pop hits have been more elusive in the last decade, but Thomas told the Arizona Republic that it’s part of a natural progression.

“I think at some point you just kind of have to let that go,” he said. “You want songs that would be on the radio. But you don’t want songs that sound like everything that’s on the radio. And you don’t want to sound like you’re trying to compete with 20-year-olds. That’s their job now, to have that moment. It was my job when I had that moment so that I could get the ticket to take the ride and have a career and be able to now be comfortable in myself and write the music that I want to write.”

Thomas has pursued his solo career while continuing to tour with Matchbox Twenty. The band did a co-headlining run with Counting Crows in 2017, and Thomas has said in interviews that the band will tour again in 2020, although there are no plans for a new record.

Based on setlists from earlier dates on the tour, Thomas is playing several tracks from “Chip Tooth Smile” and other solo hits, but he isn’t ignoring Matchbox Twenty’s catalog. “If You’re Gone,” 3 A.M” and “Unwell” make regular appearances.

So does “Smooth,” the 1999 collaboration with Carlos Santana that was Thomas’ first hit without his Matchbox Twenty bandmates and won three Grammy Awards.

Thomas told the Arizona Republic, “It’s funny. I don’t think it’s the best song I’ve written, and I don’t think it’s Carlos’ best song, but it definitely is up there as one of the most important songs for both of us. And maybe part of that is timing. It happened at exactly the right time for both of us in our careers when he was on a comeback resurgence and I kind of needed to rise above the level of all the other faceless bands and being seen as the lead singer in a band to being seen as a songwriter.

“It’s just one of those things where if you’re lucky in your life at all, you’ll have success. But if you’re really lucky, you might once in your life be a part of something that’s bigger than you. You’re right there at the right time and you tap into something. I think that’s kind of what ‘Smooth’ was for me and for Carlos.”

Talking about “Smooth” with the Tulsa World, Thomas said, “My wife will tell you that when I wrote it, she knew that it was going to be a really big hit. I don’t think when you are writing songs that you can look at them that way. You don’t really know what’s going to work and what’s not going to work. You just kind of write what you are feeling at the time. The first time I even knew it was going to be a single, I was downtown in New York, and I was walking down the street and I heard it coming out of this car. I was standing at a red light, and I saw just this convertible car full of hot girls sitting at the red light blaring ‘Smooth’ on the radio. Oh man, I think we’re on to something.”

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