Matchbox Twenty frontman Rob Thomas might be rockdom’s most reluctant celebrity. The multiple Grammy winner will make the talk show rounds to discuss his latest work, like his new fourth solo effort “Chip Tooth Smile,” which, with its charming single “One Less Day (Dying Young)” — debuted at No. 3 on the Billboard chart. But he prefers staying off the gossip grid, quietly running his philanthropic Sidewalk Angels Foundation with his wife Marisol, or spending down time with their son and two tour-seasoned dogs, Sammy and Ollie. He has his priorities straight. Phoning last week from New York, Thomas was in a limo dropping by his label, Atlantic, then to tour rehearsals across town. Both stops could wait. “First, we detoured by the vet’s for my dog to get a series of shots in his leg,” he says. “Because, you know, us rock stars.”
You seem to work overtime, maintaining this sense of Regular Joe normalcy. And it’s working.
Yeah. But normal is pretty relative. For me and my wife, this life is all pretty normal. But if I’m hanging out with my friends who aren’t in the music business, I have this crazy, interesting life that they could never imagine — I’m traveling the world, playing music with my friends, meeting new people every day. To them, it’s fascinating. But if I’m hanging out with Kid Rock, I suddenly have the tame suburban existence. The last time I saw him he said, “Well, look at you, all skinny and rich!”
But you’ve mastered the craft of penning these meat-and-potatoes anthems that aren’t as simple as they appear. Like “One Less Day,” which muses on mortality.
That came about because Adam Duritz and I had had a conversation about the fact that we weren’t old, but we were too old to die young. We weren’t part of the 27 club, we weren’t even part of the 37 club, so I’m one day away from dying young every time I survive another day. And once I realized those kind of constructs, the less I worried about death. But I think I’m doing the right things with my life so far. I’m making the music that I want to make, and the success that I’ve had is is really just a ticket that allows me to stay on the ride.
How do you keep your songs both humble and honest?
I don’t think too hard about it. I don’t sit down and go, “I’m going to write ‘this’ kind of song today — one that’ll put my kid through college.” But I’m not talking about brain surgery or saving the world here. This is pop music. And I’m just using it to tell a universal truth in some way.
IF YOU GO
Where: Mountain Winery, 14831 Pierce Road, Saratoga
When: 7:30 p.m. Sunday, June 16
Tickets: $89.50 to $249.50
Contact: (408) 340-6815, www.axs.com