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Rob Thomas explores 'The Great Unknown'

Matchbox Twenty's leading man gets personal on his third solo release.
Rob ThomasBen Watts

Singer-songwriterRob Thomas still splits his time between two musical roles: He's the lead singer of Matchbox Twenty, and the solo artist behind singles like "Lonely No More" and "This Is How a Heart Breaks." Following his latest album, "The Great Unknown," and ahead ofthis summer's tour with Counting Crows, Thomas chatsabout his new work, collaborations incountryand the recent departure of one of Matchbox's founding members.

How did you link up with Counting Crows for this summer's tour?

I've been friends with Adam [Duritz] for going on 20 years, but I think we've done maybe two shows together … oddly enough we'd never toured together, and we thought that was kind offunny. It was just something that happened naturally, they were going out and I was looking for someone to go out with this summer.

I read that the new album's title track, "The Great Unknown," is about the health issues that your wife's been battling for so long. How's she doing now?

It's still kind of a day-by-day thing. [Last year] while we were out on the first tour for this record, we had to stop and take a break because she had to have brain surgery. So I think considering that, she's amazing, just the fact that she's upright and she's engaging and she's a part of the living world now.

I think that when you're dealing with somebody who's had chronic illness for a long time it's always just a good day, bad day situation, but you do learn to do more with a good day than I think a lot of other people do, because you appreciate it more.

You've done lots of songwriting work for other artists. Any collaborations that you've been involved in recently, or that you're in talks to get involved in?

I'vebeen hunkered down between my actual life and being on the road for a while now, but I did an episode of "Crossroads" on CMT with [Lady Antebellum's] Charles Kelley, and we really got along well … I've been threatening to get together with Kenny Chesney, and for the last six or seven years we've been email buddies and never actually made that happen.

I used to have a lot of fun writing for other peoples' records and not having that pressure. It's just so great to create something but then not having to worry about making the record or going out and promoting it.

Lastly, another Matchbox question: It's been a couple of months since guitarist Kyle Cook left the band. Have you gotten the chance to talk with him since then?

It's just kind of one of those family squabbles that we’re in the middle of. It's hard for me to imagine that Kyle won't come back and that we're not going to play again. No matter what, I wouldn't be back in that world until the beginning of next year anyway. After this tour, I was going to take some time off, and then we'd kind of put it together. We're all in contact, we've all been brothers for 20 years, so there’s no way that we're not talking, we're just not talking right now as much as we used to.

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