Rob Thomas Talks New Matchbox Twenty Music’s Debut Holiday Album “Something About Christmas Time”

Sitting at his piano singing Christmas songs year after year, making a holiday album was something Rob Thomas always dreamed of doing. When the pandemic kept him off the road indefinitely, he started revisiting some of the songs he grew up with, then wrote a collection of originals for his first holiday album. something about christmas.

Produced by Gregg Wattenberg, something about christmas, also Thomas’ fifth solo release, features a collection of original holiday songs and covers with special guests, including his rendition of Bryan Adams’ 1985 hit “Christmas Time” with Ingrid Michaelson, “That Spirit of Christmas.” by Ray Charles, featuring a duet with Bebe Winans, while Abby Anderson joins Thomas on the classic “I Believe in Santa Claus”. Brad Paisley sings with Thomas on one of his originals, the country “Santa Don’t Come Here Anymore.” something about christmas also features Thomas’ original holiday tracks, A New York Christmas ’21” and “Small Town Christmas.”

Thomas also linked the album to a live charity event for the non-profit organization he and his wife Marisol started, the Sidewalk Angels Foundation, which funds no-kill animal shelters in the United States and in the world.

During the release of his first Christmas album, Thomas spoke to American songwriter about writing original holiday songs, getting into the Christmas music lexicon, new Matchbox Twenty music, and that magic air around Mariah Carey.

American songwriter: Congratulations! You have now entered the world of Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby… Burt Ives. You are officially part of the Christmas gender.

Rob Thomas: It’s weird because now I feel like I’m part of this little world. Now I can call Michael Bublé and say, ‘Hey, what’s up, man?’ I am now part of the Christmas “machine”.

AS: You always wanted to make a Christmas album and you ended up writing several original songs for Something about Christmas. When did it all start to fall into place? Were these holiday songs that you had been working on for a while?

RT: I had no originals except for “A New York Christmas ’21”. It was always about covers that I was going to do, and every year at Christmas I would sit at the piano and play Christmas songs and say, “I want to do a Christmas record,” but you have to do in the summer. I think it really boiled down to every summer I was either on the road or in the studio doing something already and that was the first time I had a summer where I was free enough to make a record at home, so I took advantage of this. I easily wrote another Christmas Originals record. I wanted to choose covers that were Christmas songs that I grew up with and not necessarily the kind of standard traditional songs that you have to do when you make a Christmas record. Michael Bublé and John Legend made these traditional Christmas records and they did really well, so nobody needed to hear me sing “The Christmas Song” or “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”.

AS: When the holidays come around, you can always expand the Christmas releases. It’s like the gift that keeps on giving.

RT: It’s the only type of album that gets a hit every year. If you have a successful Christmas record, it doesn’t matter how successful that record is, because after December 26, no one gives a fuck. So you have this small period of time, and this window is so short. Then the next year you get another chance and the next year. I found it incredible that the number one Christmas record was that of Michael Bublé Christmas (2011) record, and it has just celebrated its 10th anniversary. He’s in that rarefied Mariah Carey tune right now.

Rob Thomas (Photo: Courtesy of Atlantic Records)

AS: And Mariah was one of those artists who released a more contemporary Christmas song [“All I Want For Christmas Is You,” 1994] it has become this mammoth.

RT: At this point, it’s hard to remember that it was an original contemporary song simply because it’s such a part of the Christmas music lexicon. This is just one of the standards that came out.

AS: Why did you land on those 10 specific songs for something about christmas Time?

RT: I’m a kid of the 80s, and for me, it was one of the most fertile periods for Christmas pop music. There was Band-Aid. There was Cyndi Lauper. And on the radio, there were these Christmas songs by contemporary artists, so that was a big part of my childhood. Doing something like Bryan Adams’ “Christmas Time” made sense. Ray Charles song [“That Spirit of Christmas”] with Bebe Winans, that’s literally why I made a Christmas record, because I was sitting at the piano playing that song, and my wife was like ‘you have to make a Christmas record. Christmas, and you have to put that song in it.’ Then “I believe in Santa Claus” [featuring Abby Anderson], I grew up listening to that on Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton’s Christmas CD. So “I Believe in Santa Claus” had to catch on there. For me, each speaks to my personal relationship with Christmas since I was a child.

AS: In all your Christmas cheer, you were also working on the new Matchbox Twenty material. When do you expect get that out? (The band last came out North, their fourth album, in 2012.)

RT: We’re actually going to be in the studio working on some new songs next year. I’m also almost done with a brand new solo record because before COVID the idea was that I was going to go out with Matchbox Twenty with the new music tour, and now I was going to be on the phone talking to you about the solo record I’m going out right now. So everything got pushed back, and I have the solo record on the ice which really excites me. But first, it’s going to be new Matchbox music, so at least I’m not short on creative stuff.

Photo: Randall Slavin/Atlantic Records