Matchbox Twenty front man Rob Thomas and his wife Marisol raise money for animals
By DAVE MASON
NEWS-PRESS STAFF WRITER
Rob Thomas, benefit for Sidewalk Angels Foundation
When: 8 p.m. March 29
Cost: $99 to $149
Where: Chumash Casino Resort’s Samala Showroom, 3400 E. State Route 246, Santa Ynez, a 21-and-older venue
Matchbox Twenty front man Rob Thomas and his wife Marisol have become something straight out of Mr. Thomas’ music.
They’re sidewalk angels.
“We were both the kind of kids who would always rescue strays and take care of animals,” Mr. Thomas, 47, told the News-Press recently by phone from the couple’s home in Westchester County, outside New York City.
“So I think the idea of working and trying to build more no-kill shelters was a big part of something we both wanted to do,” said Mr. Thomas, who, along with his wife, founded the Sidewalk Angels Foundation in 2003.
Mrs. Thomas discovered the ideal name for their New York City-based nonprofit from a Matchbox Twenty song Mr. Thomas wrote, “New York City Christmas” (2002), in which her husband sings, “Hear the sidewalk angels echo, ‘Hallelujah.’ ”
In that spirit, Mr. Thomas will raise money for the foundation when he performs with his solo career band at 8 p.m. March 29 at the Chumash Casino Resort in Santa Ynez.
The rock singer, guitarist and keyboardist, who alternates his solo and Matchbox Twenty tours, said all the proceeds will go to helping no-kill shelters and rescues.
“Starting this year, we’ve teamed up with the Humane Society of the United States, and we’re going to be working with them on different rescue projects from around the country,” Mr. Thomas said.
Before beginning the foundation, the couple volunteered in New York City at Pets Alive, the first no-kill shelter they assisted. That’s where the couple got their first dog, Tyler, who inspired Mr. Thomas’ song about animals, “Little Wonders,” in the 2007 animated Disney movie “Meet the Robinsons.”
“He was a terrier mixed with griffon vendéen,” Mr. Thomas said about Tyler, who died in 2008. “He looked like a miniature version of a shaggy Disney dog.
“I love the way that my dog was in the moment all the time. If we were out walking, he loved the idea we were walking together,” he continued. “Animals don’t have that burden of worrying about the past or the future.
“ ‘Little Wonders’ was about that I realized all these moments that I was missing because I was too caught up with something that just happened or too worried about the future and not being in the moment,” Mr. Thomas said.
Today, Mr. and Mrs. Thomas enjoy their rescue pets Samy, a white 12-year-old Pomeranian whose name is spelled with just one “m,” and Ollie, a 9-year-old brown mixed breed. The couple is pictured with the dogs on today’s Scene cover.
“Samy is just happy to be Samy,” Mr. Thomas said. “No matter what he’s going through, he has this crazy smile and is really upbeat.
“Ollie takes everything very, very personally,” the singer said. “If you say the wrong word to him, he will look like he’s fallen.”
In addition to their work for the Sidewalk Angels Foundation, the couple have promoted the Global Lyme Alliance. The nonprofit honored Mrs. Thomas, who was diagnosed with the disease in 2003, at a New York City gala in 2017.
During her acceptance speech, Mrs. Thomas said there isn’t a day without pain for her, but expressed her gratitude for the love of Mr. Thomas and her family and friends. (You can read her entire speech at globallymealliance.org.)
Mr. Thomas recalled caring for his mother, day and night, as she battled cancer.
The singer told the News-Press he was 12 or 13 at the time and wrote about the experience in the early Matchbox Twenty song “3 A.M.” (1996).
“That was the first song that I ever wrote that I really, really liked, and I thought other people should hear it as well,” said Mr. Thomas, who grew up in South Carolina and Florida and started writing songs when he was about 10.“I think probably 90 percent of what I write is informed by whatever I’m going through at the time,” he said.
Mr. Thomas’ latest solo album, “Chip Tooth Smile,” is set for an April 26 release, and its first single is “One Less Day (Dying Young).”
“It’s a song about how getting older is a privilege that is not afforded to everyone,” he said. “Everything seems to be about staying young forever, but the truth is getting old is a privilege.”
Mr. Thomas added that the new album is tinged with the musical styles that he grew up with on 1980s radio.
The music throughout his career has varied from “Push” (1997), a Matchbox Twenty song about emotional bullying that he co-wrote with record producer Matt Serletic, to “Lonely No More” (2005), a song from Mr. Thomas’ first solo album about not wanting to feel lonely or angry.
“I tend to write from a cynical point of view because when I write is when I’m feeling down, when I’m feeling troubled,” Mr. Thomas said.
But he noted that he tries to write one positive song on each album.
“ ‘Someday’ (2009) is about staying hopeful, the idea that whatever is going on in your life, there’s always a chance you can turn it around,” he said.
He wrote “If You’re Gone” (2000) after meeting his wife, who at the time was a model studying for her master’s degree in marketing in New York City.
“We had gotten together, and she had a mini freak-out,” Mr. Thomas said. “She just realized that she didn’t know if she could date a guy who did this (a rock career) for a living, and she wasn’t sure if she wanted this to be her life.
“She bailed on me for a second, and I wrote ‘If You’re Gone’ in the hopes of getting her back,” Mr. Thomas said. “Luckily, it worked.”