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Rob Thomas Talks New Matchbox Twenty Album 'North,' Spills His Songwriting Secrets [Exclusive Interview]

Matchbox Twenty MAIN - Photo Courtesy of Bloomingdales by Cliff Watts

Multi-platinum pop rock outfit Matchbox Twenty returns on September 4 with their fourth full-length and highly anticipated studio album, titled "North." The group of Rob Thomas, Paul Doucette, Kyle Cook and Brian Yale is gearing up to continue their winning streak of platinum hits with a fresh new sound that maintains the group's instantly identifiable sonic approach and Thomas' distinct vocal performance.

Frontman Rob Thomas explains in an exclusive interview with ArjanWrites.com that after a five-year hiatus the group decided to live together in a house in Nashville last year to reconnect, record and pick up where they left off in 2007 with "Exile On Mainstream." "I've been in the solo world for so long, and I had this whole other life and all these other songs that I played," the three-time GRAMMY winner tells me. "It made sense for us to sequester ourselves, and have to stay together and personally bond instead of just showing up in the studio. That really worked and living together reminded us why we are all such good friends."

The LP's title, "North," directly refers to the group's reunion. "When you lose your direction, you look north to get back on track," Thomas smiles. "That's what it felt like for us as a band after all that time away."

Matchbox Twenty also changed its songwriting process in order to refresh the group's creative mojo. "This was the first time we started writing together from the beginning," Thomas explains. "So it was going back to the same dynamic as a group but completely change how we worked together. We ended up with 60 great ideas, melodies and hooks, and together with [producer Matt Serletic] we narrowed it down based on quality."

The result of their renewed bond flavored with a bit of frivolity is a compelling and very accomplished collection of songs that will stand the test of time. Songs range from the dance-oriented "Put Your Hands Up" to the heartfelt balladry of "Overjoyed" to their hooky new single, "She's So Mean" that took the group a little while to finish. "['She's So Mean'] was almost entirely written on the spot and then it took us months to write a chorus," Thomas remembers. "We recorded like 5 or 6 different choruses, and then we finally figured it out and we re-wrote some of the lyrics because we had a story to tell."

The timeless quality of "North" once again underlines Thomas' reputation as an iconic songwriter who has been honored with three GRAMMY Awards, 11 BMI Awards and two Billboard Songwriter of the Year awards for both his chart-topping solo work as well as collaborations with such legends as Santana, Mick Jagger and Willie Nelson. Thomas' songwriting secret is to send listeners on a journey and write from a very real place. "If I write about a moment that happened to me, I'm not really writing for you to just know about that moment," he reveals. "I'm writing for you to know how that moment made me feel so you can relate to it in your own way."

Thomas explains that the key to his success as a songwriter is to get out of his comfort zone and try new things. He explains, "Most songwriters feel that they're only as good as the last song they wrote," he says. "There's nothing like that feeling when you just wrote a great new song. I always put myself in an uncomfortable position and work my way through it. And after years of doing that, the idea of a blank page and what that can be, continues to expand." (Click here to download Matchbox Twenty's new single "She's So Mean" on iTunes now.)

July 31, 2012 | Permalink

Nelly Furtado Unveils New Track 'Parking Lot' (Live at AOL Sessions)

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After honoring her hip hop idols on "Big Hoops (Bigger The Better)" and baring her soul on "Spirit Indestructible," Nelly Furtado takes listeners back to her teenage years on "Parking Lot." It's a brand-new song from her forthcoming new LP that she performed at a private industry showcase in Hollywood earlier this month and also during her AOL Sessions mini concert for all of her fans to enjoy. 

Set to a big, booming beat, the spunky "Parking Lot" clearly references Furtado's wild and free teenage years when she first fell in love with hip hop music that is a driving theme on her forthcoming new album. It's not the first time Furtado makes mention of a parking lot in her music. On the angst-ridden "Explode" (from 2003's "Folklore"), the Canadian singer candidly shares a story about being "stuck in teenage waste" while talking about friends "getting drunk outside the K-Mart" and other debaucheries at the "rooftop mall parkade." 

At first glance, "Explode" may appear to be just a song about being foolish and being young, but if you consider its context, the song is ultimately about bonding together and feeling the exhilaration of taking risk. That exact sentiment also drives the singer's new "Parking Lot." The song taps into her carefree and exuberant spirit that is so quintessential Furtado. "I don't know if you can hold me back. I got some time to waste so we can chop away the hours," she sings. "We gonna turn the speakers up, cuz we ain't gonna do nothing. ( . . .) depending on the chemicals, we can make some power. Let's dance in the rain, let's get fancy."

With more and more songs being unveiled from Furtado's new "The Spirit Indestructible" LP, it becomes clear that this record is a very authentic piece of work that shines in originality. Perfectly balancing style and substance, the record explicitly captures the feeling and the music that continue to inspire Furtado while also showcasing her growing spirituality as a human being. It's three-dimensional pop with a global appeal.

July 30, 2012 | Permalink

Cherrytree Pop Chop Interview: Arjan Catches Up with Colette Carr In NYC

A couple of weeks ago, I spent some time with Colette Carr in New York City while she was in the studio working on her forthcoming debut LP. A few steps away from the recording booth we found a piano and we decided that would be the perfect location to film an impromptu Cherrytree Pop Chop. Instead of cutting down the interview to a web-friendly one minute, we decided to keep the entire episode as is to let you in on all the fun that ensued when we "sat down" to film this. Topics range from Colette Carr's new album, the difference between Malibu and New York City, pizza and she even wonders if this Pop Chop interview was set up as a way for me to make a proposal of a particular kind. Nothing like that was the case, but it sure helped to make the entire interview hilariously informative in true Carr-style.

July 30, 2012 | Permalink

Synth Pop Duo Vistor Unveils Majestic New "RNB" Song Premiere [First Listen]

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After we first tipped you about the glossy, '80s styled synth pop of British duo Visitor over two years ago, the group of Kyle and Lucas now return to the dance-pop scene with the brand-new "RNB." Masterfully produced by New York soundboard wizard Diamond Cut, the song is once again a finely-tuned and intensely atmospheric piece of music with some very pop-savvy undertones. As opposed to some of their earlier work, "RNB" is light on vocals giving way to Vistor's massive synths to craft an epic sonic landscape filled with euphoria. "RNB" is the first to be unveiled from their new LP that will be preceded by a full remix EP of "RNB" that features revamps by Lifelike, Viceroy, Vanguard, FM Attack and others. 

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July 30, 2012 | Permalink

Ellie Goulding Announces Release of New Album 'Halcyon' on October 9 in the U.S.

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Hot on the heels of the breakthrough success of "Lights" in North America, Ellie Goulding is gearing up to release her much-anticipated new album, titled 'Halcyon,' on October 8 on Polydor Records in the U.K. and on October 9 in the U.S. on Cherrytree/Interscope. That new effort will be introduced by new single "Anything Could Happen" that will be available on September 30.

A dictionary explains that the word "halcyon" has many different meanings. It can refer a video game console, a graphic novel, a short dialogue by Plato, an Indian castle and it's also the title of a 1966 album by British band Solstice. But given Goulding's recent commentary about her new LP, it's most likely that the title is a nod to Greece's Alcyone myth about love, loss, beauty and metamorphosis. "This album for me is a journey from dark into light from confusion to understanding," the singer/songwriter says in a press release. "I didn't set out to write a break-up record but I think it became one." 

All the tracks on the transformational "Halcyon" (that comes along with some very iconic artwork) were written and co-produced by Ellie Goulding, and the majority were recorded in a converted barn in Ellie Goulding's hometown in the Hay Valley with producer Kish Mauve's Jim Elliot who previously worked with Kylie Minogue and Ladyhawke. Earlier reports also noted that Goulding has recorded with Swedish House Mafia and Xaphoon Jones with whom she worked on her cover of The Weeknd's "High For This." Earlier this month, the singer also unveiled buzz track "Hanging On" that features her pal Tinie Tempah.

The release of "Halcyon" in October is the follow up to Ellie Goulding's hugely successful debut album "Lights" which was released in 2010 and has gone on to sell one and a half million copies and generate five million single sales worldwide. The Hereford-born singer songwriter first came to prominence when she topped the BBC Sound of 2010 Poll and was simultaneously awarded the Brits Critics Choice Award. She is the only artist other than Adele to have received both accolades. 

Ellie Goulding’s success in the UK has been mirrored internationally and the US in particular has taken Ellie to its heart. Her single ‘Lights’ has sold over 2.5 million copies there and is currently Top 5 on both the Billboard Hot 100 and top 40 charts. It's a remarkable success story that has laid a rock solid foundation for continued success around the globe. Stay tuned for more news about Ellie Goulding's "Halcyon."

July 30, 2012 | Permalink