Matchbox Twenty frontman Rob Thomas on the band growing up

Sometimes, even big-name musicians can be starstruck. Just ask Matchbox Twenty frontman Rob Thomas.

During a recent phone interview, Thomas confessed that he once "geeked out" in front of Willie Nelson and fears a repeat performance if he ever meets Tom Petty, another one of his idols.

Thomas chatted about his fan base and music while riding on a tour bus from New York to Maine as part of the U.S. leg of Matchbox Twenty's current tour. The band, which formed in Orlando and often played South Florida in its early days — will perform Wednesday at Hard Rock Live.

You sing a lot about love and heartbreak. How does it feel knowing your music can help someone through a bad time in their life?


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That's what makes the live and tour experience so great. I don't know if we're a lifestyle band. We're this band that, throughout the years, a lot of people have this one song that meant something to them. Maybe it was a breakup or their wedding song or the record that they used to love to play on their way to the beach. But knowing that, through all these years, our music has been part of their lives and in their homes, and to be able to see that reaction live is what makes the experience. We have songs from our first record that I'm fine if I never hear again, but I love playing them in front of people because of their reaction.

What music inspires you. Are you drawn to a particular genre?

It's funny, because on Twitter I do a song a day, every day, and I was looking at my Facebook, and it's all over the place, from Stone Temple Pilots to John Mellencamp. I'm inspired by songs. And I'm inspired by bands. I'm loving the My Morning Jacket record and the new Gaslight Anthem record, because those are good bands playing good songs. There's no gimmick to it. There's no trick. It's just five guys in a room that write a song that somehow strikes a chord with you.

Is there anyone you'd love to jam with onstage but haven't yet?

I'm such a big fan of Tom Petty that I've been backstage at his shows, and someone will say, "Hey, you want to come meet Tom?" And I'll tell them no. I don't want to be the guy who says, "Hey, I love you." The first time I met Willie Nelson, I was like, "I love you, I love you." But luckily, him and I were both so high that when I saw him the next time and apologized for geeking out he didn't remember.

Matchbox Twenty will perform 8 p.m. Wednesday at Hard Rock Live, at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, 5700 Seminole Way, in Hollywood. Tickets cost $54-154. Go to HardRockLiveHollywoodFL.com.