April 20, 2005 06:00 AM

Having gone solo, Matchbox Twenty frontman Rob Thomas is anything but alone. He’s got the critics on his side and a Top 10 single, “Lonely No More,” off his just-released debut album Something to Be. Plus, the Grammy winner (for “Smooth” with Carlos Santana) has his favorite touring partner as he hits the road this month – wife Marisol. Thomas, 33, talked to PEOPLE after his recent AOL Music Sessions performance, and filled us in on their rock ‘n’ roll marriage and more.

What do you bring on your tour bus that you can’t live without?
Well, my dog and my wife, not in that order.

What kind of dog do you have?
I have a big, white, fuzzy dog, sheds hair everywhere.

Do you run music by your wife for her opinion?
Definitely. She’s always right, she’s always been right.

Is she harsh?
No, she’s honest. But she hates it if she doesn’t like something. She’ll listen and be like, “Do you hate me? You hate me, don’t you?”

Does she take all of your lyrics personally?
She realizes that (to write a song) you take a personal experience and you try to make a universal experience out of it. There’s a song called “When the Heartache Ends” that comes from when we were going through a really tough time. She was like, “When all this heartache is over, will you still be around?” And I was like, “What a great thought.”

Are you nervous about touring alone, or are you psyched?
I was more nervous the first day of rehearsal. Coming in, it was, how’s this all gonna gel? Is it gonna sound right, is it gonna be weird? But they’re such a great band, such a good group of guys that we’re having a really great time, so I’m more excited than anything.

How would you describe your new sound?
Funky rock ‘n’ roll.

Is this a new direction?
No, by the time I make another record, whether it be with Matchbox or my own, I’ll be in a whole other space. I might want to make a quiet country record by that time.

So when you go on tour and people are screaming for "3 am" or another Matchbox Twenty hit, are you going to play it?
I’ll do it the way that I wrote it – just acoustic guitar. I wouldn’t want to cheat myself or the guys in Matchbox by having somebody else play their parts.

Do have any pre-show rituals?
Matchbox Twenty always had the Circle of Rock, where we’d all get in a circle and we’d all have one random thought for the day. It could be, “I like toast.” It could be something constructive, like, “Hey, let’s not forget to do blah blah.” But everyone just gets one thought, you can’t waste it.

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