Matchbox Twenty's current album, North, is the band's first new album in a decade.  When it came out last year, it became their first disc to top the charts...and now the band is finally hitting the road to support it.

Matchbox Twenty's North tour gets underway Tuesday night in Oklahoma, and will wind its way around North America until the end of March, before heading overseas for more dates.  But the band is well-prepared for the trek, considering they did a warm-up tour of Australia, one of their biggest markets, last year.

"It was a big gamble...when you realize that you're...warming up in an arena in front of thirteen thousand people in Australia," frontman  Rob Thomas said.  "But we managed to pull it off, so I think now we're ready."  Rob also says he thinks the band sounds "better than we've ever sounded," now that Paul Doucette, their drummer-turned-guitarist, is "playing better than he's ever played."

The band may be raring to go, but the most important decision is, of course, what songs they're going to play once they hit the stage.  For an act that's been around so long and has had so many hits, trying to narrow down the list of songs is tough, but Rob says there's a method to the madness.

"First thing we do is, you kinda start with the singles, and you have a list," Rob explains. "Those are embedded in [the set list]; you know that every night somebody came to hear one of those songs.  That's gonna be half the set."  Then, he says, the band will "mix up" the other half with album cuts old and new.  Luckily, Rob says, the band now has enough material that they can "switch it up on different nights, so we're not playing the same thing every night."

As for how the band keeps their older hits fresh, Rob explains, "I think it's the audience. I mean, the audience is there every night.  There's an energy."  He laughs, "Listen, I could be OK if I never listened to 'Push' again.  Like, if I never heard it, I would be totally fine with that, but there's something different when you get into a room of people and you play it and there's this immediate response."

In addition to seeing Matchbox Twenty in action, fans who check out the tour will also get the added bonus of seeing American Idol champ Phillip Phillips, who's opening the first set of dates.  Phillip's obviously a Matchbox fan, seeing as how he covered their hit "Disease" during his Idol stint.  And Rob says that tapping him to open the tour "just seemed like a natural thing."

"He made a really great record.  He's got a really great song out right now.  We did a couple shows with him and met him and he was just such a nice guy, really talented.  You know, for us, it seemed like a no-brainer," Rob Also Said. "We were glad to have him.  I wish that we could have got him for the whole tour but he already had some commitments."