Rob Thomas rocks 'The Voice' and the music charts

Rob Thomas is a celebrity mentor on Cee Rob Thomas is a celebrity mentor on Cee Lo Green's team on season 3 of "The Voice." Photo Credit: Tyler Golden/NBC

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To quote Rob Thomas' hit song "Smooth," it's been a hot one. A hot year, to be exact.

The Bedford resident and his band, Matchbox Twenty, recently released a new album, "North," which hit number one on the Billboard charts. And starting Monday night, Thomas will make his debut as a celebrity mentor on the hit reality series "The Voice."

Thomas said that he wanted to join "The Voice," which also features Yonkers native Mary J. Blige as a mentor, because of the current popularity of reality TV competitions. "It's just kind of an amazing piece of pop culture right now," he said. "The idea [that "Voice" contestants have] no age limit, the idea that you could have tried out before, or had a professional job before -- there's no limit, it's just about talent. That really appealed to me, and the fact that a number of my peers were the judges."

While Thomas is a mentor for Cee Lo Green's team, whom he calls an "encyclopedia of all things music," he and "Voice" coach Adam Levine have a history that goes back several years.

"[Adam Levine's band] Maroon 5 started out opening for [Matchbox Twenty] before they broke. It's kind of funny because I was asked to be a judge on the Australian version of "The Voice." And after watching these guys and seeing how hard they work, I just don't know if I have the desire, because it's like another career. The thing I'm most amazed at is seeing Adam and seeing how well he's doing with Maroon 5, and how ... he's really working hard at that and also being able to pull off this job. It's just a work ethic that I'm stunned by, and just think is great."

He may not want judge a reality show, but Thomas has boundless enthusiasm for the 16 contestants he worked with as a part of Team Cee Lo. Among his favorites are MacKenzie Bourg ("he's got this baby face and really cool, kind of young alternative rock voice"), Nicholas David ("another guy who just blew me away") and New Yorkers Amanda Brown ("one that really struck me") and Trevin Hunte ("the one that really killed me").

Collin McLoughlin, a contestant on Adam Levine's team, hails from Bedford, just like Thomas. The rock star missed seeing McLoughlin's episode because he was on tour, but his wife Marisol informed him that a musician from their hometown was also on the show. Thomas said that while he hasn't had a chance to talk to McLoughlin yet, he has "no doubt that I'll run into him."

Outside of his work on "The Voice," Thomas is currently busy with Matchbox Twenty, who are about to hit the road to promote their latest album. He said that "North's" success was meaningful to him and his bandmates, who've been together for 16 years.

"In a lot of ways, it means more to us now than it would have at another time," he said. "Sixteen years in to have our first number one record, we were stunned and unbelievably happy about it."

The band will tour overseas this fall and will kick off a U.S. tour in early 2013. With so much time spent away from home, Thomas said that when he's back in Bedford, he's goes to all the places that he loves.

Among his favorite local eateries are Restaurant North in Armonk and Le Jardin du Roi in Chappaqua. Recently, a fellow Bedford resident told him about new places to visit in the area.

"I was in the city for the opening night of the Metropolitan Opera, and wound up having dinner afterward with Martha Stewart, Bianca Jagger and my wife. And Martha was, like, giving me the lowdown on all these little places that I didn't know about up here. There were all of these places I wouldn't have thought of wandering into. If she tells you something, you listen."

In addition to Stewart, Bedford is also home to Michael Douglas and Richard Gere, a fact that led Thomas to the Westchester village several years ago.

"When I first moved up here, my thought was that ... I wanted to be like a smaller fish in a bigger pond. I moved to this place where I knew that everybody was either more rich or more famous than I was, so nobody would care that I was here. And that still is true," he said, laughing.

With a stint on a hit TV show and a bestselling album, his outlook seems bright. As for what song Thomas would perform if he auditioned for a reality show like "The Voice," he suggested his karaoke go-to, Tom Petty's "American Girl."

"I would probably f--- kill a Matchbox Twenty song," he added. "I would probably do it better than anybody."

"The Voice" airs at 8 p.m. Mondays and Tuesdays on NBC.

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