Carl Thomas Hooks Up With 'Smooth' Partner For Next Album

R&B singer will collaborate with Matchbox Twenty's Rob Thomas on follow-up to Emotional.

They're not related, but Carl Thomas felt an immediate kinship when he met Matchbox Twenty's Rob Thomas at last year's Billboard Music Awards. "We just hit it off right away," Carl said. "He's a really humble guy that's serious about his music."

The two became so chummy, they decided to hook up for Carl's second album. They don't have a definite game plan for their collaboration, beyond writing together, but Carl said he's confident that "whatever transpires will all be good."

Rob Thomas is no stranger to collaborations, having helped classic rockers Santana revive their career in 1999 with the bubbly, Latin-tinged "Smooth." But Carl Thomas fans who loved the silky, angst-filled ballads on last year's Emotional, such as the title track and "Cold, Cold World," needn't worry about him suddenly changing direction with his new partner.

"I really don't feel like anything is broken," Thomas said. "I don't plan on fixing it. I just plan on going back in there and doing what I do. The album is going to be more musically refined ... I'm excited about it but it's a nervous state, too."

He said he hopes to finish the album by the end of summer, though he's taking his time. "I'm just putting the pieces together right now," he said. "I'll have a name by the time I finish it and see the completed shape of it all."

Mike City, who produced Thomas' breakthrough single, "I Wish," has agreed to supply tracks for the album, as have hitmakers Tim & Bob, Warren Campbell and fellow Bad Boys Mario "Yellow Man" Winans and P. Diddy.

Dame Grease, best known for his success with rappers such as DMX and the LOX, has also signed on. "[Rap music] is really just a piece of his [production] style," Thomas said. "A lot of people just hear his rap style, but his style is inclusive of a whole catalog of different things."

A year after his debut, Thomas has stayed in the spotlight by touring with Mary J. Blige and Jill Scott and jumping on tracks with his peers. His collaboration with Faith Evans and Shyne, "Can't Believe," is one of two leadoff singles from Bad Boy Compilation 2001 ... The Saga Continues, due June 19.

A video should be out soon for the track, which was originally recorded as a remix to "Emotional." When Thomas settled on a different remix — featuring a singing P. Diddy along with new group the Hoodfellas — the track was left in limbo.

"We didn't want to throw it away," Thomas said. "There was no room on [Faith Evans'] album. It wasn't going on my album. But we both loved the record, so Puff was like, 'Lets put it on the compilation.' "

You'll hear Thomas on at least two other tracks this summer building up to his next album. He sings "Daddy's Song" on the just-released soundtrack to "Kingdom Come," assembled by gospel star Kirk Franklin (see "Gospel Meets R&B On Kirk Franklin's Kingdom Come), and a Thomas-Yellow Man duet, "Been So Good," is slated for the P. Diddy gospel album, Thank You, scheduled for release in July.

Thomas is keeping busy on several other fronts. He recently finished work on "Nasty Girl," a Timbaland-produced song slated for rapper Jadakiss' upcoming album; he's planning a summer tour; and he just wrapped shooting for his first movie role — a cameo in an adaptation of "Pandora's Box."

"I get killed, how fun," he said of the movie role. But he gets the girl, too. "I have a love scene and a death scene. I get to bust a n-- before I die."