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  • Plain White T’s

    An interview with Plain White T's frontman, Tom Higgenson
    by Mike Huberty
    May 2011

    Plain White T’s started in the Chicago area in 1997 when vocalist and guitarist Tom Higgenson, who had been a drummer previously in local high school bands, decided to get out from behind the drum set and take the foreground as a front man and songwriter. After spending years developing their following in the underground scene, they exploded with their 2007 Grammy-nominated Number One single, “Hey There, Delilah.” This winter, they released their latest record, Wonders of the Younger, and have been touring on it since. They’re headlining a free music festival, The Journeys Backyard Barbecue, in Minneapolis over Memorial Day Weekend. We talked to Higgenson about the new record and the tour.

    Wonders of the Younger is more of a California acoustic pop sound than a rock record, so first, we wanted to know what was the deal with the change? “There are a couple reasons,” Higgenson said. “We never wanna stay stagnant; you always want to push forward and push the envelope a little bit to keep yourself excited and to keep the fans excited. I have a very distinctive way of writing. No matter what song I write, it’s going to sound like a Plain White T’s song. No matter what kind of instrumentation we use or how we try to go outside the box… and with this album we wanted to create something as a body that would stand as its own work instead of picking the ten best songs and saying ‘that’s going to be our album.’ We really chose songs that came together the right way and had the right mood because we had a vibe. It was wonders of the younger and we wanted to give people that dreamlike imagination and nostalgic kind of feel. So the songs that we chose kind of had to have that feeling.”

    Their new song, “Boomerang” is the next single of the album and it’s one of Higgenson’s favorites. “I think it’s going to open up the album even more,” he says. “From the second I wrote it, I was just floored. I was like, ‘Holy shit, this is one of the best songs I’ve ever written.’ A buddy of mine, it came on his phone the other day and I said to him that I probably have listened to that song every day since I wrote it a year and a half ago and it’s still just as good. There’s no burnout factor, there’s no getting old, there’s no getting sick of it. I think that’s the testament of a great song.”

    Since “Delilah” was such a monster hit, I asked him how that changed his songwriting from that moment forth, going from an underground band to pop stars. “The truth is, ever since I started writing songs I had high hopes and I always wanted to have that kind of success. I wasn’t necessarily trying to write hits, I just always believed in myself. I felt that if I wrote these songs and told my story, I’d have something to say and I believed that people would want to hear that. I always believed it was possible. “Hey There Delilah” was just another song I wrote, we never said ‘This is gonna be the one.’ But we sold about seventy thousand albums before that song was even on the radio. The song just really connected with people on that very raw one on one kind of a level.”

    The Journeys Backyard Barbecue is May 28th at the Maplewood Mall near Minneapolis, MN. It’s a free all-ages event and Higgenson is confident that they can win over any crowd. “The people that know the band and know our songs are gonna come and have the time of their life because we’re a very fun and energetic band,” he says. “I also feel like anyone that doesn’t really know what the PLAIN WHITE T’S are about, anyone that has a doubt in their mind – I think if you come to see us live, there won’t be a doubt in your mind anymore. There’s a level of musicianship and talent in the band, and because we have songs that seem simple, people might just kind of brush it off, but seeing it live you really understand who we are and what we’re all about.”

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