For almost a decade, Plain White T's have been performing to packed audiences craving their brand of pop-punk. The band's journey, which began in a suburban basement playing cover songs, has taken the group to the Warped Tour three times, landed them opening slots for AFI, Jimmy Eat World and, most recently, Fall Out Boy. The band spoke with Larry London at VOA when their tour supporting their new CD, Every Second Counts stopped in Washington.
With their latest CD being certified platinum for U.S. sales, exceeding one million copies, earning a Teen Choice Award this year, and being nominated for a MTV Award (Monster Single of the Year), American Music Award (Breakout Artist) and two Grammy's (Song of the Year and Best Performance By a Duo or Group with Vocal), Plain White T's are hoping their recent success is as sustaining as their name.
"We've always been into older music, like '50s and '60s music. Back then, it was a symbol of cool. Whoever wore a plain white T-shirt - whether it was Marlon Brando, James Dean, The Fonz [character from the American TV show "Happy Days"] - kind of something that was cool," said lead singer, band member, Tom Higgenson. "Even to this day people wear them. Everyone has them. You feel comfortable in it. It's always in style. We thought it was a cool thing."
Tom Higgenson, Plain White T's lead singer, started off playing drums, and then moved to lead singer. Tom says he wrote the hit song, "Hey There Delilah" for a real person. But his relationship with her was only in his mind.
"She was just a girl I met who I thought was gorgeous," he explained. "I kind of joked around with her, saying, 'I have a song about you', trying to flirt with her. She flirted back, 'I want to hear it. When do I get to hear my song?' I started writing the song, and after the first few lines I thought, this was really good. I lost contact, and we stopped talking for a while. I had this great beginning to a great song so I finished it thinking, 'If I was in a relationship with her or with anyone, like a long distance thing, what would I want to say?' That's how I wrote this song."
"Hey There Delilah" actually first appeared in 2005 on Plain White T's third album, All That We Needed.
Higgenson expains how the song became popular. "We had it up on our MySpace page, and the song was on everyone's page. People would take it and put it on their page," he says. "We would play shows, and every time we would play it the whole crowd was singing along. Then we made our next record, and obviously we were not thinking, 'Let's put this on there.' But the label was like, 'Well guys … (Let's do it.)' It was [Disney Music's] idea since they saw how much of an impact the song was having, so they were like, 'Why don't we put this on as a bonus track and see what happens?' Of course, here we are and the song was a big smash."
Although Plain White T's have been together for 10 years, their recent success has brought them international fame. They feel the new CD, Every Second Counts, is better than their first three albums.
"The last album (All That We Needed) was a lot more rockin'," Higgenson says. "Then "Hey There Delilah" was kind of the end of the record. I think on this record there are a few more songs that round it out more. There is more variety and more range."
Now that they have established their popularity and success as a band, they plan to do more concerts around the world.
Regarding future plans, Higgenson explains, "In January we go to the U.K. and then all of Europe, and Australia for the first time ever. Then, New Zealand and Japan for the first time ever. Then we will record a brand new album that will come out [in 2008]."
Tom Higgenson is hoping for the best at the Grammy Awards Ceremony on February 10 for his first nomination as the songwriter for "Hey There Delilah".