The Hippo


May 25, 2020








Plain White T’s. Courtesy photo.

Plain White T’s

When: Saturday, Nov. 7 (doors at 6 p.m.)
Where: Jewel Nightclub, 61 Canal Street, Manchester
Tickets: $25 at

No label
Plain White T’s newfound independence

By Michael Witthaus

A decade ago “Hey There Delilah” appeared as the last track of All That We Needed, the third Plain White T’s album. Released a year later as a single, the song hit No. 1 in Billboard and launched the Chicago band to pop stardom. Successes followed; “1-2-3-4” and “Rhythm of Love” both went platinum.

But the catchy smash about T’s front man Tom Higgenson’s infatuation with track star Delilah DiCrescenzo is the first thought most fans have about the band, and the song is permanently etched into every set list. For the guy who wrote it, is this a blessing or a curse?
“I wish we had five more of them … definitely not a curse at all,” Higgenson said in a recent phone interview. “It’s a classic, knock on wood. Hopefully, it will be inspiring people and making them feel good forever. Every time you sit down to write a song, it’s your wildest dream to do something like that.”
Plain White T’s released its seventh studio album in early spring. American Nights was originally done for Hollywood Records, then held back for unclear reasons. Ultimately, the band won back control of the masters, substantially reworked much of it in Higgenson’s basement studio last January, and put it out independently.
“There was a weird amount of power push and pull with our A&R guy. I don’t know if the label was cracking down on him or if he was really passionate about songs that we didn’t really feel, but we made a bit of a disjointed album,” Higgenson said.
Several tracks vetoed by the label were restored, one of the benefits of going it alone.
“It’s pretty amazing to be able to do whatever the hell we want,” Higgenson said. “All of these people thought it was their job to be part of your creative process, for better or worse, so that part is pretty amazing — to not have to answer to anybody.”
Higgenson is blunt about the downside to label independence. 
“We’re the ones funding things,” he said. “We did a TV appearance that ended up costing us a bunch of money because you have to pay union fees. … We never really realized, because the label took care of that.  All those little things, logistics that we weren’t really aware of, now fall on us, and we’re using our own money.”    
The band has toured steadily in support of the new album since it came out. Higgenson is looking forward to intimate rooms like Manchester’s Jewel Nightclub following an arena tour opening for Rob Thomas and a summer shed run with Goo Goo Dolls and Daughtry. 
“When you’re playing huge venues ... everyone becomes a large mass,” he told the Orlando Sentinel. “At the small clubs you can really connect with the fans.”
Earlier this year, Plain White T’s joined Blues Traveler in a crowded studio to cut “Nikkia’s Prom” for Blow Up the Moon, an album of collaborations with other artists. He co-wrote the song with BT leader John Popper. 
“I thought it was a cool idea, kind of like what Santana did back in the day,” Higgenson said. “I met John at a hotel in L.A., we had a drink at the bar and just talked about music and movies.” 
The resulting song riffs on Kill Bill, imagining the young daughter of one of Uma Thurman’s victims grown up and seeking revenge. 
“There’s kind of a reference to ninjas; it’s just a silly kind of a song basically inspired by our love for Tarantino,” he said.
Coincidentally, the new album is the band’s most collaborative to date. Tim Lopez’s horn-infused “Here Comes That Sunrise” is a standout track, and drummer Dave Tirio’s contribution was also noteworthy. 
“Dave started the band with me and has never written a song in his frickin’ life,” Higgenson said. “For this album he came up with a couple of ideas and did a demo for ‘Hardly Working’ that was pretty much exactly what what we ended up using. We were like, ‘What the hell dude — where you been for 15 years?’”  

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