For Tom Higgenson, the lead singer of Plain White Ts, all of the motel rooms he has lived in on the road are beginning to look the same.
Right now we are actually in jeez, where are we? he says with a laugh, calling in during a break from the bands current tour with the Goo Goo Dolls and Daughtry. We are in Corpus Christi, Texas, the very bottom of the country. I mean that geographically, of course.
The tour, which rolls into Walnut Creek Amphitheatre in Raleigh on Tuesday night, has given the three bands time to catch up with each other, after bumping into one another at various points over the years.
Yeah, weve played some random radio shows with them in the past, Higgenson explains. You know those festival shows where they pick a bunch of band names out of a hat, throw them on a bill together, and call that a show? Weve played shows with both the Dolls and Daughtry, so we knew all of the dudes previously.
As the opening band on the tour, the Ts have had to retool their usual set to offer a more intimate show for the audience
Weve stripped our sound down for this tour to play an acoustic set, Higgenson says. Its been a lot of fun for us, because we are out playing for thousands of people each night, but trying to make it as intimate as we can even though were playing in front of huge crowds. Were trying to create an atmosphere where it feels like we are singing directly to each person watching.
A band evolves
Formed in 1997 as a high school band by Higgenson and a cluster of friends in Villa Park, Ill., the Plain White Ts have over the past couple of decades lost members, overcome injury and found success on the pop charts.
But theirs isnt the usual success story of a platinum-selling band.
After being involved in a car wreck in 1999, in which the bands van flipped several times and left Higgenson in a back brace for three months, the singer found that he had grown tired of writing the songs that had been the bands signature sound since their formative years.
Eventually something happens in everyones life that forces you to grow up a little and find your own voice, and thats what the car accident was for me, he explains. I almost died. ... When something like that happens, you begin to re-evaluate everything, and not just the songs you write; that is the smallest part. You begin to think about family, about the direction of your life, and so I thought, OK, Im still here, so everything I do from here out Im going to give 100 percent.
Higgenson says the songs he started writing after that became more autobiographical. That was really a big moment in the Plain White Ts, where the songs started to really connect with people on an emotional level.
Hey There Delilah
Delving into more personal subjects is what finally led to the bands biggest hit. Hey There Delilah was the third single off the bands 2006 release All That We Needed, but it catapulted the band into pop stardom.
Written by Higgenson after meeting Delilah DiCrescenzo, an American steeplechase and cross country runner, the song was a departure from the mall-punk sound that had been the groups signature for years and it took the nations Top 40 radio stations by storm. The song eventually hit No. 1 on the Billboard Top 100 chart and occupied the top spot for the entire month of July, becoming one of the biggest hits of 2007.
Higgenson admits that 2007 is a long time ago in the life of a band waiting for its next hit to happen. His philosophy is that in todays musical climate, keeping your longtime fans happy will lead to a long musical career.
We were always the band that thought, Slow and steady wins the race, he says. We saw so many bands that hailed from Chicago that blew right past us, that would get prime opening slots on huge tours, and two years later they would be dropped from their record label and would break up; we would just keep doing our thing of working our way up slowly.
The key, he says, is persistence.
Sometimes youre hot, sometimes youre down, but its only a matter of time before you write another song that people connect with, and then youre on your way back up again, Higgenson says. Just do music you believe in, and as long as we enjoy it and keep connecting with fans, well keep doing it for the fans.