Artists would kill for a deceptively simple worldwide smash hit like “Hey There Delilah,” the 2007 career definer for the Plain White T’s. “You don’t know how many people I have killed for that song!” jokes bandleader-composer Tom Higgenson. “But we never thought that that was going to be ‘The Song,’ you know? I thought it was the opposite of what would work on radio, all slow and acoustic and everything.” But the T’s keep hitting them right out of the park, with “1, 2, 3, 4” and the jangly new “Rhythm of Love,” taken from “Wonders of the Younger,” an album bristling with more potential Top 40 staples.
Where are the weirdest places you’ve heard “Delilah”? Well, they did a dance mix of it. So I believe we heard it once at a strip club, which was a little bit odd. You wouldn’t think “Hey There Delilah” would be good pole-dancing music. And we’re always just hearing it randomly at the airport, and just the other day, coming out of our hotel, it was playing in the lobby. It’s everywhere, unavoidable. Still, three years later.
It looks easy. But penning a humalong like, say, “Rhythm of Love” is probably quite difficult, right? No. It was simple. I didn’t write that one, per se. But we’ve gotten lucky — we’ve somehow been able to tap into that thing where — especially with this album — the inspiration was just overflowing. Once we had this concept of “Wonders of the Younger,” that just opened the floodgates for all these childhood memories and emotions that found their way into the songs. So for “Our Song,” I was literally in L.A. with my guitar in a hotel room, and I was lonely. So I just sat there on the white bed and the first verse was written in two seconds — “Sitting on this white bed/It’s not the right bed/’Cause it’s not our bed.” It’s not like rocket science — it’s just tapping into some kind of emotion and being poetic with it.
Do you have a songwriting technique? The songs, they just come out of nowhere. And I don’t think there’s a time of day or a routine. It’s not like I light three candles and meditate or something. You just sit down with your guitar and sometimes you can’t think of anything. But then some days, you come across something that sounds great and you just roll with it. So I can’t see myself ever not being inspired to write, or not putting out something that comes from the heart.
IF YOU GO
Plain White T’s
Where: The Fillmore, 1805 Geary Blvd., San Francisco
When: 6 p.m. Sunday