It’s been five years since former Semisonic bandleader Dan Wilson released his self-produced “Free Life” debut for Rick Rubin’s American Records.
Though in no rush to release a second album, he is working on new material.
“I do have some new songs, things I’ve been playing live that are certainly going to be on my next record,” says the Minneapolis-born, now-Los Angeles-based tunesmith, who appears at The Independent on Friday. “There’s one called ‘Love Without Fear’ that I really like, others called ‘However Long’ and ‘Your Brighter Days,’ and another, ‘One Turns Into Two,’ that just might be the album title.”
Wilson has a good reason for his delay. His winning, whimsical way with a melody has been in such high demand, he spends his free time in co-writing sessions with acts such as Faith Hill, Ben Folds, Keith Urban, Josh Groban and Carole King.
“Home,” a track he penned with Dierks Bentley, just hit country’s top 10, and “Not Ready to Make Nice” — his co-write with and for the Dixie Chicks — earned them all a 2007 Grammy for song of the year.
Three weeks ago, he won a second Grammy for his composing and production work on Adele’s No. 1 tearjerker “Someone Like You.”
“They have these things called paper Grammys, which you get if you’re associated with something that wins, and I have a ton of those,” says Wilson, who just sculpted some ethereal piano loops with rapper Nas; soon he will work with Pink.
“I’m going to try and finish my album this spring, but I know Josh Groban and I are getting together to explore some possible material, too,” he says. “I’m motivated by interest, fascination — I have to feel like there’s a story in it, in order to write a song with somebody.”
Rubin introduced Wilson to Adele, who wanted to augment her heartbreak-themed “21” with a more specific account of that breakup.
“My tendency is to always write something really direct, emotionally,” Wilson says. “So when we started, it was obvious we were going to write something really vulnerable. She had set ‘Someone Like You’ on guitar, and it sounded more like a pop song. But then I started playing it on the piano, and suddenly it had a lot more gravity. So we just went for it, with those simple, classical arpeggios.”
Adele said of her writing partner: “Dan Wilson had me on my hands and knees, crying my eyes out. There’s just something about him that made me completely open up, emotionally.”
Wilson has two key rules of composition. First, no distractions in the room, only a piano and guitar.
“And second, whenever I’m writing a song for somebody, I just have to imagine how it would feel, singing it myself in front of an audience,” he says. “And if it feels really good, then I know we’re on to something great.”
IF YOU GO
Opening for Rachael Yamagata
Where: The Independent, 628 Divisadero St., San Francisco
When: 8 p.m. Friday