When Tom Higgenson listens to the new Plain White T’s CD, Big Bad World, he feels like he hears the CD that best represents the band’s music and its sound.
The group’s four previous albums, he now realizes, were amped up with some punk energy that made the Plain White T’s sound more like other bands that were occupying modern rock radio playlists at the time.
“It’s not really that we felt we had to fit in,” Higgenson, lead singer of the Plain White T’s, said in a recent phone interview. “It was just that’s what we grew up doing and that’s what all the bands that we were friends with, that’s the way they were doing it, so we didn’t think twice.”
Before making Big Bad World, though, Higgenson and his bandmates started to question the group’s sound and decided there was no reason why the Plain White T’s needed to sound like the band’s peers.
“On this record we really thought a lot more about it just going into it,” Higgenson said. “OK, what do we want this record to sound like? What do we want to stand for? What do we want people to think of when they hear Plain White T’s?”
In particular, Higgenson said he realized that the songs he writes don’t necessarily call for a juiced up sound.
And, in fact, the song that took the career of the Plain White T’s to a whole new level — “Hey There Delilah” — was a sweet, acoustic-based ballad. It topped several Billboard magazine charts, including the “Hot 100” singles chart, and gave the Chicago-based group its first taste of major success in a career that stretches back to 1997.
Interestingly enough, “Hey There Delilah” wasn’t a new song. It actually first appeared on the group’s third CD, All That We Needed (2005), and was released as a single then by the band’s label, Fearless Records.
“Hey There Delilah” got some airplay then and was next made the title track for a 2006 EP that also included several previously unissued songs.
The success of the song got the Plain White T’s noticed by major labels, and the band signed with Hollywood Records ahead of the release of its 2006 CD, Every Second Counts. At Hollywood’s request, “Hey There Delilah” was tweaked with strings added to the original version and placed on Every Second Counts as a bonus track. The label then took it to radio as the second single off of that CD.
“Hey There Delilah” created plenty of curiosity in the media about the object of Higgenson’s crush. She did, in fact, exist. Higgenson had met Delilah DiCrescenzo through a mutual friend years earlier and asked her for a date, but was turned down.
Higgenson thinks DiCrescenzo enjoyed the attention, although perhaps not as much as she could have.
“She had a boyfriend the whole time,” Higgenson said. “It almost seemed like the whole time she was more concerned with not doing anything to upset him, rather than just going and having a good time and enjoying it, which to me it was kind of a bummer because, I don’t know, it should have been the coolest moment of her life.”