Plain White T's Tom Higgenson on New Album, Cirque du Soleil, and "Hey There Delilah"

Plain White T's may be best known for acoustic love songs like "Hey There Delilah" and "1,2,3,4", but their newest album, Wonders of the Younger, takes listeners on a trip down memory lane, encouraging  listeners to look back at the past with a sense of Peter Pan-like innocence. And if you love the T's for their love songs, don't worry, they wrote a few for this album, including their first single, "Rhythm of Love".

In spite of things not working out with Delilah, singer Tom Higgenson (the guy in red with the candy apple) is single. You can try to win his heart, or just enjoy his music when they play at Marquee Theatre this Thursday.

We recently caught up with Tom Higgenson to discuss the new album, Cirque du Soleil and "Hey There Delilah."

Up on the Sun: How's the tour going so far?

Tom Higgenson: It's going great, really amazing. We're in Salt Lake City today, we almost didn't make it, you know there's a huge blizzard coming through. The bus driver told us we were driving 300 miles on ice. Luckily we got here safe and the show's gonna be great tonight. It's fun to take this new album on the road. It's been great so far.

UOTS: Have you played at the Marquee Theatre in Tempe before?

You know, I'm not sure. We've done a lot of shows in that area but I'm not sure if I recall venue names...sure. But we love playing the Phoenix/Tempe area. Always good shows, always great crowds for us. We're excited to get back there.

How is this record different from your previous material?

TH: This time around we had a different approach, we wanted it to stand for a little something more. In the past we've written a bunch of songs, then picked the best ones, recorded those, and that was our album. This time around I wanted the album to have more of a feeling, more of a vibe, more of a singular theme to it. We wrote a bunch of songs and all the songs had that theme in the back of our mind, "Wonders of the Younger". Looking back to when we were young and thinking about things that mattered back then and relating them to our lives now, and what matters now. It's the whole concept of the album. Taking the time to step out of real life for a while and live in your imagination for a bit, just like you were when you were a kid. Be creative, have fun, you kinda forget to do those things as you grow older. We wrote a bunch of songs that lived in that world and that theme.

Did Cirque du Soleil help with that?

TH: You know, it did. I saw "O" in Vegas, the Cirque du Soleil show. It was a similar kinda thing. It was a very adult show, this big massive production and pretty stuff, acrobatics, things like that. But these people were dressed like clowns and pirates, and it had this youthful theme to it. It was just this huge, epic production. It made me inspired to write songs. There's this song called "Cirque dans la Rue" on the album that's a direct tribute to that Cirque du Soleil show. In that song, I talk about not fitting in and wanting to run off with all the clowns and the freaks and acrobats...bearded ladies, [and] other outcasts like me. I think sometimes everybody feels like they don't fit in and they don't belong in their current state and current situation. It's a song about running away with the people that feel like you. Finding those friends and those people that you'll bond with that all feel the same way. Kind of like Cheers where everyone knows your name.

UOTS: Can we expect to see those elements in your live performance? Any bearded ladies or clowns?

TH: We're gonna be on tour all of 2011. We're starting at smaller clubs with this tour and hopefully as touring grows, the production will too, and we can incorporate some of that stuff. We've definitely dreamed up a ton of insanity that we couldn't do on this tour that hopefully we'll be able to as the year goes on. But on this tour, we do have a lot of cool production elements, but I don't want to give anything away. We definitely will bring the album to life on stage. It will be a great show.

What was it like sharing the singing duties on your latest album?

TH: It was cool. One of the themes that we wanted to come across was the sense of adventure, like that Cirque du Soleil show, it had danger, adventure and just by having Tim singing lead, he wrote a couple of the songs on the album. So, to have him sing on this was one more way to be different, be adventurous and shake things up a bit. You always want to stay exciting and leave fans guessing what's gonna happen next. That was one more way for us to get that point across.

So, we can probably expect your next hits to be tales of adventure instead of the common love song formula?

There are a few love songs splattered across [the album]. "Boomerang", that's one of my favorite songs on the album, that's gonna be the next single. That's a warm boy/girl song, it's about me always picking the wrong girl in life, as bad as they treat you, I tend to keep coming back. "Boomerang" is definitely a boy/girl song, but a lot of the album is more like the "Cirque dans la Rue", there's a song called "Welcome to Mystery" that's all about escaping the trials and boredom of daily life and making up your own little world to escape to once in awhile. We have a good mix of love songs and this new adventurous world.

Does "Rhythm of Love" happen to be a nod to either Yes or The Scorpions?

It's not intentionally, but you know, the Scorpions rule, so we'll take it.

Considering that you wrote "Hey There Delilah" for a girl that turned you down, do you still like the song today?

TH: I love the song, of course. It's not about getting the girl or not getting the girl, that's irrelevant, I just wanted to write a song that was beautiful that she would appreciate. On that side of it, I did, and she loved the song and obviously a lot of other people did. I still think it's a great song, of course.

UOTS: Do you have a lucky lady that serves as your muse for your love songs?

TH: At the moment I am single. I need to find some inspiration, maybe in Arizona.

UOTS: What are some of your favorite songs to play live?

I love this new album [and] playing it live, like the songs I mentioned. "Cirque dans la Rue" is one of my favorite songs to play live. There's a song called "Last Breath" off the new album that's one of our more epic songs and it's a lot of fun to play live as well. Usually whatever the newest song is, I think is the most fun to play because it's fresh and you haven't played it a hundred times yet, so it's a lot of fun.

Speaking of playing songs hundreds of times, have you gotten burnt out on "Delilah" at all?

TH: We've probably played that song thousands of times and it's still fun because people love it and want to hear it, so we can't really get too bummed out about a song that people want to sing along to that they want to hear every day.

UOTS: On this tour are you mostly focusing on songs from the new album, or will it be a sampling of all of them?

TH: We are doing a lot of new songs, but we're also playing a lot of old songs too. A couple old fan favorites that people may not expect that we haven't played awhile on tour, we're trying to mix that into set as well. A mix of the new and old I'd say.

UOTS: Once you finish the tour, what are your plans for 2011?

Keep going on tour, I think we're gonna spend pretty much this whole year on the road. There's not gonna be too much downtime. We're gonna get everywhere around the world on this album this year.

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Melissa Fossum
Contact: Melissa Fossum