The only interview with Tom Higgenson of Plain White T’s that is not just about Hey There Delilah

Hey There Delilah by Plain White T's

Hey There Delilah by Plain White T’s

Hey there, Delilah
What’s it like in New York City?
I’m a thousand miles away
But, girl, tonight you look so pretty
Yes, you do
Time Square can’t shine as bright as you
I swear, it’s true (…)

A thousand miles seems pretty far
But they’ve got planes and trains and cars

Hey There Delilah by Plain White T's

Hey There Delilah by Plain White T’s

I’d walk to you if I had no other way
Our friends would all make fun of us

And we’ll just laugh along because we know
That none of them have felt this way (…)

Hey there, Delilah
I know times are gettin’ hard
But just believe me, girl
Someday I’ll pay the bills with this guitar (…)

Oh, it’s what you do to me
Oh, it’s what you do to me
Oh, it’s what you do to me
Oh, it’s what you do to me

Hey There Delilah by Plain White T's

Hey There Delilah by Plain White T’s

The first time I heard Plain White T’s’ most famous song that reached number one everywhere in the world in 2007 was on the car radio, during an extenuating fight with somebody, in Rome.
I immediately shouted at him to shut the fuck up because I wanted to give that song a proper listen, which I couldn’t do because he wouldn’t shut up, and neither would I, and so what I could hear in the end was very little.

I didn’t know the song title, I didn’t know the singer, and especially, I didn’t know a word of English at the time to make sense of the lyrics.
In fact, I didn’t understand anything. The only words I picked were trains, planes, cars and New York City, and I had no way to find out more: in 2007, Google wasn’t as diabolic as it is today when it comes to reading your mind.

Tom Higgenson - © to the owners

Tom Higgenson – © to the owners

And so I went to bed with the song playing in my head without knowing that this masterpiece titled Hey There Delilah had been dedicated by Plain White T’s lead singer Tom Higgenson to professional runner Delilah DiCrescenzo but she never reciprocated the crush and so they were just friends in the end – which is something the entire world seems to find very exhilarating and they never miss the chance to remind Tom that he was friendzoned and laugh their socks off every time they interview him as if it was something really funny, this bunch of idiots.

As far as I was concerned, I was being moved to tears by a tune that was about trains, planes, cars and the city.
But it was somewhat clear that every note, every word in that song were screaming a sentiment that transcended romantic, platonic and everything in between:
Love regardless of the outcome.

Plain White T's in 2008 - © to the owners

Plain White T’s in 2008 – © to the owners

I correctly assumed that the singer was also the author, and I remember having thought these exact words: somewhere far away, some man has put together something that beautiful while I’m here with this one in the car arguing over foreign politics for six hours. What’s the point, I wondered? What am I doing with my life?

What I did with my life afterwards doesn’t matter, but one million years later, after learning English in the country that won’t be teaching anyone anything anymore thanks to Brexit, I made a list of all the musicians I wanted to interview for the online magazine I had just founded.
I love a lot of artists for a lot of different whys and I eventually had the honour of interviewing many of them – but, for some meaning, Plain White T’s frontman Tom Higgenson has always been on top of that list.
You know, the heart has reasons that reason cannot know.

Tom Higgenson - © to the owners

Tom Higgenson – © to the owners

Over the years, I tried many times to secure an interview with Tom, and I always failed miserably.
People have no idea how many doors get slammed in your face when you’re a journalist.
Nobody from America would ever reply to my proposal, not even to say no thanks, and I eventually got so irritated, frustrated, sad and heartbroken that I just wanted to forget about it all.

Then, two weeks ago, YouTube decided on its own initiative to play Hey There Delilah every single hour on repeat after I hadn’t listened to it for a while.
And so I thought oh, look, my song. How beautiful it is. I will always love it. And now that I understand all the lyrics, I treasure it even more.

At that exact moment, I suddenly received a message.
Literally out of nowhere, a PR lady from Los Angeles I had never met before asked if I wanted to interview Tom Higgenson of Plain White T’s.
Now, I know that coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous, but I couldn’t really believe my eyes here.
A perfect stranger had just made my day for many days to come. How terrific is that?

Tom Higgenson in Bleeding Audio

Tom Higgenson in Bleeding Audio

The occasion for this interview has been the launch of the multi-award-winning documentary Bleeding Audio, whose director Chelsea Christer I also interviewed.

Bleeding Audio tells the story of the 1990s American rock band The Matches who reunited in 2014, featuring exclusive interviews with blink-182’s Mark Hoppus, Simon Neil and James Johnston of Biffy Clyro and Tom himself, who spoke both as a long-time fan and friend of The Matches and as an industry expert. He revealed where all the money from record sales goes, and how, from selling five-and-a-half million copies of Hey There Delilah, Plain White T’s didn’t make any money out of the record label itself.

Humans Were Here by Tom Higgenson

Humans Were Here by Tom Higgenson

But as he said in Bleeding Audio, Tom cannot really complain: as a Plain White T’s lead singer and songwriter, he released eight studio albums, got two Grammy nominations, had a number one single on the Billboard Hot 100, achieved multi-platinum status thanks to Rhythm of Love and 1234 in addition to Hey There Delilah and reached worldwide fame and appreciation. The latest Plain White T’s album is Parallel Universe and was released in 2018.

Zuma Beach by Million Miler

Zuma Beach by Million Miler

In 2017, Tom also started his own Chicago-based independent record label, Humans Were Here which signed the local pop duo Fairview and also produces several of Tom’s independent projects including the punk rock band TLB he formed in 2013 with a bunch of schoolmates and the extremely brilliant solo project Million Miler that is all about 1980 synth-pop, summer melodies and dance vibes. In 2021, Million Miler released an album titled MILLY, whose most recent single is Zuma Beach: a very 1980s, very inspiring and very cool tune – and the video clip that goes with it is just amazing.

Zuma Beach by Million Miler

Zuma Beach by Million Miler

If you’re in need to see a Converse-booted guy without any horrible tattoos on his arms brandishing a cassette player on the beach and rescuing a green-painted alien girl who would eat the flowers he offers her, then this is definitely your thing.
There’s a bit of E.T., a bit of The Goonies and a bit of Back to the Future in the Zuma Beach video, it makes you laugh and get nostalgic at the same time. I love it. And after watching it, I believe the man will also turn himself into a sci-fi filmmaker one day or another.

Tom Higgenson Back to the Future t-shirt

Has anyone said Back to the Future?

Meanwhile, his participation in the amazing Bleeding Audio makes a great contribution to the storytelling of The Matches’ legacy, of what the music scene was like in America in the early 2000s and how you should never assume that the singers you see on TV are all millionaires.

And so it’s thanks to this great film if I finally got to interview you, Mr 1980s, and now you’re going to be trapped here with me answering everything I’ve always wanted to ask.
And I’m so very happy.
I really am.
Oh man, it’s what you do to me.

Tom Higgenson with a Ramones T-shirt

Tom Higgenson not wearing a Plain White T

Tom, I’ve been wanting to interview you for ages. Thank you so much for saying yes.

Oh, cool. Of course. Yeah, this is awesome.

Nice t-shirt.

You know, they are a little band from the States you might not know…

Haha.

Are you Italian, aren’t you?

That’s correct.

I’m 25% Italian as well. My dad’s mom was actually born in Italy. So she’s like 100% Italian. But I’ve only been to Italy once, and never to Rome. It was like Sicily. We played like at some US military base or something like that.

It must have been the U.S. Navy base in Sigonella, close to Catania.

That was really cool. Really nice. We had a couple of days off, and I remember we went on the coast, there was this beautiful coast. And there was a little town in the mountains on the coast where we got to eat lunch and spend an afternoon there. That was like the only time we really got to explore or do anything fun. But it was really cool and really memorable. It must have been 2015 or 2016. Well before this documentary came out.

Bleeding Audio, documentary about The Matches by Chelsea Christer

Bleeding Audio, documentary about The Matches by Chelsea Christer

The Bleeding Audio documentary is great, and you contributed to it with an interview. So, why should people watch this film?

Obviously, you’ve seen the film, so you know that Chelsea, the director, and I, both are great friends with The Matches, and so when I was approached about talking about it, I was like “Oh hell, yeah, of course, I can talk about The Matches all day!”, and you know, I can talk about our experiences and the music, business and all that stuff. At the time, I honestly didn’t know if this was going to be or not as it took her a while to make this film and to get it all together, it was definitely a labour of love for her, and I probably did that interview around 2016, or maybe 2017. It was a long time ago. And so I wanted to support my friends in The Matches, I thought it was a really cool idea that she had. But that being said, from that point when I did the interview, I saw a couple of trailers, a couple of little rough cuts along the way, and to see where it finally came to the final product, it blew my mind. This was amazing and was turned out so well. There were a lot of thoughts like “Oh, is this going to relate to someone who isn’t just a fan of The Matches or to somebody who wasn’t in the scene back then?” And so we were talking about this, and I think it transcended all of that, I think it really spoke about a bigger picture. This is a classic underdog story, it’s like a Cinderella story – like, these guys were so good and they should have made it, and so you’re really hoping for them. I think the film has some really great insights on the pitfalls of the music business and just how hard it is to make it, and I’m just kind of peeling back the curtain a little bit on the business side and on some mistakes that maybe they made or their manager made, or whatever the case may be. So, yeah, I think it’s just super, super interesting and done so well. And even if you don’t like music or don’t know anything about The Matches or that period of time, I think you’ll still get a lot out of it. And it’s pretty entertaining and all the music’s great. Like I said, I was so impressed with how great it turned out seeing it from day one in the beginning till the finished product. It was mind-blowing how good it was.

It’s an amazing film, yes.

And not just because I’m in it!

What’s the main lesson about the music industry people can learn from Bleeding Audio?

I think it’s just like how frickin’ hard it is to really make it. You know this, you know the documentary, and The Matches were really special and there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be the biggest band in the world or at least as big as frickin’ Plain White T’s – you know, and have some success. I mean, they have success, of course, but I’m talking about a bigger level, a global level. And I don’t know why that is. And I think that’s like how many friends do you have that are super talented and should be like superstars, but they’re not? So much goes into it, so much work, so much luck, and I think the movie taps into all of those things. And it doesn’t even have to be about music, it can be about anybody with their dreams, just about dreams and finding your way or even following a dream. I think this is the hardest part, to believe in yourself enough to go out and do it. And again, even though The Matches didn’t have the weird and amazing success as a band, it led them to do amazing things, and they found success in other ways through being in the band, so I think that’s also good, that’s good moral – like, follow your dream, and either way you’re going to get somewhere awesome. You might not get to exactly where the dream was, but you’re going to take this detour and get somewhere even better, somewhere else. And that’s amazing, and I think that’s the moral of the movie. And so, to answer your question, I think everybody needs to remember that and relate it to their own lives and their own dreams.

In Bleeding Audio, you discuss the money side of the business and you say that, out of over 5 million copies of singles sold, you didn’t make any money. And then you make calculations to explain. I watched that part three times but I’m not sure I got it.

What’s funny is that I feel like in an earlier cut of the movie, that little segment was a little longer and more explained. Okay, so basically, a record label is like a bank: they just kind of loan you the money to make an album, and then of course they do all the promotion. And they’re great, I’m not gonna knock them out, we couldn’t have made it without them. So, this is not even necessarily a negative thing, this is just the truth of the industry. So I’ll try to make it quick for you: let’s say that they spend one million dollars on you, on your album, on recording the album, the studio time, the producer, the mixer and mastering and all that stuff, and then the artwork and then actually producing the CDs and the albums and everything, and then we make a music video and then they go promoting it, and then the radio stations playing us around to do promo stuff. So let’s say a million dollars goes in. Right?

Right.

And so in our record deal – let’s be generous and say that we get 25% of our music, which we don’t even, it’s less than that. It’s more like 12% or 13%, but let’s just make it easy and say 25%. So, now this is the part when it gets confusing. So, they’ve spent a million dollars, right? And our share is 25%. So, let’s say that they make a million dollars, so that first million comes back – which, by the way, it’s already very difficult to even make a million dollars from music because you have to have a hit, the stars have to align even to make you successful like that. So, now that a million dollars come back you would think okay, we’re recouped, we’ve made the money back for the label. But that’s not true, because out of that million dollars that we own, our share is only 25%, so out of that million dollars “loan” they gave us, even though a million dollars has come back, only $250,000 of that loan is paid back to the label. Okay, you get that?

Yeah. Go on.

So they give us a loan of a million dollars, let’s say, and we don’t pay that loan back because we’re only paying it out of 25%. Our 25% has to pay that loan back. So, until they make $4 million dollars, we’re not paid back to them. We don’t make a single penny until we’ve paid them back out of our share and out of our earnings. So, even though they’ve made their money back, we still owe them $750,000. Because we’re only paying them back. Does it make sense to you still, or not? Does that make sense now?

It does. But that’s crazy. People just think you make a small percentage out of each record sold – nobody would imagine that. 

Yes, because you wouldn’t think that now that you’ve made a million, you are still not making money but it’s just them making their money back. And think that our actual percentage is not 25%, it’s more like 13%, so you’ve got to think that by the time we make one penny, the label has made millions off of our music before we make our first penny. But again, I’m not complaining because they are spending a lot of money to promote it and get it out there, and that’s why we need them in the music business. Because we don’t have a radio team, we don’t have promotion teams, we don’t have a million dollars to be able to dump it into our music. Then money comes in from different places, like every time our songs are played on the radio, we get money as the songwriters thanks to them getting us on the radio and thanks to them paying for the promo – but from the actual label, you don’t make shit. Then you are obviously touring, and when you have a hit you can go on tour and make a lot of money or whatever, and there are revenues from different places. So why don’t you hate the label? That’s because they can build your band up or your songs up to a place where people will buy a t-shirt or a ticket to the show, or your music will be played on the radio and licensed for a film or whatever. There are all these other income streams: for selling your soul to the label, you get it all.

Wow. I really had no idea. 

Yeah, well, it’s not even really like shitty. I mean, it’s kind of shitty. But, like I said, it evens out, and the perks of it even out the negative stuff.

After all this, what do you think of the current state of music?

There are always great artists out there. Sometimes you’ve got to hunt a little bit more for them, but I mean, I think music is great. There’s always good stuff out there, there’re always people being creative, people being inspired and inspiring. So yeah, I think music is thriving right now. I love music from the past as well, of course, but there’s always good stuff out there if you look for it.

Who are your main influences from the past?

I love, of course, The Beatles, Michael Jackson, Bruce Springsteen. And then The Strokes, Panic! at the Disco – I really love The Weeknd. Those are the main influences, I’d say, but then there’s always something that comes along, or some song or some artist that you kind of get into. And I’ve got a solo project that I just started called Million Miler, it’s like 80s vibe, synth-pop stuff and I put out a full album called MILLY in May, which is out on Spotify. I’ve been listening to a ton of 80s music, I’ve got all these 80s playlists that I’m making on my Spotify and stuff. And I’m producing a lot as well, I’ve got a record label called Humans Were Here and I’m doing a lot of producing and writing for other artists with my label. I signed a duo, a boy and a girl that sing these beautiful love songs, they are called Fairview. And the artists are all very different. They’re very diverse. So it’s kind of fun for me as a writer to be able not to just have to write Plain White T’s songs all the time. I can do punk rock for my other band, TLB, so I get not just to be stuck in one box, I get to dabble in all these different little aspects of different genres and songwriting. So it’s good to have different influences – and you can think like “Oh, so you like The Weeknd and you like Panic! at the Disco? And how does it relate to The Strokes or whatever?”. But I get all of those influences out in different places and that makes sense.

It’s great that you mentioned Michael Jackson, because I don’t know what the situation is like in America, but in Europe, he became a taboo topic. He never gets any radio or TV hit plays, his birthday gets ignored, there’s zero legacy. 

Really? Holy Cow!

Yeah, it’s crazy.

Um, no, I mean, he’s pretty normal here. He’s still played all the time.

Happy to hear that. What achievements are you most proud of, at this stage in your career?

I mean, of course, obviously, Hey There Delilah was the big moment for me and I just feel very lucky to have connected on that big of a level with the song. You know, we got nominated for two Grammys with that one, that song took us around the world touring, and has given us a fanbase that we can go and play anywhere, and there will be thousands of people there smiling and singing along, and that’s pretty amazing. That’s the dream, that’s why you pick up a guitar when you’re 14 years old and start writing songs or whatever: you dream about having a song like that, or a career like that. So yeah, I would say just that song in general and everything that’s come from it, it’s been the biggest achievement so far.

I’m not into gossip and I’m not going to ask you anything about the girl, the relationship or whatever, but what really interests me is: how much of the success of that song do you think depends on the backstory?

This is interesting, because with that song, from the very beginning, people had to know, and they would ask “So is this about a real girl?” or “What’s the story?” And yeah, it’s interesting, right? Because I don’t know. It’s just a song. You know, obviously, there is a real girl that inspired it, but it’s funny that people want to know that. I think that’s what you’re saying, like how important do you think the story was to the success of the song – and I mean, I think it was just the song. Whatever I tapped into with that song really connected with people, and so I feel like it was just a natural thing for them to want to know more. So, again, I don’t know if the actual story was that important, but however I wrote that one, and whatever it was about that song, it connected with people, it fascinated people somehow, and I don’t think the actual story mattered, I just think it was the song that made them want to know what really happened or made them curious and made them want the story – whatever that may be. And then the song ended, but it didn’t really, you know, they kept it in here [in their hearts], which is pretty magical.

But I almost cried the first time I heard it without understanding anything. I didn’t speak English at the time.

So you heard that song and didn’t even really understand all the lyrics?

All I picked was New York City and a few more bits. It was a long time ago.

That’s really cool. Because I attribute a lot of the song’s success to the lyrics. But it’s really cool to think that even someone that didn’t understand the lyrics was still very moved by the song. That’s really cool. I’ve never ever once had that thought in my life. Until right now. That’s really cool. Yeah. I mean, I should have because the song was a hit in different countries and stuff, even though I feel like everywhere we travel everybody speaks a little English. Thank you. That’s great.

Thanks to you for doing that. Which one of your songs are you most attached to?

It’s obviously Hey There Delilah. Like I said, it’s like a dream to have a song like that. Every time I sit down to write a song, I pick the guitar and I’m trying to tell my story or to tell something that I care about, but of course, the goal is to tell it in a way where other people will feel what I’m feeling, and so I have to give props to that song because as a songwriter you dream of it connecting at that level – not even like success, but just that it hits people and they feel what you’re feeling. So, of course, I’m very proud of that song – and like I said, I wish they all had that effect on people. But I’m just glad that at least one of them did. And obviously, we’ve had a couple of more hits and stuff, but obviously, none was as big as that one.

And what was your dream job when you were a kid? What would you be doing right now if you didn’t ♫ pay the bills with the guitar? ♫

Haha. Yeah, I always thought I’d be a teacher. I had a couple of really great teachers in high school, they were both English teachers, actually, but one of them did like drama as well, she was like the director of the plays in high school, and she was also an English teacher. And I was involved in theatre and stuff like that. So, I would love to do that. And then the other English teacher also taught a film class, and I’m a big movie buff. And so yeah, that would be the dream job, to teach films. Honestly, I would love to make that still one of my life goals to make a movie or something. I really love movies and I’m very moved by movies, and I love doing music videos because it’s like you kind of get to make a little mini-movie. So, yeah, videos are one of my favourite things to do in a band, because it gets you to play both roles: you’re a moviemaker and it’s also your song.

And what sort of movies do you want to make?

I don’t know. It’s a good question. I mean, have you ever seen the movie Once? I think it’s actually an Irish film.

I think I read the plot. Isn’t it about a busker playing music on the street who goes out with a Czech flower seller in Dublin, or something like that?

Yeah, exactly. The movie has some beauty, it really revolves around this guy busking and playing the guitar on the street, and he meets this girl, and they kind of start making this music together. It’s so very music-centric, and the whole movie was made with like $100,000 or something. So it was a very low-budget, beautiful movie. It’s not that I want to just make a movie like that, but it was inspiring that you don’t need millions of dollars and some big studio – all you really need is a good story. That’s just one of those inspiring movies that you could easily make with the right people or the right inspiration. But yeah, I don’t know. I’ve just put out a music video for that side project Million Miler. It’s called Zuma Beach and is kind of an alien, sci-fi-like video: there is a UFO crash that I’m driving by, and I find this alien girl who survived the crash, and so I take her around and show her things on the Earth, and then we get to Zuma Beach.

Sounds cool.

And then I don’t want to spoil it but there’s kind of a twist at the end. And there’s more to come! That was fun, because I obviously write songs that are a little bit romantic or a little bit about love and relationship, but to kind of have fun and tell a totally different story than you would expect, I love that too. You know, I always want to surprise the audience. You’ve got to give them something they have never seen before or never heard before. You can’t write the same song twice or tell the same story twice.

How important is luck to success?

It’s crucial. I have a buddy of mine who would always say: the harder I work, the luckier I get. And I think that’s very accurate, because if I write songs all day, just sit around in my living room and never put them out or never go out and play or anything, then they could be just as good as Hey There Delilah, or any of my songs, but nothing happens because you’ve got to do the work, you’ve got to get out there and play, you can’t just sit at home and expect things to happen. Even when you do all the work as you saw in the documentary about The Matches, even if you do all the work and are amazing and go on tour, there’s still that element of luck involved. So I don’t mean to say that you just have to work and it’s all gonna happen, because there’s still a lot of luck involved, but you still have to put yourself out there and believe it: I never once doubted Plain White T’s or thought that maybe we should call it quits, it was always like: just put your head down and go. So, I don’t know, to answer your question, luck is still very important, but by working hard, you will put yourself into those situations where opportunities will happen: the lucky breaks will happen because you’re there just for showing up, because you’re there and because you’re doing it.

What legacy do you think have Plain White T’s left to the world of music so far?

Like I said, we’re lucky enough to have written at least one very successful song. You know, we’ve got a few songs that are very loved by people around the world, but to have a song like Hey There Delilah, I mean, it’s pretty amazing and pretty special. To this day, it’s still trending on socials and like Tik Tok and every couple of weeks there’s a new meme with something about Hey There Delilah. It’s just so nice and it hasn’t gone away this whole time. It’s pretty amazing that it is still captivating people, and that people are going to hear it for the first time and still feel the way you did 10 years ago. So yeah, I think that really, the legacy is just that song. And then the work that we’ve put into it, the love that we’ve put into it with our other music, our music videos, our albums – I mean, those are all gonna be out there forever. So people will always be able to discover everything that we’ve done. And maybe Hey There Delilah will be that conduit, so 20 years from now, someone will hear that song and be like “Oh, that song so great”, and then they’ll go listen to our other stuff and other songs. Luckily, we have that doorway that people will hopefully always explore.

What do you think of talent shows like The X Factor?

They’re entertaining. I don’t necessarily watch them but I enjoy the idea of giving people a platform. It’s like a talent show in high school, or junior high. I sang a rap song in my junior high that I wrote with my buddy, we had a thing together, we went by T&T that means Tom and Tom, and we wrote an original rap song, and we performed it at the talent show, and people loved it, so they made us do it again at the eighth-grade dance. And so maybe because of that, I was like “Alright, people like this, so I got to do music” – you know, I had a very good response here, so I had a little of taste of what it might be. So, yeah, in that sense it’s just the case of taking that talent show to a higher platform and a higher level with America’s Got Talent, but again, I don’t believe that this is going to necessarily launch your career or anything. That comes from you, that’s again, the work, you’ve just got to get out there and do it. So I think a lot of these shows are fun, and it’s kind of like an entertaining thing for people to sit home on their couch and watch. But beyond that, I think they’re not out there looking for the next big thing, they’re just trying to just have fun. Talent shows don’t hold a lot of weight for me.

Is there somebody you would love to collaborate with?

I mean, jeez, yeah. Anybody who I really love. And I think this would probably be a terrible collaboration and I forgot to mention him as one of my influences, but Skrillex, I think he’s a big deal in music. He came in and really shook everything up, he did something that no one else ever heard before, and that’s not easy to do. Now, he’s doing more producing and stuff, but when he first came out, he was pretty groundbreaking. And I love that, I love anybody that can do something different. These days, people kind of think that everything has been done before, but an artist like him remind us that this is not true.

With all this rap stuff around, what’s the future of rock music, in your opinion?

I feel like music is constantly changing and morphing. In America, right now, there’s actually a big Emo-rap scene happening, and these rappers coming up are more influenced by blink-182 than Tupac or whatever, it’s like they want to be punk rockers or something. The mix of genres is really interesting. I don’t know if you have Alec Benjamin over there, he’s an acoustic guy and he’s just a really beautiful songwriter – he tells these stories and he’s really young. And he says that Eminem is his favourite artist, so he’s got the bit of that storytelling but he’s playing almost in a Plain White T’s style, like lighter music, and it’s interesting, it’s a cool melding of a couple of different worlds. And so both rock music and genres, in general, are just kind of merging and melting into one thing – while when I was younger, the punk kids didn’t listen to rap, and the rap kids didn’t listen to rock.

Yeah, I remember that well.

Yeah, and so I feel like maybe because of Spotify and because of just the way the world has gone, nobody cares, and if there’s a cool song, it’s all kind of slowly combining, and so if it’s good, it’s good, you know?

Do you agree with that?

Yeah, absolutely. Like I was saying about my label, I’ve got all kinds of different artists and I feel like they all somehow fits together because, in my humble opinion, they are all really great. And if all songs are great, at the end of the day that’s what it’s about: songs. Are you connecting? Does this matter to you, to other people? And if you can get that, if you can nail that, that authenticity and that connection, then yeah, it doesn’t matter if it’s rock, punk, screamo or country.

Do you think a band could potentially never split? What would it take to never break up?

To never break up? I mean, yeah, look at The Rolling Stones! Jesus!

Well, apart from The Rolling Stones.

Yeah, I mean, you’ve got people that break up and then they get back together. And I don’t get that. Even with Plain White T’s we’re still going even though we’ve had members quit, and you know, this and that. But to me, as long as I want to do Plain White T’s – and to me, I would never stop it: I love it, it’s fun and it’s my passion – I don’t care if I’ve got to get out there by myself with my guitar, but Plain White T’s will keep going. So yeah, I don’t get why bands stop or call it quits or whatever. I don’t know. It’s weird.

Everybody I ever interviewed about this says it all comes down to the money in the end.

Sure. I mean, yeah? Well, I don’t know.

So, what are you working on at the moment? What are the plans for the future? 

Winter Wonderland by Plain White T's

Winter Wonderland by Plain White T’s

Like I said, I started this record label called Humans Were Here, so I’m producing, I’ve got a handful of amazing artists that I’m working with, and then I’ve got my solo project Million Miler and I’ve just put out the music video for the song Zuma Beach, and I’ve got new music coming very soon with Million Miler as well. With Plain White T’s, we’ve just put out a cover of Winter Wonderland as a Christmas song for December 2021, and we’re actually going into the studio in December to release some new Plain White T’s music early next year.

Sounds great.

Yeah, a lot of creativity happening here. As far as touring and stuff, I feel like the world is still a little bit weird with Covid stuff. We’ve been playing shows and doing outdoor festivals and things like that where it’s a little bit safer but yeah, I don’t know if there’s going to be a full-fledged tour. That’s still up in the air when that’s going to be happening, you know? We will see. We will see what happens, I’m hoping and I’m optimistic that by next summer maybe things will be starting to feel, again, not normal – I don’t want to use that word, normal, because what is normal? – but at least getting back to a little bit of more comfortability with people and being able to get out there again.

Is there anything else you would like to say?

Um, we talked about the movie, we talked about the stuff I’ve been working on and so I’m good if you are.

Yeah. Thank you, Tom.

Thank you for caring and for, you know, wanting to write about this stuff. It’s awesome. Yeah.

Ah, you have no idea. You have no idea how many times I tried to set this up.

You see, all it took was a global pandemic!

★ If you noticed that Tom was sitting behind a Banksy artwork, don’t forget that I also interviewed the man who organises Banksy exhibits without ever getting to meet Banksy

★ If you noticed the Back to the Future tape in the 1980s purple image of Tom in addition of Tom wearing a BTTF t-shirt, don’t forget that I also interviewed Back to the Future creator Bob Gale

★ If you didn’t notice anything but you still love 1980s synth-pop, you may also enjoy my other interviews with Limahl who made the soundtrack for The NeverEnding Story in 1984, Spandau Ballet, Paul Young, Barry Blue and Katrina and the Waves

About The Author

Founder of The Shortlisted Magazine

The one behind the wheel.