Tom Higgenson can’t wait until Aug. 20, the night he and the rest of the Plain White T’s take the stage at the zoo’s Milwaukee a la carte event.
And why is he so excited for this particular concert? It’s because the band will be premiering new music from their upcoming album. The indie/alternative group known for hits like “Hey There Delilah” and “1, 2, 3, 4” will release their next album in 2023.
Expect a mix of hits and new songs on the Caribou Main Stage on Saturday at 7pm. We sat down with the frontman ahead of the gig to talk about the new album, getting back on tour and how one of his all-time favorite memories comes about. to be in Milwaukee
Milwaukee Magazine: To say about your show at the Milwaukee County Zoo. What can the public expect?
Tom Higgenson: First of all, we are very excited because we are working on a new album. We’re coming out of this pandemic, playing shows again and working on new music, which is obviously one of our favorite parts. [We] they only put out an album every few years, so it’s a big deal. I would say one of the fun things about the show at the zoo is that we will definitely be premiering some of the new material.
MM: What’s the scoop on the new album? What kind of songs are you working on?
TH: It’s coming out next year. We’re still in the process of going through everything and figuring out what the album is going to do and stuff, but I definitely think people are going to be really excited about the music. We’re trying to take the things that people love about Plain White T’s and take the music in that direction. … We started out as just another punk-rock band in like 1997 in my basement, I should say, my parents’ basement. We’ve grown over the years, so it’s really nice to look back on the career and say, “Okay, what were the highlights? What were the things that really connected with people the most?” And then now that we’re older, we have this career to look back on and all these accomplishments and everything. It’s really fun to say, “Where was I when I was writing this song?” We tried to recapture some of that magic.
MM: Speaking of songs that connect with people, what are your favorite songs to play for live audiences?
TH: A lot of bands and artists hate their hits, like they think playing them is lame or something. But for me, that’s why making music is connecting. You want every song you’ve written to connect like “Hey There Delilah” does. … When we start playing “1, 2, 3, 4”, that first beat comes and you can feel the joy of the audience. You can see people start pulling out their phones, and it’s like, this is magic, because they’re excited. You’re singing a song that people are excited to hear, and they’re smiling, and they’re singing along, and even beyond that moment, you know that the song means something to them. Her boyfriend played them on their day, or a lot of people use “1, 2, 3, 4” as their wedding song, which is crazy! … So we really like to play the hits, while some bands turn their noses up, we definitely embrace that. We love these moments.
MM: Do you have any Milwaukee memories you’d like to share?
TH: A memory or moment that stands out is when we played Summerfest in the summer of 2007. It was the summer that “Delilah” was everywhere, blowing up. And it was one of the first times we were leading a stage. We were behind the scenes all day; we probably did a sound check at 2 in the afternoon or something, and then we didn’t go on until 9. so we were in a little room and hung out all day. And then when it was time to play, we went out on stage and there were about 10,000 people. It was almost like one of those weird movie moments where we all looked at ourselves, like, “What the hell is that? Who the hell is playing behind us? Why are all these people there?” It was one of those crazy moments. And then we realized, oh, this is what it’s like to have a hit song. It was definitely the biggest crowd we had ever played to at the time. And it was definitely a knee-jerk moment from “St [expletive]I can’t believe all these people are here.” It was truly magical.
MM: Why should fans see your show in Milwaukee on the air?
TH: It will be a perfect night! We will give everything. We will sing the songs you know and love. And many magical moments will be created. I can’t think of a better way to spend the night after the last couple of years than to be outside in a beautiful, beautiful place, listening to good music.
*This interview has been edited for length and clarity.