Plain White T’s says ‘Hey there, Chicago’


Courtesy Denise Truscello

Plain White T’s will play a 20th anniversary concert at Metro Chicago, 3730 N. Clark St., Dec. 2.

By Jonathon Sadowski

The Plain White T’s shot to the top of Billboard’s Hot 100 with its saccharine folk-pop ballad “Hey There Delilah” 10 years ago, followed by a short string of hits including “Rhythm of Love” and “1,2,3,4.” 

Though the days of playing characters on the television show “Greek” and making a guest appearance on the Nickelodeon show “iCarly” are over, the band is still somewhat in the spotlight thanks to the ubiquity of “Hey There Delilah.” The band performed the hit song at the Alternative Press Music Awards in July and released a new track, “Land of the Living,” in May. 

Now, the Lombard, Illinois-based band is recording a new album and preparing to play a 20th anniversary show Dec. 2 at Metro Chicago, 3730 N. Clark St. 

The Chronicle spoke to drummer De’Mar Hamilton about the anniversary show, new album and his brief stint at Columbia.

THE CHRONICLE: What is in store for the 20th anniversary show? 

DE’MAR HAMILTON: It’s our 20th anniversary, which is crazy, so we were like, “OK, we need to do something for it.” We couldn’t think of a better place than the Metro. It was one of the venues we started out at. We’re definitely going to play some old, deep cuts. We’re currently in the studio, so we definitely want to try to bust out at least a couple new songs too that we’re currently working on.  

Will the new album be in line with the sound of “Land of the Living”? 

[“Land of the Living”] being on the new album is still a little bit up in the air. The funny thing about that song is we actually had that song and we recorded it all before we re-signed to Fearless [Records]. We’ve been discussing: Is this going to go on the album? What are we going to do? Do we go back and re-record it? We’re still figuring that out. I can say the new stuff is in a new direction, for sure. 

What was it like when you were at Columbia and then joined the T’s? 

I studied music performance. I went to the second semester of that year, 2003, and right after that is when I got asked to be a Plain White T. That was it. I was in a band that actually got signed to Fearless before Plain White T’s did back then, a band called Knockout. We played around the city and we eventually started to play with Plain White T’s. We would hang out after their shows. One day, Tom [Higgenson, lead singer] asked me if I wanted to be in the band. I told myself that I would only be in one or two bands if they asked me at the time, and [they were] Fall Out Boy or Plain White T’s. That was all I would say yes to. 

How was playing the 2017 Alternative Press Music Awards? 

To get to do [“Hey There Delilah”] there surprised us. You’re sitting around in this award show the whole time, and there’s all these artists playing and it’s our turn. We go to play “Delilah” and the whole room stands up and sings the song. That’s pretty crazy … to have the only song everyone in the entire room knew. That was pretty cool.

What was it like to have all the TV appearances such as in “Greek”? 

It’s funny, because “Our Time Now”—[the theme song for “Greek”]—I don’t forget about that, but you just mentioned “Greek,” and I’m like, “Man, that was a long time ago.” When you’re doing things like that, like “iCarly” or “Greek,” you don’t even think about, “Maybe in 10 years people will have been fans because of that.” Now, you look around and you find all these fans now that are older [that knew us from “Greek” and “iCarly”] and it’s like, “Oh yeah. You guys grew up, and so did we.” It’s great to be able to do a lot of different things and be a part of different TV shows. Even with “Rhythm of Love,” I remember it was on a “Parenthood” commercial. I was really excited about that. 

What have been some challenges with keeping up with the changing music scene while staying true to your sound? 

That’s the one thing that we’ve tried to maintain, is not [changing] too much—just stay true to ourselves, stay honest. To have “Delilah” be such a big hit, we went through issues with people associating the band name with the song. That’s always been our biggest issue that we always continue to try to work on. The one thing we’ve tried to maintain through any struggle is: Just stay together and keep doing it. We’re still onstage playing shows and having a good time doing that, and that’s the reason to continue to do it. 

What is the ideal level of success for the band, now that you’ve experienced having a number one hit? 

Honestly, I would say: On top of the world, always. I don’t think any of us are willing to settle for middle. We might as well shoot for the stars and go for it. If you fail, you fail. You might end up somewhere in the middle or a little above the middle, but at least go for it. We had a lot of success with “Delilah,” which was great, and I feel like we got this really nice taste of it. It was like, “Wow, this is cool,” but there’s still that desire for us to have more success. That never went away.