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Sighting: Plain White T's frontman ready for night at the zoo

Plain White T’s lead singer and Villa Park native Tom Higgenson was in the process Monday of putting together the all-important guest list for his band’s concert Saturday at Lincoln Park Zoo. He wanted to avoid the hassle of having to make last-minute arrangements the day of the show, as is often the case when the band plays in the Chicago area. So who made the cut? Friends and family, of course, and also the guy who recently installed the carpet at Higgenson’s parents’ home.

Only at a hometown show.

“My parents were haggling with the guy to get the price down,” said Higgenson over the phone from his home in Elmhurst on Monday, “and he said ‘I’ll tell you what: Your son is playing at the zoo. I’ll cut off $200 from the price if you get me tickets to the show.’ So now the carpet guy is on the guest list.”

The show, part of Lincoln Park Zoo’s Jammin’ at the Zoo concert series, will be the band’s first in Chicago since a Halloween weekend performance at the House of Blues in 2011. Higgenson said playing in front of loved ones and the fans who were there long before “Hey There Delilah” was No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 2007 is the best part about performing in the city.

(The Santa Barbara, Calif.-raised Tim Lopez, who recently co-starred on the NBC reality show, “Ready for Love,” is the only member of the quintet who grew up outside the Chicago area.)

Plain White T’s have played a few shows here and there the last few months but will soon head out on an official tour in mid-July. Because the band members have spent the majority of the year recording their upcoming album — which Higgenson expects to hit stores either late summer or early fall — the road life will be a welcome change of pace.

“It’s been so long that we’re really excited,” Higgenson said. “It also helps that we have a new record coming out, so we have new songs to play. It’s always a cool cycle. When you get burned out from touring, then you get to chill at home and write and record. And by the time you’re done with that, you’re ready to go back on tour.”

Higgenson wouldn’t reveal the title of the album yet but said there was compromise involved. Apparently there has been a lot of that on this record.

“It’s been a heated debate the past couple months,” Higgenson said. “We were recording with one title in mind, and then the band told me, ‘Yeah, we don’t like that title.’ It was a big argument. I had to settle with a different title. You want everyone to be happy, since you have to live with this forever. It’s tough to make everybody happy, but that’s the goal of this album.”

Higgenson will be sharing singing and songwriting duties with Lopez on the album even more than he did on 2010’s “Wonders of the Younger,” which featured Lopez singing the single “Rhythm of Love.” Plain White T’s fans got a taste of what they can expect from the new album on the band’s four-song EP, “Should’ve Gone to Bed,” which was released in April and is split down the middle with Higgenson- and Lopez-sung tunes.

The EP’s single, “Should’ve Gone to Bed,” is written and performed by Higgenson and revolves around the not-uncommon habit of texting an ex while intoxicated late at night (hence the second guessing in the song’s title). Higgenson said he is guilty of sending more than a few of these kinds of texts and is glad to hear others can relate to his lyrics.

“That’s the most important part,” Higgenson said. “You want to write songs that feel like they wrote them.”

Speaking of Higgenson’s love life, he is single — unlike Lopez, who is dating the contestant he met on “Ready for Love” — and would like to meet someone. Does going on tour help or hurt his chances of that happening any time soon?

“It’s difficult to say,” Higgenson said. “But I’ll have fun along the way, maybe have a few lucky nights and maybe a few ‘Should’ve Gone to Bed’ nights.

lgomez@tribune.com

When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: Lincoln Park Zoo; 2001 N Clark St.
Tickets: $24 adults, $13 children; 312-742-2283 or lpzoo.org

Copyright © 2015, RedEye
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