You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

‘Someone Like You’ Writer Dan Wilson Reclaims His Songs on ‘Re-Covered’

Singer-songwriter Dan Wilson is best known as the voice of Semisonic’s 1998 hit “Closing Time.” That’s one of 13 tracks the Minneapolis native revisits on “Re-Covered,” his third solo studio effort, out today (Aug. 4) on the indie Ballroom Music.

Yet the album seeks to do more than revive that past glory. Between his fame in the 90s and now, Wilson has been co-writing songs with a diverse group of artists, including Adele, Taylor Swift, the Dixie Chicks, John Legend, Josh Groban, and Chris Stapleton.

Covering hits with which he has a publishing interest might lead some to wonder if Wilson is merely trying to cash in on performance and songwriting royalties, a notion he initially laughs at, before defending his track record. “There’s a lot of people out there who have written a lot of songs and they can go ahead and choose their best stuff and make a record, too,” Wilson tells Variety. “We’ll see how many hits they have on their record.”

Indeed, Wilson has quite a few. The album includes his stripped down take of Adele’s international chart-topper “Someone Like You,” featuring the Kronos Quartet, as well as his reading of the Dixie Chicks’ three-time Grammy winner “Not Ready to Make Nice.”

And yet Wilson says “Re-Covered” isn’t necessarily all about the hits. “I took some enjoyment in picking some things are maybe less well-known, but I actually think they are as good as the best of the other songs.” He points to “Never Meant to Love You,” originally recorded by folk-rock singer Cory Chisel, and “Landing,” by Matt Wilson, his younger brother and former band mate in his pre-Semisonic combo Trip Shakespeare, as underrated gems that fit that bill.

It was actually a friend of Wilson’s who suggested seven years ago that he do an album of reinterpretations of songs he’d co-written with other artists. “At that time, I thought it was a great idea, but I thought about what I had to offer and I didn’t think it was awesome enough,” Wilson recalls. “I needed a couple of other better songs.”

Five years later, Wilson thought he had enough material to fit the bill with a mix of hits and “songs I wanted people to hear,” but the project didn’t begin to become a reality until a lunch meeting with his friend, producer, guitarist and fellow songwriter Mike Viola (now an A&R executive at Verve Records). “He said, ‘I’ll only do it with you if we go [analog] — live to two-inch tape at one of the great old studios in L.A. And we do it with a live band, you sing live and we all get it all happening in about a week. We could mix it on Saturday and be done,'” Wilson recalls.

Viola felt that way the songs written with various artists would have a cohesive feel. The sessions, featuring a band that included Elvis Costello drummer Pete Thomas, ended up lasting about three weeks, but Wilson says they were successful in capturing the vibe they were seeking. (A deluxe version of the album, packaged with a hard-cover book containing 56 pages of drawings, essays and lyrics, is due on Aug. 25).

For Wilson, it’s essential that his creative DNA is as a songwriter and a performer. “I know a lot of songwriters who’ve never been performers and I just can’t understand that,” he says. “How could a songwriter write songs for people to enjoy without ever having the experience of the feedback and the kind of connection you have from an audience? It’s so instructive. When you play a song live in front of a crowd, you know if it’s right or not.”

Today, however, he’s comfortable in the role as a man of words and melodies who’s mostly behind the scenes.

As for his process, Wilson says it varies depending on the artist he’s collaborating with. With Adele, the experience was not unlike her segment on James Corden’s “Carpool Karaoke.” “It’s like laughing, and yelling, and having a great time, and then being held to the highest f—ing artistic standard of anyone you’ve ever met,” he says.

Two other Wilson co-writes were featured on Adele’s 14-times platinum 2011 album “21,” but Wilson’s contributions didn’t make the final cut of her follow-up, 2015’s “25.” Wilson explains their initial writing sessions were canceled due to an illness in his family, but the two did get back together. “The period that Adele and I wrote a few songs for ’25’ was sort of during her well-documented phase of writer’s block/perfectionism,” he says. “Everything has to be exactly right or she won’t put it out.”

Wilson attributes his ability to work in multiple genres to his early listening habits that included everything from Jaco Pastorius and Weather Report to Boston, Joni Mitchell and the Clash. “It gave me this idea somehow that you are allowed to write music in every style,” he says. And Wilson is living out that vision, writing with Spoon, rapper Nas, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, rising female star Halsey, and producing Ethiopian jazz artist Meklit, as well as playing the occasional show with his old mates in Semisonic. “These are artists I admire,” Wilson explains. “It’s more driven by me thinking they’re awesome and less by which niche I’m supposed to be occupying.”

See the full track list below:

“All Will Be Well” – written with Gabe Dixon
“Home” – written with Dierks Bentley and Brett Beavers
“You and I” – written with John Legend
“Someone Like You” (feat. Kronos Quartet) – written with Adele
“Never Meant To Love You” – written with Cory Chisel
“Not Ready To Make Nice” – written with Dixie Chicks
“Landing” – written with Matt Wilson
“Treacherous” – written with Taylor Swift
“Borrowed” – written with LeAnn Rimes and Darrell Brown
“Your Misfortune” – written with Mike Doughty
“When The Stars Come Out” – written with Chris Stapleton
“If I Walk Away” – written with Josh Groban
“Closing Time” – written for Semisonic

More Music

  • R. Kelly

    R. Kelly Accusers Detail Abuse, Reveal Evidence on 'Dateline'

    The continuing controversy surrounding R. Kelly, including allegations of sexual abuse by a number of women over three decades, was the focus of Friday’s episode of “Dateline.” Speaking to accusers Sparkle, Jerhonda Pace and parents Tim and Jonjelyn Savage, among others, NBC’s Andrea Canning heard more harrowing tales of abduction and sexual misconduct on the part [...]

  • Huey Lewis

    BMG Signs Huey Lewis and the News

    Huey Lewis and the News, the band that soundtracked much of the 1980s, will return with a new album in 2019. The group has signed with BMG, the company announced today (Jan. 18), setting the stage for the tenth studio album and the first time they’re releasing original music in 18 years. Formed by Lewis [...]

  • Jordan Feldstein

    Roc Nation Seeks $11 Million From Insurer in Jordan Feldstein's Death

    Roc Nation filed a federal lawsuit Friday seeking $11 million from its insurance carrier following the death of Maroon 5 manager Jordan Feldstein. Roc Nation, a joint venture of Jay-Z and Live Nation Entertainment, partnered with Feldstein’s Career Artist Management in 2016. At the time, Roc Nation says it took out a “key man” life [...]

  • mike-posner

    Album Review: Mike Posner's 'A Real Good Kid'

    From the tone of such hits as his 2010 debut “Cooler Than Me” and 2015’s  “I Took A Pill In Ibiza,” singing, songwriting pop-hop beardo Mike Posner had a seemingly breezy take on life, love and responsibility. If you could have squeezed together the two Justins — Timberlake and Bieber (Posner has written for the latter) [...]

  • neyla pekarek

    Neyla Pekarek on Leaving the Lumineers and Her 'Women-Empowering' Solo Debut

    “I feel really liberated to be releasing my own record and my own music,” says cellist and singer Neyla Pekarek, who, in October, announced her departure from folk band the Lumineers. Now signed to S-Curve Records as a solo artist, her debut album “Rattlesnake” drops Friday. “I would definitely call this record a feminist record, a [...]

  • Fyre Festival Documentaries: The 10 Most

    Fyre Festival Documentaries: The 10 Most Outrageous Moments

    It is perhaps only fitting that two documentaries about the disastrous Fyre Festival, one of the most high-profile fraudulent failures in history, would arrive during the same week — a fitting cap on a tragicomedy of errors that, as both films outline in excruciating detail, unfolded like a slow-motion plane crash in the spring of [...]

  • Oscars Predictions 2018 Illustration

    Academy Awards: Final Oscar Predictions in All Categories

    Nominations for the 91st Academy Awards will be announced on Tuesday, Jan. 22. Below are In Contention’s final predictions in all 24 categories. Bradley Cooper’s “A Star Is Born” and Alfonso Cuarón’s “Roma” lead the way with 10 expected nominations apiece, while we forecast eight for Yorgos Lanthimos’ “The Favourite” and seven each for Damien [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content