Semisonic's Dan Wilson talks career decades after ‘Closing Time’ hit

If there's a formula for making memorable music, Dan Wilson and his bandmates in Semisonic have it down to an exact science.

On a recent Saturday, they are playing "Chemistry" and their other hits in front of a hometown crowd at the Palace Theater in St. Paul.

But more than two decades after their breakthrough, their songs still strike an emotional chord with fans.

"I am surprised that people have such a connection to my music," Wilson told FOX 9.

Growing up in St. Louis Park, Wilson always knew he wanted to be an artist.

After Trip Shakespeare, the Minneapolis-based band he was in with his brother Matt for several years, broke up, Wilson formed the trio that eventually became Semisonic with John Munson and Jacob Slichter.

"I wanted to try to make some things that are closer to the pop hits that I loved when I was a kid. Shorter, more broadly understandable and memorable," said Wilson.

Wilson reached that goal with the first single from the band's second album. 

On the surface, "Closing Time" is about getting kicked out of a bar at last call, but Wilson says it’s also an inside joke about he and his wife's first child being born.

"I never get sick of that song. I'm grateful about that song. It just happened. I didn't really think twice about it, and it really, really did change all of our lives a lot," said Wilson.

"Closing Time" cracked the top-20 charts in the late 90s, and quickly became a staple at watering holes at the end of the night.

"When I was done with it, I thought the bartenders are going to love me for this. I thought they're going to play this to get everyone out. No hard feelings. You don't have to go home, but you can't stay here – and then that turned out to be true," said Wilson.

Its success led to a string of other hits like "Singing In My Sleep" and "Secret Smile".

The song also gave Wilson the opportunity to write with other artists The Chicks, Chris Stapleton and Adele, who he co-wrote "Someone Like You" with, after Semisonic went their separate ways in the 2000s.

"She told me that she knew, even after the first day, that her life was going to be changed forever by that song," said Wilson. 

In all, Wilson has been nominated for six Grammys and won three.

This year, he got to go to the Oscars, after a song he penned with Jon Batiste for his documentary "American Symphony" was up for an Academy Award, although it didn't win.

"Every time somebody from Oppenheimer won an Oscar, I was behind them one row, sitting right in the picture. So all my cousins would immediately text me and say Uncle Dan, you're on TV again at the Oscars," said Wilson.

Now more than 25 years after their biggest hit, Semisonic is back with their first full-length album since 2002.

Wilson says writing with other artists for so long made it challenging to find the band's voice once again.

"I just couldn't figure out how to be that guy anymore and then I figured it out, almost like sonically, I can do these melodies. I know this will sound like my band," said Wilson.

As the frontman for a rock band that has toured the world, Wilson is familiar with vibrations and he is grateful his music still resonates with listeners, long after "Closing Time" opened the door.

"I want to put it out there and then just see who catches a vibe from it and lucky me, that's happened a lot in my life," said Wilson.