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It's not uncommon for musicians to experience a cathartic release onstage. But for Plain White T's frontman Tom Higgenson, the rush of performance is particularly acute. "Being up there, connecting with the fans - there's nothing like it," he insists.

This intense feeling may explain why the Plain White T's are on the road nine months out of the year, plying their hook-laden alt pop to a devout, ever-expanding fan base.

The band began in a suburban Chicago basement in 1997. Higgenson and co-founder/high-school pal Dave Tirio fooled around playing cover songs before the former began experimenting with songwriting. Previously a drummer, Higgenson switched to guitar and stepped into the lead-vocalist spot; Tirio, meanwhile, anchored the songs on rhythm guitar.

And if any question remains about the band's name, there's really no hidden or abstract meaning. Picked from a list of names the band liked, the Plain White T's moniker was officially bestowed when Higgenson made a telling observation about some of his favorite albums at that time. "Originally, I liked the visual association that went along with the name," he remembers. "But then I noticed that in every single one of my CD booklets there was a picture of somebody wearing a plain white T, and it just seemed right."

However, the name and the music do go hand in hand - both have a classic, comfortable appeal. "Anyone can look great in a plain white T, and that's how we feel about our music," Higgenson volunteers. "Anybody can hear it and enjoy it."

"We are really passionate about what we do," the singer adds. "Hopefully people will be able to get something out of it, whether it makes them feel a little bit better about life or just puts a smile on their face. Or maybe it just gives them a little tune to hum along to and have in their hearts."

Plain White Ts