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Superstar Cowriter Dan Wilson Details His Songwriting Approach

Superstar Cowriter Dan Wilson Details His Songwriting Approach

The Semisonic frontman and multi-Grammy-winning cowriter joins this episode to talk creative processes and write an alt-country hit.

If you’ve been in any bar past last call, you’ve heard Dan Wilson’s work. “Closing Time” launched his band Semisonic into the international pop-culture stratosphere in 1998, and since then, he’s become an A-list cowriter with some of music’s biggest names—including, perhaps, the biggest: Taylor Swift. The 62-year-old Minnesota native cowrote the Chicks’ Grammy-winning anthem “Not Ready to Make Nice,” Adele’s tear-jerker “Someone Like You,” and Chris Stapleton’s “White Horse,” which took home the 2024 Grammy for best country song. Wilson insists that he rebels against any “role” foisted upon him in the studio—he’s less “writer’s block killer” and more “creative therapist,” digging for truth and emotion.

Wilson’s creative craft has brought us some of this century’s most ubiquitous and popular songs, and on this episode of Before Your Very Ears, he applies it with hosts Sean Watkins and Peter Harper to write an alt-country tune in G major. The central idea? You’re not your feelings, and sometimes it’s only through the grace of those closest to us that we can pare down an overreaction: “It’s a long-term solution to a short-term problem/When you’re looking for answers, that’s when everybody’s got one,” the main hook calls.

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