Songcraft: Spotlight on Songwriters

Ep. 157 - Dan Wilson ("Someone Like You")

Episode Summary

The Semisonic frontman who penned the group’s chart-topping single “Closing Time” before going on to build a writing resume that includes The Chick’s Song of the Year Grammy winner “Not Ready to Make Nice,” Adele's "Someone Like You," and collaborations with Taylor Swift, John Legend, and P!nk, joins us to talk about his career, his craft, his process, and the stories behind some of his biggest songs.

Episode Notes

Paul and Scott geek out about the Bee Gees documentary, and the nature of being the kind of songwriter who MUST do it, no matter what.

Dan Wilson chats about how Liam Gallagher of Oasis inspired the first new Semisonic music in years; why his relationship with songs has always been very practical; how his first massive hit was born from a need to mix up the set list; the theory he once had about lyrics that he doesn't have any more; the lesson he learned from writing with Carole King that he's carried through his entire career; why it was a good thing that Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks rejected his song idea; how Rick Rubin informed his approach to music; the gritty details on the two-day process of writing "Someone Like You" with Adele; why Nashville's songwriting ethic impacted his process; the time a song was finalized over pizza with John Legend and Chrissy Tiegen; and how fellow songwriter Teddy Geiger indirectly inspired a most unusual format for Dan's collection of wisdom for writers and musicians. 

Songwriter, singer, musician, producer and acclaimed visual artist Dan Wilson is a Minnesota native and Harvard graduate who launched his music career with the band Trip Shakespeare, which was signed to A&M Records. He went on to co-found the rock band Semisonic, whose platinum-selling Feeling Strangely Fine album yielded the singles “Secret Smile,” “Singing in My Sleep,” and “Closing Time,” a chart-topping hit that earned Dan a Grammy nomination for Best Rock Song. 

He went on to reinvent himself as a behind-the-scenes hitmaker, earning a Song of the Year Grammy for co-writing “Not Ready to Make Nice” with the group then known as The Dixie Chicks, and writing three songs on Adele’s multiplatinum 21 album: “Don’t You Remember,” “One and Only,” and “Someone Like You,” which became an international hit and earned Dan an Album of the Year Grammy for his production work. Wilson has also found success in Nashville, co-writing Dierks Bentley’s number one hit “Home” and earning yet another Album of the Year Grammy nomination for Taylor Swift’s Red LP, for which he co-wrote and produced the song “Treacherous.” 

Dan’s long list of collaborators includes Carole King, Rachel Yamagata, Jason Mraz, Gabe Dixon, Weezer, Keith Urban, Josh Groban, James Morrison, P!nk, Leann Rimes, John Legend, Chris Stapleton, Panic! At the Disco, Cold War Kids, Noah Cyrus, Leon Bridges, Celine Dion, and many others.

In addition to his acclaimed Words and Music by Dan Wilson solo concerts, he launched a social media series called Words & Music in Six Seconds. The series, which focuses on “forging collaborative relationships, seeking a community, testing out ideas in front of an audience, and writing better songs,” has recently been turned into a deck of 75 cards, designed by Dan, that distill his insights from nearly three decades of writing, performing, and collaborating with the world’s greatest musical artists. You can get your own set and find out more about Dan’s amazing career at