Performances in various Chicago clubs earned the band a small but devout following. In the summer of 1999, Higgenson was nearly killed in a car accident; the crash resulted in a ruptured kidney and lacerated lung. However, the event also left him with a newfound dedication to songwriting, and the band began making quick progress as a result, self-releasing Come on Over in 2001 and signing with Fearless Records for the release of Stop in 2002. Although plagued by lineup shifts during the supporting tour, Plain White T's still found time to record All That We Needed, which hit shelves in early 2005. By that point, the band's roster had solidified with a lineup comprised of vocalist Higgenson, guitarists Tirio and Tim Lopez, drummer De'Mar Hamilton, and bassist Mike Retondo. The band then participated in the 2005 Take Action tour alongside groups like Sugarcult and Head Automatica before joining up with Motion City Soundtrack for tour dates in 2006. The enhanced EP Hey There Delilah was released that May, containing versions of the titular ballad (originally issued on All That We Needed), along with four new songs and music videos.
The band's work ethic and promising songcraft earned Plain White T's a new contract with Hollywood Records, and Every Second Counts, their hook-laden debut for the label, appeared in September 2006. The band returned to the road soon after, but fortunes improved as "Hey There Delilah" gathered steam on radio stations across the U.S. By the following summer, the song had topped the charts in ten different countries and helped jump-start sales of Every Second Counts (which, incidentally, only featured "Hey There Delilah" in enhanced versions of the record). Plain White T's received two Grammy nominations for the song, and the band returned in 2008 with Big Bad World -- a return-to-form effort featuring the band's usual mix of spunky energy and pop/rock craft.
In 2010, Plain White T's released the song "The Rhythm of Love," featuring lead vocals from guitarist Tim Lopez. Built upon a laid-back acoustic sound, it was the first single from the band's sixth studio album, The Wonders of the Younger, which was released that December; the album peaked at 149, a downturn from its predecessor's 33. The band then took some time off, starting to return to action with the 2013 EP Should've Gone to Bed before delivering the full-length American Nights in April 2015. ~ Jason MacNeil & Andrew Leahey, Rovi