Jacob Slichter, drummer of Semisonic, said in his book, So You Wanna Be A Rock N' Roll Star
: "This song was written about when the lead singer was waiting for his first child to be born. When it was written it was meant to be one big simile to waiting for a child to be born." (thanks, Jen - Cleveland, OH)
This remains a popular song at bars when they are ready to pack it up. There no mistaking the message: "You don't have to go home, but you can't stay here." Semisonic vocalist and songwriter Dan Wilson told The Hollywood Reporter in a 2010 interview: "I really thought that that was the greatest destiny for 'Closing Time,' that it would be used by all the bartenders, and it was actually. It still is. I run into people all the time who tell me, Oh I worked in this one bar for four years and I heard your song every single night."
Wilson explained in an interview with American Songwriter that he wasn't consciously trying to write a song about the birth of his first born child, but it became obvious as he was writing the tune. Said Wilson: "I was initially trying to write a song to end the Semisonic shows with. We had always ended with a song called 'If I Run,' and I really liked it a lot. John and Jake, the other two members of the band, were always impatient with ending the show with the same song. So I set out to write a new closer for the set, and I just thought, 'Oh, closing time.' Because all the bars that I would frequent in Minneapolis, they would yell out 'closing time.' There was one bar where a guy always would scream really loud, 'You don't have to go home, but you can't stay here,' and I guess that always stuck in my mind.
So I started writing this song and it's just, 'Okay, you've got to go out into the light, make your way home, or wherever you're going to be.' Part way into the writing of the song, I realized it was also about being born. My wife and I were expecting our first kid very soon after I wrote that song. I had birth on the brain, I was struck by what a funny pun it was to be bounced from the womb."
Wilson told The Hollywood Reporter how he wrote this song in 20 minutes: "My bandmates were tired of ending our sets with the same song, so there was kind of an uprising where they demanded something different to end our nights with. So I thought, 'OK, I'll write a song to close out the set,' and then boom, I wrote 'Closing Time' really fast.
There was one little adjustment later, which I credit to our A&R guy, Hans Haedelt. He said, 'It's too simple. You need to break up the rhythm of the verses.' So that line, 'Gather up your jackets, move it to the exits, I hope you have found a friend' is the first time it deviates from the rhythmic pattern. He was right - it's a great moment in the song."
The song features in the 2011 romantic comedy movie Friends with Benefits in a scene where Mila Kunis and Justin Timberlake are having sex. She asks him to distract her with, what she calls, 'a Third Eye Blind song' and he proceeds to sing this tune. Dan Wilson told The Hollywood Reporter that seeing the scene in the trailer made him laugh. He said: "It is kind of funny to be looking at it from another perspective. And while I really like Justin Timberlake's music and singing, when he's doing a Dan Wilson impression, I'm not sure I like that. But it's very cute. I enjoyed that slight mockery. And the thing about Third Eye Blind is really funny."