Hey Soul Sister

Album: Save Me San Francisco (2009)
Charted: 18 3

Songfacts®:

  • Joni Mitchell wrote a song about Woodstock without attending the festival, and Train lead singer Pat Monahan wrote this one about Burning Man without ever setting foot in the Nevada desert.

    Some of his friends were going, and he was intrigued by the festival, which culminates with a huge effigy set ablaze. Monahan imagined beautiful women dancing around the flames and came up with the lyric about an unforgettable girl who blows his mind.
  • Train had a hit in 2001 with "Drops Of Jupiter (Tell Me)" and another in 2003 with "Calling All Angels," but then they derailed, with Monahan going through a divorce and losing a good friend to suicide. He poured his heart out on their 2006 album For Me, It's You, but no hits came of it, and the group went on hiatus.

    When they returned to make their 2009 Save Me San Francisco album, they filled it with upbeat pop songs, the poppiest being "Hey Soul Sister," which was the first single. Train was once again on track and back on the charts.
  • According to Pat Monahan, he wrote this song and "If It's Love" the same day in New York City after a few days of little sleep. Monahan says that when he doesn't sleep, he does better work, and when "Hey Soul Sister" came to him, it was quick and easy.
  • Since their name conveniently rhymes with "sister," in the chorus Monahan namechecks Mr. Mister, a group known for their hits "Kyrie" and "Broken Wings."
  • Musically, the special sauce in this song is the ukulele. "The ukulele made everybody happy," Monahan told PopEater. "I think that along with the song itself and the melodies, people gravitate towards that positive part of it. The ukulele made a big difference."
  • The Save Me San Francisco album was the first time Train brought in outside writers. "Hey Soul Sister" is a collaboration between Pat Monahan and the Norwegian songwriting duo Espionage, whose previous writing credits include "Irreplaceable" for Beyoncé and "With You" for Chris Brown. After working together on the writing and recording of the track "Brick by Brick," Monahan decided to record another track with Espionage. The Train frontman recalled to The Erie Times: "I said, 'I want to write an INXS-y song.' So, they started playing kind of an INXS-y song, and I wrote the song 'Hey, Soul Sister' to it and the melodies and started to sing it. And I was like, 'Man, this just doesn't sound great to me.'

    One of the guys, Espin, who's like a huge star in Norway, picked up a ukulele, and said, 'Hey, how about this?' I was like, 'Are you (kidding) me?' And it made the difference. It made my words dance. It made sense. These words were meant to dance with ukulele and not guitar." This presented a problem as it meant Train guitarist Jimmy Stafford would have to learn how to play ukulele. Stafford recalled: "At first, I tried to do it by using a guitar pick, and it didn't sound right. I had to go online and Google a ukulele lesson and noticed they're not using picks at all; it's more of a flamenco style. Once I got that down, then it sounded like the real deal."
  • The album, which was produced by Martin Terfe (Jason Mraz, KT Tunstall) pays tribute to Train's hometown. Monahan told Billboard: "We owe all of our gratitude to San Francisco because they embraced us back when, if they hadn't have, no one would have."
  • Lead singer Pat Monahan told Billboard magazine that this song, along with the rest of the album, marked a return to the group's folk-rock roots. He explained: "There's super catchy riffs and melodies in it, which I think are way more important that any production trick or great-sounding vocal production. It's kind of us going backward so we can go forward."
  • The Madonna reference in the line "I believe in you, like a virgin, you're Madonna" is to the Virgin Mary, not the pop star.
  • The song reached #1 in a number of countries including Argentina, Australia, Hungary, Indonesia, Ireland, Korea, Malaysia, the Netherlands and Thailand. It was also a #1 hit on the Adult Contemporary chart.
  • The music video was shot outside of Chango, coffeehouse on the corner of Echo Park Avenue and Delta Street in San Francisco.
  • Released before streaming caught on but long after CDs fell out of favor, "Hey Soul Sister" racked up a remarkable 6 million downloads, becoming the most-downloaded song in Columbia Records history.
  • The song was covered on the ninth episode of the second season of American musical television series Glee, titled "Special Education." The show was premiered on Fox in the United States on November 30, 2010, and sees the glee club enter the Sectionals round of the show choir competition. This version features a solo vocal from actor Darren Criss, who plays Blaine, an openly gay teen from rival glee club the Dalton Academy Warblers.
  • This was the top-selling song of 2010 on iTunes. Katy Perry's "California Gurls" was the second-best seller and third was Eminem's "Love The Way You Lie."

Comments: 14

  • Lexi From Virginia from Virginiaheyyyyyy i love this
  • Cindi from Wisconsin I think it's the BEST. I love it
  • Randy from Houghton Lake, MiI first heard this song on the Samsung commercial. I know give me a break I'm 57 years old and listen to classic rock and country all the time. Great song though.
  • Rod from Gainesville, Flpretty dang catchy
  • Max from Jersyville, Ilhey i just want to point out my soul sisters Breanna S. and Allyssa N. love my "Soul Sisters'
    and this song rocks
  • Caitlyn from Royersford, PaAnyone who doesn't like this song is too cool for life
  • Miles from West Linn, OrUGH. I hate this song. Terribad lyrics and HE WAS GOING FOR A INXS-Y SONG? Really?
  • Ivy from Springfield, NeThis is my friend Rachelle and my song. I'm kind of sad and mad at her, because my crush Liam and her are going out . . . whatever. Ok song, 7.5/10
  • Jacobi One Fanobi from Bristol, TnThis song is about loving your sister? Lol. And how he doesnt want to miss what she does at night? I know its not the real meaning but think about it "soul sister" in no way is a differen way of saying girlfriend, or anything else. It make the non-sense.
  • Ariana from Hooper, Ne this song reminds me of my sister and i we're not blood related but we are soul sisters. LOL! GO TRAIN!
  • Uzoma from Kano, OtherAddictive.
  • Jessica from Chisago, MnI love it! Me and my friends love!
  • Jeff from Nesconset, NyTrain performed "Hey, Soul Sister" on the CSI: NY episode "Second Chances", which aired on December 16, 2009; lead singer Patrick Monahan guest starred in the episode as a musician who has recovered from drug addiction.
  • Emily from Around Chicago, IlThis song rocks! Go Train!
see more comments

Editor's Picks

Prince

PrinceFact or Fiction

Prince is shrouded in mystery, making him an excellent candidate for Fact or Fiction. Is he really a Scientologist? Does he own an exotic animal?

David Bowie Lyrics Quiz

David Bowie Lyrics QuizMusic Quiz

How well do you know your David Bowie lyrics? Take this quiz to find out.

Mike Love of The Beach Boys

Mike Love of The Beach BoysSongwriter Interviews

The lead singer/lyricist of The Beach Boys talks about coming up with the words for "Good Vibrations," "Fun, Fun, Fun," "Kokomo" and other classic songs.

Eric Burdon

Eric BurdonSongwriter Interviews

The renown rock singer talks about "The House of the Rising Sun" and "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood."

Mike Campbell

Mike CampbellSongwriter Interviews

Mike is lead guitarist with Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, and co-writer of classic songs like "Boys Of Summer," "Refugee" and "The Heart Of The Matter."

Joe Elliott of Def Leppard

Joe Elliott of Def LeppardSongwriter Interviews

The Def Leppard frontman talks about their "lamentable" hit he never thought of as a single, and why he's juiced by his Mott The Hoople cover band.