This is the first single to be taken from Californian rock band Train's fifth album Save Me San Francisco. Frontman Pat Monahan says he wrote this song and "If It's Love" in 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 that when this song came to him, it was quick and easy.
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."
Guitarist Jimmy Stafford told music writer Annie Reuter the original inspiration for the lyrics. (Source You Sing I Write): "Pat wrote that with a couple other guys. The story lyrically, I've heard Pat talk about this in interviews. He's always heard of Burning Man. Somewhere in the Californian desert (it's actually in Nevada), they do it every year. It's this whole city in the desert that gets built for a festival that happens every year. They build a huge man out of wood and at the end of the festival they burn it. Pat had never been to Burning Man, but he had an image in his head of what it must be like. All these beautiful women dancing around the fire. That was the imagery he conjured up when he was writing the lyrics to, "Hey, Soul Sister." It's a pretty big deal. Thousands and thousands of people go to it every year. People run around naked and I guess it's a total crazy 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."
Since their name conveniently rhymes with "Sister," in the chorus Monahan namechecks Mr. Mister, who are known for their hits "Kyrie" and "Broken Wings."
This 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 song was Train's second Hot 100 Top 10 hit, their previous one being "Drops Of Jupiter (Tell Me)," which peaked at #5 in June 2001.
Monahan told PopEater the addition of a certain musical instrument contributed to the song's success. "That's where the ukulele comes in because nobody was betting against the ukulele," he said. "The ukulele made everybody happy ... so 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 song reached #1 in a number of countries including Argentina, Australia, Hungary, Indonesia, Ireland, Korea, Malaysia, the Netherlands and Thailand.
This became the #1 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.
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!