Written by Kat Dobay
Videos by American Songwriter
“Collide” is one of Howie Day’s most popular and recognizable songs. In 2005, a year after the song’s release, “Collide” reached number 20 on the Billboard Hot 100.
“It was one of my first big Top 40 hits that was for somebody else,” Kevin Griffin, who wrote the song with Day, tells American Songwriter.
Griffin is the lead singer of the alternative rock band Better Than Ezra, which formed in 1988 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and has since released eight studio albums. While Better Than Ezra is known for the ’90s hits “Good,” “In the Blood” and “Desperately Wanting,” writing “Collide” was a major milestone for the Better Than Ezra frontman.
“It was also the first song that I knew I had to make the tough decision, ‘What’s the best home for this song? Is it me and Better Than Ezra? Or is it somebody else?’” Griffin recalls.
Griffin already had the chorus written when he got together with Day. “I played it for Howie and we finished that song together, and it ended up being a great decision,” he says.
At the time they penned “Collide”, Day was 18 and had just been signed to Epic Records.
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“‘Collide’ almost never happened,” says Griffin. “It became the second single [for Day’s Stop All the World Now album]. And then Epic had moved on. They’d spent tons of money and the sales weren’t really there. And then happenstance, PB, Program Director at a radio station in Salt Lake City, and then Phoenix started playing it. And sales just went through the roof.”
With a boost in sales, “Collide” became certified gold by the RIAA for 500,000 copies sold in September 2005. Griffin recognizes what a rarity it is to have such a successful song.
“A hit is this crazy alchemy, you got to have a great song,” he says. “But you also got to have all these things just fall together. It’s also just luck and perseverance and ‘Collide’ is a perfect example of that.”
In an interview with Carl Wiser, Griffin provided additional details about the meaning behind the song, telling Wiser that “Collide” was initially inspired by Bruce Springsteen’s “Secret Garden.”
Lyrically, “Collide” is about two people who inexplicably come together and find common ground. I’m quiet, you’re not / You make a first impression / But I’ve found I’m scared to know I’m always on your mind, Day sings in the third verse.
“‘Collide’ is about a person who is kind of closed off and insular and not a gregarious person, coming together with someone who is,” Griffin says. “And that despite being two different types of people, you still come together and find common ground. And then literally colliding into one another and how life has a way of doing that.
“That was kind of the angle of the song, but it’s really about someone who’s kind of reclusive and an isolationist,” he continues.
The circumstances were just right for the unexpected success of “Collide,” with everything falling together in just the right way when Griffin made the decision to write it with Day.
“That was a real life changer that defies me,” Griffin adds, “and I think as a collaborator ‘Collide’ opened up a lot of doors for me.”
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