LOS ANGELES -- For the past few years, it wasn't easy being John Ondrasik.
The one-man band known as Five for Fighting was faced with the unenviable task of following up a career-defining pop smash, 2000's "Superman (It's Not Easy)," which became an anthem of survival after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
"I knew from day one that no matter what I wrote, considering what happened with 'Superman,' that it would never be another 'Superman,' and nor should it be," Ondrasik told AP Television News. "So, I just kind of thanked the stars that I got another shot to do what I do. I sat at the piano and just spent a year writing songs again."
He can breathe easier now. Five for Fighting's latest, the contemplative ballad "100 Years," is skipping up the "Billboard" magazine Hot 100, currently at No. 35. The song is perhaps the most "Superman"-esque of those on the new Five for Fighting album, "The Battle for Everything" (Columbia). Similarly, "100 Years" is another pop oddity: a bittersweet self-portrait with a sing-along hook.
Ondrasik could relate to the lyrics as he was battling the songwriting muse in the studio.
"You know, '100 Years' came late in the process," he admits. "I'd written this song years ago called 'The Man Who Lives Backwards.' And I think that might have sparked '100 Years.' Literally, the song is about a guy looking back on his life markers: Find love, family, crises. And asking himself, did he live it or watch it go by?
"And I find myself - you know, it's a lot easier to write it than to live it sometimes. I think we all can understand on how we've got to focus on what we've got to do tomorrow or the next day, or reminisce about the past. But you've heard it a million times: All we have is right now - good, bad or ugly. And I think that's really the sentiment of '100 Years."'
Ondrasik says that while he enjoyed breaking out with "Superman," success is even sweeter this go around. As a Los Angeles native, he knows that such second acts are rare things indeed.
"I just hope I get to make another record," he says. "Every time I sit down to do this, my goal is to make another one. In the music business today, I don't think you can look past that. It's reality. And I'm just going to try to write the best songs I can. And as long as people care to hear them, I'll keep doing it."