By Sarah Hepola
Here's a shocker: the little boys who sang "MmmBop" are all married now. They have four children between them. Three of those children belong to Taylor, now twenty-four, the band's frontman, who is as famous for his pretty face and his golden locks as he is for his songwriting chops. Since crashing the Top 40 (and your head — admit it, you can hear "MmmBop" now) in 1997, Hanson has continued to make albums and, much more impressively, hold on to their fans. (On a sad note, the band's tour was briefly put on hold last week when eldest brother, Isaac, twenty-six, had emergency surgery for a pulmonary embolism.)
A Hanson concert is populated by the same screaming girls who kissed their posters in the late '90s, only now those girls are in college. Maybe they're married, too. The amazing part is that they don't just know all the lyrics to "Where's the Love"; they know the lyrics to The Walk, Hanson's new album, an independently produced collection of catchy pop as inspired by 70s classic rock (Steely Dan, The Doobie Brothers) as the Motown sound that once defined them. While Hanson was in town for a (sold-out) concert in New York City, we sat down with Taylor and his brothers Isaac, and Zac, twenty-one, to talk about their new lives as husbands, their pasts as teen idols, and their futures as fathers. — Sarah Hepola
Each of you got married relatively young. Why was that?
Zac: Most of it is that none of us were scared of it. In this society, most people push off responsibility till they get older. "Oh, I can't have kids. That would take away from my own personal time." Or, "I can't get married. That means I'd be committed." We've been making music since we were little, and that meant making sacrifices for what you really desire and love. It's easier for us to say, "I'm willing to sacrifice these things to live a fuller, richer life with someone." We were always on a slightly different time schedule than some people. If you're doing you're job since you're eleven . . . It was nine years after I started my first job that I got married.
Taylor: I really, honestly never thought I wanted to get married or have kids. But I was ready. I mean, obviously, it's about finding the right person. But they also say it's about knowing yourself, and I think that's why I felt so ready. And our business, it's almost like there's so much going around, so much happening — the idea of doing the same thing all the time, I was ready for that.
There has been such upheaval to your life, it makes me wonder if there was a yearning for stability.
Taylor: That's probably part of it. And a moving stability. When you get married, it's your own little support system.
Zac: In some ways it's easier to have that stability, but in some ways, it's harder because you're responsible. You're not looking out in the audience, going, [to imaginary groupie] "Hey, baby." You're looking to the side of the stage, going, "Okay, what do I have to do tonight to keep the love?" And I've only been married a year, and I know that's the game. To keep your relationship vitalized. To work through the crap.
Tabloids recently have been obsessed with child stars gone wild. For me, it highlights how you guys have managed to keep normal lives. How did you do that?
Zac: I think the biggest element is that it was always our creativity and our desire to make music that put us in our position. I mean, it was also dumb luck, but we were the creative force.
Taylor: This business is so much about excess. And Lindsay Lohan has nobody telling her, "You're an idiot." I think she's talented. She's probably smarter than the Parises of the world. With us, it's not so much that we're clean-cut; it's that we're not completely in excess. We drink and smoke and go out, but we're not completely out of control.
Zac: And actors aren't in control of their careers. They're reading someone else's lines. For us, it was always our music, and we didn't want to screw that up.
So, I'm wondering how to put this: Taylor, I find it shocking that you have three kids.
Isaac: It's shocking to me that he has three kids.
Taylor: It's shocking to everyone I know.
Zac: But we grew up with seven kids in the family, and most of the people we grew up with had three, five kids.
Taylor: It sounds crazy. When you have kids, and you know them, it's great. But from the outside, it's pretty abnormal. It's probably the fact that our lives have been chaotic. I'm probably addicted to it in some ways. Having kids is organized chaos — organized in that they're technically in your control.
Isaac: He lucked out that his youngest is the mellowest kid ever. And his eldest is very smart and parental.
Do you worry about giving them a normal life?
Taylor: When I first got married, my wife and I were talking about how our younger siblings had a crazy life — because they were even younger than us when things started happening and we went on tour. And we didn't want it to be too much for our kids. But then you realize most people live boring lives. Normal is kind of glorified. Ezra looks at me now, and he goes, "Can I order room service? When are we getting on the bus to watch a movie?"
Isaac: He doesn't say it in a privileged way. It's just matter-of-fact for him.
It's not like he has a rider.
Taylor: Actually, he does have a rider! Look at all these M&Ms. But honestly, we're very conscious of that. It's probably a lot of the reason why we kept our homebase in Tulsa. It's a very average town.
Zac: It's literally the most average town in America.
Isaac: It doesn't hurt that we all have our wives, and they're all Southern. They're very traditional, very into manners. There's a right way to do things and a wrong way, and our son will have manners, or he'll be in big trouble.
You were in the public eye when you were very young. How did it feel to be attacked for your long hair, or your music?
Zac: Honestly, very few people attacked our music. That's the reason they attacked our looks. When people took the time to listen to the music, it was hard to say anything besides, "Okay, well, maybe I don't like it." It reverts to, "Well, I gotta find some way to make fun of them."
Taylor: Whether or not they like the music, it's legitimate. It's not somebody manufacturing something. We're just a band of guys who write their own songs. "MmmBop," yeah, it might have been cheesy. But it was written by an eight-year-old, so what do you expect?