Hanson Gets Serious On Tour

Gary Graff, Detroit

They're not necessarily turning into Bob Dylan or Rage Against The Machine, but look for Hanson to explore more topical material in the wake of the success of "Great Divide," the single from the sibling trio's 2007 album "The Walk."

"You're always trying to do new things," guitarist Isaac Hanson tells, explaining that visits to poverty-stricken areas of South Africa and Mozambique helped inspire the group's more serious leanings.

"We're actively writing our next album," Hanson says, "and the issues of poverty and Africa in generally have really opened an opportunity to even more actively write music that is more sensitive to those kinds of stories. It's always important that you write a song that's got a good hook; we have no qualms about that. But certainly these next few years will definitely expose further more of the 'Great Divide' type of things, some of those types of messages throughout our music."

Hanson is keeping its socially conscious feet forward -- literally -- while on tour. After donating proceeds from "Great Divide" to AIDS treatment and research in South Africa, the trio is holding one-mile barefoot walks at each of its tour stops, encouraging fans to join them. Besides raising awareness, the walks are also promoting an initiative by TOMS shoes to donate one pair of shoes to African youths each time a pair is purchased in the U.S.

Hanson is also preparing for its return to this week's South By Southwest Music + Media Conference -- this time as a playing concern. The brothers met their manager, Christopher Sabec, at the 1996 SXSW, where they busked on the street and sang for industry execs at the annual closing picnic and softball tournament. This year the group will play a regular showcase and appear on DirectTV's "SXSW Live" broadcast at 8 p.m. Thursday.

"Now we get to do a real showcase and we can actually get into the bars," Hanson says with a laugh. "It's going to be a lot of fun, and I think South By Southwest is still a really good event. I think it does have a lot of value for bands trying to get things going, to either increase awareness of their band or launch some initiatives. We're looking forward to it."