by Megan Pellegrino, Cabrini '09
Isaac Hanson: Well “The Walk” itself is our forth studio release. It was in part inspired much on the trip we took to Africa during the working on the album. I guess you can say really the message when we released the record was even more directly associated with our trip.
When we took our trip to Africa in 2006 while making the album, we had some kids from a couple schools. One from an orphanage and one from a school in South Africa sing on a couple of songs and it really just felt like amongst other things that it was a perfect opportunity for us to support a much needed issue, HIV/AIDS in Africa. When we were there we were really struck by the fact, not really the poverty issue, although poverty is an enormous problem and for most people traveling to a country outside the United States for the first time, the poverty would be striking. For us, it wasn’t so much the poverty, it was really that our generation of people, people in their teens into their twenties were a primary group of people that were being wiped out by AIDS. It was this realization that it is our generation that is dying from this disease. It is ultimately our generation’s challenge across the ocean and so we really felt like it was time for us even though there was no perfect solution to get started. So we made our song “The Great Divide” a charitable single, we created some other merchandise items charitable as well and started there and then as we began to promote the album, “The Walk,” we knew we needed to take it further.
Campus Philly: You said you went to Africa in 2006, can you tell me how you approached going to Africa?
Isaac Hanson: How it came about was in part I mean obviously we’ve been very aware of the issues in Africa for a long time and actually have been reading a lot of different books about the issues and trying to get our heads around it because it’s clearly an enormous global issue. We had definitely been very aware of the issue and the reason why we ended up going when we did was because some friends of ours in Tulsa, Ok, had developed a medical technology that was something that would make American lives convenient. It could ultimately save lives in Africa and they have not made a dime on it yet. They basically said, you know what we want to give this software program away to this research hospital, Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital in Soweto, South Africa. It has an official population of 1 million and an unofficial population of 4 million. Most of the population is living in abject poverty. So we went with them to the hospital because we wanted to talk with doctors and we wanted the opportunity to really see what was happening and get some information out of the horses mouth as you might say. This provided a really unique opportunity for us to get into the door with some really exceptional doctors and really hear what they’re going through. What we were just struck by was the magnitude of the issue. Finding out how well the research was going, but still how far they needed to go. One of the things that struck us was 98% of children who are born to HIV positive mothers, can be born without the virus. That in itself is remarkable. In 98% of the cases you could stop the future of infecting the virus at birth. That is remarkable because there are so many children who are being born with this virus and if they are not treated properly, ultimately, 100% of these kids are probably going to get this virus in Africa. It can all be stopped with providing the proper drugs and treatment.
Campus Philly: What is your primary goal in fighting this tragic epidemic?
Isaac Hanson: Our goal was to do that and help out with these issues. We started in late 2006, carried into 2007 and then we started touring about a month and a half two months after the record came out and we began these one-mile barefoot walks. The goal with these walks was to help our friends at Tom’s Shoes who would give away a pair of shoes every single time they would sell a pair of shoes and help them reach their goal of selling 50,000 pairs of shoes and in turn they would give away 50,000 pairs of shoes to South Africa. We wanted to be a part in helping them out and we began the process of starting the walk and taking our shoes off and walking a mile barefoot for this cause. In Nov. 2007, we helped them reach their goal. Now on the 2008 tour we are continuing those walks. We have done 97 walks so far. Our goals are now to provide more than just shoes. We are planning to drill a well, build a school, planning to make sure 250 mothers get antiretroviral drugs to make sure that they do not pass on the virus to their children as well as access to medical technology.
Campus Philly: Will there be a walk in Philadelphia on Wednesday?
Isaac Hanson: Yes there will be, absolutely.
Campus Philly: Where will it take place? Is it something anyone can be a part of or is it only open to concert goers?
Isaac Hanson: The plan is to always do it from in front of the venue. In almost every case it’s from in front of the concert venue that we’re playing at. Anybody can come to it. You can check takethewalk.net or hanson.net. They both have information about the time of the walks. Almost all of them are at 3p.m. It would be great to come, even if you are not coming to the show because we give a dollar for every single person that walks a mile on this tour to a cause in Africa. The goal is to walk around the world, 24,902 miles walked each persons mile is counted. This is how we are going to be drilling that well, building the school and providing the medical access and medicine to those mothers. People can also go to takethewalk.net and donate up to any amount to those causes that they feel inspired by.
Campus Philly: Is the outcome of your album “The Walk” what you expected?
Isaac Hanson: Well I think we’ve done very much what we wanted to do with regard to this record. Every record’s different and you really never know how people are going to respond to albums and I think one of the things that has been really encouraging to us is particularly in a world where we have had a down turning economy and also an economy where concert tickets overall had been down, one of the coolest things has been, especially on this tour, we have seen our concert numbers stay very very strong and people are coming out to these walks. People are coming to these shows and it’s been a really exciting thing to see that. Certainly the walk has done well for us and we hope that people will continue to discover Hanson’s music in some form or another through these walks or a show or through a friend who says hey check this record out. It’s one of those things for us where it’s a career long thing. It’s not just an album by album basis its about the years and the future as well as the years in the past. You just keep going and feel good that your still doing it because it’s a hard road, and we feel like we’ve done well. Especially because, when you are a fan of a band, it is not expected in the afternoon to show up for a one-mile barefoot walk at a concert and the fact that we have had tens of thousands of people who have done this over the course of this year.
Campus Philly: Do you feel that “The Walk” has finally found Hanson’s niche, would you say this definitely represents Hanson as a whole compared to when you first started?
Isaac Hanson: That’s a little difficult to say; because I think every record you would definitely be able to tell that our records tend to evolve. They pull from similar places, but they definitely have unique qualities to each one of them. I will say that “The Walk” is the most true to a live performance of any album to date. The reason is because we performed it live. We made sure that it was as bare bones as it could be. What we wanted to try and do on this album was try and simplify the amount of colors musically speaking and really draw out who Hanson was as a band, as musicians, not just as songwriters or vocalists. This definitely highlights the true essence of the band. I will say the next record we are currently writing will have qualities of “The Walk” but it’s going to be different. I don’t know exactly how to describe it… I’m very excited about the next record as well. Each record is a little bit different, but this is Hanson now, for sure.
Campus Philly: Does the next record have a release date or name yet?
Isaac Hanson: Not yet. Although we are shooting for around this time next year. Well actually a little bit before… we’re shooting for late August, early September of next year.
Campus Philly: One final thing, if someone was walking down the street and they never heard of Hanson or “The Walk” and you had to give them one sentence of why to go, what would you say?
Isaac Hanson: It’ll change your life.