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Hanson: A Look at the Band You Thought You Knew

Hanson.

No, don’t stop reading yet. I know you’re seeing three blonde-haired teens singing their overplayed smash-hit Mmmbop and thinking, “Wasn’t one of them a girl?” And then, “They’re still around?”

Hanson, (guitarist Isaac, 27; pianist Taylor; 25; and drummer Zac, 22) are still alive and well. They’re touring with their new album, The Walk, as well as promoting TOMS Shoes (for every pair sold, a pair goes to a child in need from Africa: one for one).

But what got Hanson started on their passion for Africa? Zac took some time out of his day to talk to me a bit about the work their doing and their tour, which comes to Hamilton December 3rd.

“We were really inspired by some guys from Tulsa giving away medical technology,” Zac said. “[It] found us. We didn’t chose Africa. We were making our album and it was just kind of put in front of us, these guys who were giving technology away.” Wanting to learn more, the guys stopped recording their album to take a trip to South Africa. While they were there they recorded their newest single, Great Divide, with an orphanage children’s choir. The chorus the children came up with, Ngi ne Themba, means “I have hope.”—a powerful statement. All proceeds of Great Divide (available on iTunes) go to HIVSA, a hospital that supports people infected by AIDS.

“It’s about putting what you have to work.” And what Hanson has is music. When Hanson got back from Africa, their partnership with TOMS Shoes was created. TOMS founder, Blake Mycoskie, started a shoe company eighteen months ago based on the idea that he could make a difference by using what he had. He used shoes to make an actual difference instead of just creating awareness. He wanted to help people and figured that if he could make shoes, he could give shoes. Hanson’s album the Walk and the idea behind TOMS just clicked.

Before every show Hanson joins with their fans for a barefoot walk to push people to action concerning the issue of poverty. Shoes may seem like a little thing, but try walking a mile without them.

“Walking barefoot…puts things in perspective. It’s about walking to understand a need for maybe, like, twenty minutes of your life. I walked twenty minutes yesterday [in Kansas City] and my feet were freezing. Some days your feet are burning. After every walk my feet are raw and sore. [It makes you realize] the difference between what we think of as needing and what someone in poverty thinks of as needing. Shoes change the way you live your life.” They’re tools that help change their ability to access things such as education, employment, and health care.

Zac stresses that now is the time to act. Young people don’t have to wait until they’re successful to make a difference. “We need to act because the last twenty-five years have been full of awareness campaigns. How do we find tangible actions to make an impact now? It’s better to give something smaller now, because the problem gets bigger while you wait.” He stressed the action of an individual. Something small done by one person turns into something big when joined by fifty thousand others.

This is no longer the boy-band from 1997. They, and their music have gone deeper and pushed farther, and the plan for the future is to continue doing just that. They’re exhausted right now between their work with TOMS, their tour, running their recording studio, and their families; but they realize how blessed they are to be able to make a difference through doing what they love. “Even ten years ago when I got asked what I thought I’d be doing in ten years, I knew what I wanted. I’d be making music. As long as we still have fans we’ll travel the world and keep releasing albums.”

Check out the Great Divide video at www.hanson.net or go and order a pair of shoes from www.tomsshoes.com. Becomes part of a campaign, not of awareness, but of action.