Article published Sep 26, 2008
Hanson fights poverty foot by foot

By Amanda Greever
of The Daily Times Staff

They've always had a message.

Hanson burst on the scene 10 years ago with their smash-hit "Mmmbop" and encouraged listeners to hold on to what is important. Zac Hanson was 8 years old when he wrote the song with his older brothers, Taylor and Isaac. He was 11 when the song earned its success. It garnered the trio Grammy nominations and was No. 1 at the same time in 27 countries. "It's a song that I think is more relevant to our fans today than it was 10 years ago," Zac Hanson, now 22, said recently in a phone interview from Calgary, Canada. "The song is all about the choices you'll have to make. About the fact that so many of the things in your life are fleeting, that they're going to pass. They're going to get older. A lot of your friends won't be there. A lot of the things you thought were important won't be there anymore. And that you really need to look at your life and say 'What matters to me?' And hold onto those things. Hold onto those things that make you who you are."

The song's title was a word the brothers made up, but the meaning wasn't as frivolous. Neither is the message that their 2007 release "The Walk" is trying to get across. They're bringing the third leg of their tour to Knoxville Wednesday night.

When The Walk Tour began last fall, Hanson organized pre-show one-mile walks with their fans to help bring awareness to poverty in Africa. They also began a partnership with TOMS Shoes. For every pair of shoes bought at their shows or through their Web site, TOMS Shoes also donated a pair, eventually culminating in 50,000 pairs of shoes being delivered to African children.

"It helped illustrate to ourselves and our fans what we're talking about and why we're doing The Walk," Hanson said. "With the new leg of the tour, the idea for us is to try and talk to our fans about them leading walks. We've never wanted this whole walk campaign to be about walking with Hanson."

Now with the third leg of the tour appropriately called "The Walk Around the World Tour" Hanson is trying to achieve 24,902 miles (walks), which is approximately what it would take to walk around the world. They've set up a Web site,, to help get walkers organized. They can find walks or even set up their own. Each walk helps to combat poverty in Africa. According to the band's own Web site, each mile that is walked and registered will result in one dollar being donated to one of five causes: clean water, shoes, building schools, providing access to health care or supporting medical research.

Hanson also said that a new book and EP will be hitting the streets, "Take the Walk." The book chronicles the band's story efforts in fighting poverty and tells the backstory of "The Walk." Hanson said it's a tool for those wishing to help the effort.

"It's a story of imperfect solutions that we've come across. Just our story of why we first went to Africa, what we were inspired by, who we were inspired by, the different people we've come across, the different types of stories that have crossed us as we've been doing these walks." Hanson said.

The EP that comes with the book serves to bridge the gap between the band's last album and their next release, tentatively scheduled for next summer. Four songs were specifically written for the companion EP, and one is a cover of a gospel song.

"I think it's a companion for the stories we think about while we walk. There's this song called "Where Did It Start?" which talks about where did this all come from but at the same time we're so far beyond where we started, does where we started even matter anymore," Hanson said. "We just have to look at what's in front of us and figure out how to fix it, not worry about the blame or how we got here."