NASHVILLE CITY PAPER
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Former teen hit makers Hanson carry success to adulthood
Ron Wynn, rwynn@nashvillecitypaper.com
Posted: Thursday, October 2, 2008 1:26 am


During the late ‘90s, Isaac, Taylor and Zac Hanson became huge stars. They were among the biggest music stories of the summer of 1997, particularly after their CD Middle of Nowhere made Hanson international celebrities.

Today they’re not only older and wiser, but thoroughly in charge of their destiny as performers. Hanson has operated its own record label for more than four years. They began their “Walk Tour” last year in Nashville at The Wildhorse Saloon, the identical site of Friday’s return concert with the band Everybody Else.

“The incredible response we got from the fans in Nashville really helped launch our tour and showed us that the fans would respond positively to the campaign,” Taylor Hanson said. “The whole ‘Walk’ program is designed to show what individual citizens can do if they participate to help bring about positive change in society. You don’t have to be a celebrity to contribute, and that’s the main message that we’ve tried to emphasize during this tour.”

“The Walk Tour” is a campaign to fight poverty and AIDS in Africa, and Hanson has partnered with American company TOMS Shoes. For every pair of shoes sold, the company donates another pair for a child in Africa.

The group asks fans in every city to join them in a one-mile barefoot walk before each concert to represent what a typical African child goes through on a daily basis. In addition, a dollar is donated for every mile that the fans walk, and they choose from a list of charities where their contributions will be donated.

The ultimate goal is to walk around the world, and raise the subsequent funds matching the destination.

Interestingly, in the hit single “That’s Just The Way We Roll” from the Jonas Brothers — who are, to some extent, this decade’s equivalent of Hanson, they reference the band with the line “Pop and lock, battle dance against Hanson.”

“We haven’t really had that much contact directly with them, but we respect their music and have heard that they feel the same way about us,” Taylor said. “We can certainly talk to them about the pitfalls of stardom and the things that we went through, and also about what it takes to sustain yourselves and really be a band rather than just a momentary sensation.”

While their song “MMMBop” forever pegged the Tulsa, Okla., trio in the eyes of critics and some fans as the epitome of bubble-gum pop, Hanson began as an a cappella singing group and covered plenty of R&B and rock ‘n’ roll hits from such legends as Chuck Berry and Bobby Darin.

They all started as pianists, but later Isaac began playing guitar and Zac drums, while Taylor remained on keyboards. They’d already made two independent albums of material a lot more diversified than much of what was on Middle of Nowhere, but once that disc clicked, and other things like a fan magazine, documentary and even Hanson: The Official Book made them huge celebrities, the group discovered the other side of fame.

“We got caught in a bunch of record label mergers and consolidation,” Taylor said. “We ended up on Def Jam, which is a fantastic company for rappers and R&B, but not exactly a place that really knew or was comfortable with our type of music. But they didn’t want to let us go because we were still making plenty of money for the company. So we went through a whole three-year period of bringing them songs and having them turned down (almost 90 cuts).”

The group subsequently kept touring, even after the label pulled support from them, maintaining their careers through their own funds.

Finally they began 3CG Records, establishing distribution deals both in America and overseas with major firms, while retaining creative control over their content. The 2004 CD Underneath became one of the top-selling indie releases of all time, and they’ve continued to record and tour.

A celebrated documentary Strong Enough to Break illuminates the problems they had with Def Jam and the decision to found their own label.

Recent Hanson songs and discs such as Middle of Nowhere, a re-recording of their first studio album, plus an acoustic version of that same item, are now available on iTunes, as well as edited episodes of the documentary Strong Enough to Break.

The single “Go” has also done well overseas, and Hanson can still pack clubs and arenas wherever they appear.

“We’ve always looked at this as something that was part of our lives rather than just a way to make some quick money and then kind of fade away,” Taylor said. “Music is a way of life for us, and something that’s always been a very important part of our lives. We want to keep growing as a band, and continue making discs and songs that have quality and inspire our fans.”