Hanson | Walking Around the World
Written by Jennifer Manjarez
Friday, 19 September 2008

It's hard to believe it's been over 10 years since Hanson first hit the airwaves sending us all into "Mmmbop!" chaos. Young and energetic, the trio had teenage girls screaming their names while they romped across the world, appearing on every media outlet known to man. There wasn't a person alive who didn't recognize the name Hanson or the sound "Mmmbop!" Since then, the brothers have continued touring but with a much different sound, one indicative of their past. Hanson, once a boy band, has developed into a laidback and mature indie band. With individual families of their own these days, the band has taken on a more serious tone, including giving much-needed attention to issues like fighting AIDS in South Africa.

While their sound has slowly changed over time, the past couple years have really set the tone regarding their musical style. Zac, the youngest member of the group, recalls, "In the middle of making the album, The Walk, which is the last album we put out, we were working on the record and by no intention we had a meeting with some friends of ours. The conversation led to something that they were doing with doctors. They were developing a technology for these doctors and they decided the first thing they wanted to do with the technology was give it away to a hospital in South Africa that had pioneered AIDS research. The conversation just really inspired us."

Far from the average move toward philanthropy, Zac insists the experience came about out of pure curiosity. "There never was any intention other than to kind of go and learn and understand the perspective of these doctors who had been working for vaccines and cures and understand the social side of this virus." In an effort to continue on with their album, Zac says, "At the time, we kind of went into it thinking well maybe we'll record while we're down there. We knew we had a label partner down there releasing our records so maybe we could figure something out." This thought, however, was short-lived.

Once down there and face-to-face with the situation, Zac says the direction of the album took a turn into a more poignant message that resulted in at least three songs on the album inspired by their experience in South Africa. Instead of simply recording their album parallel to the trip, they decided to help the cause in their own way and joined the two. "We looked at our friends who had given away their medical technology and it was kind of like maybe this is the best example for what people should be doing. This song may not sell millions of copies but it can provide much-needed attention, resources, and inspiration to people that may make the impact."

When asked how the trip affected the album he admits, "It definitely affected the goal musically just that experience and definitely the inspiration of it that there were as much styles. There are definitely three of the songs on the record with the children's choir that we recorded in Soweto just outside Johannesburg and we also recorded it in Mozambique with another group of kids." It wasn't all that formal, he says, "it was just kids who had been selected because they really love singing and were particularly inspired by that."

One of those songs, "The Great Divide," is available for download through iTunes or their official website. Proceeds from the song help support the hospital and its research to find a cure. Zac adds, "Later we found out that where their school was was really just walks from the hospital that the song was donating to, which we didn't know at the time when we actually recorded the song with them. Realizing more and more that not only were those voices relevant because of their proximity to things, but also because of the fact that their community was directly being affected by the money that was being brought back in by the song." All the tracks recorded on that trip can be heard on the album The Walk, or in concert this fall on the band's Walk Around the World Tour.

After releasing the album the summer of 2007 and a brief tour, Hanson took a short hiatus before starting up the second leg of the tour. "We've had a lot of shows on this album. More and more, I think, we find ourselves loving to be on the road and accentuate that," he says.

With an indie flavor this time around, Hanson may have grown up but insists they haven't lost anything in their performance. "We've always kind of said you've never really experienced Hanson until you've experienced one of our live shows. That's a big part of who we are as a band. It doesn't come through in records the same way; it never can—the energy, the spontaneity." That energy and spontaneity are exactly what have kept them going all these years, and are bound to keep fans coming back for the next decade to come.