Hanson... On Hanson's Walk for a Cause and Going Indie with 3CG Records
Hanson came on the scene in the late nineties with an infectious single that lit up the charts, and simultaneously overshadowed the abundant musical talent of the sibling trio from Tulsa, Oklahoma. After years of adversity and what seemed like an endless uphill battle to get a record deal, Isaac, Taylor and Zac Hanson also stood in amusement as the sugary pop tune, MMMBop, brought them world wide, caricature-like fame after years of struggle.
What’s more impressive about the three young Tulsa natives is their choice to shun the rock n’ roll single life in favor of marriage, and their refusal to adhere to the moral code and debauchery of the L.A. music scene. Instead, firmly planted in their roots, Hanson decided to steer their energies into philanthropy. The brothers traveled to an African hospital devoted to stopping the spread of HIV and AIDS from infected mothers to their newborn infants. They brought their new message home to the states, incorporating the cause into their concert tours. In conjunction with TOMS Shoes, Hanson takes time out from their busy tour schedule to organize walks with fans in different cities to raise money and awareness for people living in poverty and disease in Africa.
I recently sat down with Zac Hanson, who hit it big with his older brothers at the tender age of nine, and who at twenty-two years of age is a happily married man with a balanced and down to earth demeanor; most refreshing for a former child rock star.
PR.com (Allison Kugel): I
want to start with the work that Hanson has been doing in Africa. What
sparked your interest in visiting Africa, and what did you discover
while you were there?
PR.com: While you were there did you meet any AIDS orphans or people who were living with AIDS? Who did you interact with?
Zac Hanson: The main purpose was to go to the hospital that they were donating the technology to, the research wing of that hospital which was the PHRU Unit. Their focus is to stop the transmission of the virus from pregnant mothers to their unborn children. That’s all that’s in their facility. They do more now. They work on different vaccines now.
PR.com: How is your current
tour being tied in with these mile walks that you’re doing with
your fans to raise money, and how are you raising the money?
PR.com: Let’s talk
a little about your documentary series that is currently on iTunes,
Taking The Walk. I watched a lot of it and it was very interesting.
I know that the documentary takes Hanson from the process of forming
your own independent label (3CG) to the subsequent full production of
your album. Whose idea was it to film Taking The Walk, and
why did you feel it was important to show your fans this entire process?
PR.com: (Laughs) Do you mean record executives or artists or… what’s going on?
Zac Hanson: Well, I mostly mean record executives, but just in the sense that there have been so many mergers in companies, and this musical chairs of people constantly changing jobs and moving. And no one is bright enough in the major music companies to really try to change a [business] model to work with the way people want to buy music. The way they want to sell music is not necessarily the same. They’re still trying to sell plastic, and people don’t care.
PR.com: Meaning they’re still trying to sell hard CDs.
Zac Hanson: Yeah. It’s less that way in the last year. But, during that film and the whole process, we were part of a big merger. There were, like, 200 bands dropped and we ended up on a rap label. It was a bad situation and [the film] showed how we attempted to make it a good situation. We said, “This is not the place where we need to be. We want to be succeeding. We don’t want to just manage failure in a process where they don’t understand what we do and never would have signed us.” So, we formed our own label. That really spawned the idea as we went into this next album, The Walk. So, we started to try and do something on a slightly smaller scale in the sense that it was a podcast. It wasn’t trying to be a movie. But, just to say, “How cool would it be as a fan to be experiencing a record and starting to learn songs from an album, and know why these lyrics were written, or to see them change the songs before the record ever came out?” So that the day you went on tour or the day that the album came out, it was giving people the chance to experience what they already began to love.”
PR.com: Will your label,
3CG, ever sign other artists?
PR.com: Is the corporate mentality unavoidable within the music industry once a label reaches a certain size?
Zac Hanson: It’s always more about the individuals running the company and giving people the ability to make hard decisions. I think possibly the biggest problem with the music industry is more an issue of a mindset and realizing that music is a risk business, and it’s supposed to be a risk business. You’re creating culture. You’re not creating tires. It’s not just about trying to monetize something that looks like what just became successful. It’s supposed to be finding the next big thing, not trying to copy what the big thing is now. When the major music companies went from being privately owned companies to publicly owned companies, the mindset of the companies changed. All of a sudden you start to see the shift to more quarterly earnings and stocks. You start to see more short term thinking, and in most cases it takes longer for records and for artists to find an audience.
PR.com: Why have the three of you chosen to remain in your hometown of Tulsa?
Zac Hanson: Being from Tulsa and being guys from Oklahoma, it’s just always been something that’s been important to us. Not specifically being from Oklahoma, but being a band that represented something and represented being from a place. We never wanted to be just another band from L.A. We’re proud of where we’re from, some of the culture of Tulsa and what it was and what it can be, in the sense of turn of the century, the oil boom, the smart and cool people who are from here, the musicians that have been from here and the influence they’ve had. It’s something that we’re proud of and we’d like to remain in those ranks.
PR.com: And why get married so young? Why not live the single life for a while?
Zac Hanson: Getting married so young, I don’t really look at it as getting married that young. I got married when I felt like it was the right time. It wasn’t about being young. I got married when I was twenty, and we had also been a band at that point for eleven years.
PR.com: So, you felt like you had lived a lot more than the average twenty year old.
PR.com: You seem to have a very loyal fan base. Why do you think you’ve been fortunate in that respect?
Zac Hanson: I’m not really sure. I guess it could be attributed to us. When we first came out we were so young. Our audience latched on to what we were doing and said, “This is a band of my generation and this represents who I am right now.” With everything we’ve done with every record, we never worried about whether it sounded like Hanson or not. We just made records that we feel passionate about. Our original influences were 50s and 60s early rock n’ roll. Those were all hits from “note one” type of songs. So, if that’s your bar, which we still set, even if you’re not worrying about writing a hit, you’re still trying to write a hit song if that’s the bar you’re looking at. We really appreciate everything our fans do. We have incredible passion from our fans. It’s become something more than just a concert or a record. I think there really is legitimately a culture in our fan base of people who are music lovers and caring about things like doing the walks. Hundreds of people walking with us in over 100 degree weather, or on the last tour in Canada where it was freezing! It was below freezing, snow on the ground and everybody walking with us.