Take a 'Walk' with Hanson
Thursday, April 24, 2008
Music writer

As this piece is being written, the members of the band Hanson - Zak, Taylor and Isaac Hanson - are likely walking the streets of Rochester, N.Y., followed by what is most likely a throng of enthusiastic fans.

This is not a video shoot, or some forced recreation of the hysteria that followed the success of their 1997 wild pop hit "Mmm Bop."

This walk is about inspiration.

It is about the now-indie band being inspired and hoping to inspire others.

Hanson is on the third leg of a tour supporting "The Walk" - their self-released CD of new songs that was partly inspired by a trip to Africa. The physical walk they take with fans before each show, a one mile "Barefoot Walk," is to raise awareness about the AIDS crisis in Africa and to hopefully inspire social change.

"We've done the walk in all situations, rain or shine," said Taylor Hanson, gearing up for the trek through Rochester. "The only way we won't do it is if there is a chance it would put fans through some undue misery."

The pre-concert walk has brought out a mix of Hanson fans.

"There are some that are just surprised," Taylor Hanson said. "They are not really expecting you to walk out the front door. But in a lot of cases they are people that have been to a bunch of these walks and they are almost part of the crew. They are really interested in what we are doing and in some ways proud to be part of something. It has been very rewarding."

Hanson admits that he and his brothers thought long and hard about "preaching" about anything, but in the end realized that their goal has always been to affect their audience.

"There is a moment of truth there when you wonder if people will stick with us or if it will fail miserably," he said. "It comes down to realizing that we couldn't not bring our other passions to the table. It comes down to being inspired and if you are going to affect people, why not in a way that would motivate you."

Not that the band's existence these days is built solely on social consciousness. They are still an indie band that is trying to survive in an ever-shrinking music business, a plight that is as consuming as their charitable drive.

"Indie music is really the heartbeat of who we are right now," said Hanson.

The band has a documentary that can be watched in installments on YouTube and another that airs on www.hanson

.net The group utilizes as many Web resources as possible to reach out to fans.

In 1997, the band sold 4 million copies of its debut "Middle of Nowhere," earning three Grammy nominations. Just seven years later, after parting ways with its label and cutting ties with the corporate side of the music business, its first indie record, "Underneath," sold 40,000 copies upon release, making it one of the top-selling indie records of all time.

Hanson plays the Calvin Theatre tomorrow night. Tickets are available through iheg.com or by calling the Northampton Box Office at (413) 586-8686. For information on the band's pre-concert mile jaunt through the streets of Northampton, log on to www.hanson.net