Some bands have pre-concert rituals—praying, drinking, sacrificing goats–Isaac Hanson and his younger brothers Taylor and Zac walk a mile barefoot.
The barefoot one-mile walks, which Hanson has done before every show for over one year, raise awareness for AIDS and poverty in Africa. Now, in support of the “Walk Around the World Tour,” Hanson’s goal is to get 24,902 people to walk with them—the number of miles it takes to literally walk around the world.
Hanson is also releasing a book in November, along with an EP called Take the Walk, about their trips to Africa and the experiences they’ve had doing walks across the country.
“This book is not a memoir or designed to be like ‘hey look at how special we are’ kind of book,” Isaac Hanson said. “It is supposed to encourage people to take action in the world, and to motivate people to leave the world better than they found it.”
The book can be pre-ordered online, and it comes with digital downloads of the songs on the EP, along with a CD copy when the book is shipped. The EP is also given any time the book is pre-ordered at a Hanson show.
“The book is designed to be an inspiration,” he said. “We’ve tried to boil it down to an emotional understanding of what a young American’s role in this issue might be.”
Isaac said that he is disappointed the issue of poverty and AIDS in Africa is not a big one on the platforms of presidential candidates.
“Obviously the economy right now is a big focus and the price of oil, and I understand that,” he said. “But I really hope the next president will say it is not just our job as the government to give money but it is our job to help you understand the challenges of the world and how you can help as an individual.”
Isaac said there is a large opportunity for economic partnerships in Africa.
“If we can do it with China, we can do it in Africa for sure,” he said.
Still, some critics of Hanson have questioned why they focus on Africa rather than issues in the United States.
“The issues in the United States pale in comparison to issues in Africa,” he said. “There are not people here living on a dollar a day. 75 per cent of cases of AIDS in the world are not in the United States, and 6 million kids every day are not being orphaned here. When you really sit down and look at it, this is an area of the world that needs a friend.”
Isaac said people can understand what it is like to not have something on the walk.
“They understand what it is like to have a need,” he said. “We can be a generation that delivers the kind of hope people need. They just need a hand up, not a hand-out. They need partners and we can be a part of that.”
The songs on the EP are direct continuations of the message of the walk and the message in the book, Isaac said.
“Songs like lay me down is what happens every weekend in Sowetto, South Africa,” he said. “The streets are congested because everyone is going to a cemetery, where hundreds of funerals are going on, and most of them are kids.”
Still, some criticize the music as being too preachy.
“I would never qualify the music that way,” he said. “This is not about guilt, and if it ever becomes about guilt, then it is wrong. We have power unlike any other generation; we can deal with these challenges. We are severely underestimated.”
Isaac said many people have a desire to lead on the issue. Hanson set up a website, TakeTheWalk.Net, where people can organize their own walks. The band will donate $1 to the cause for every person that comes to the walk.
“In a world filled with turmoil, there is nothing better you can do in the world than save the lives of people who need help,” Isaac said.