When you hear the name Hanson, it’s only natural to think of “MmmBop,” the band’s catchy No. 1 hit back in 1997. But if that’s all you think of when you hear the group’s name, then you’re really missing out.
Performing at the House of Blues Nov. 8, Isaac, Taylor and Zac Hanson are promoting their latest album, The Walk. The band’s fourth studio release, The Walk follows in the footsteps of 2004’s Underneath, which became one of the most successful self-released albums in history when it debuted on the Billboard Independent Chart at No. 1 and on Billboard’s Top 200 at No. 25. If the realization that the boys from Tulsa have kept their careers on track over the years, releasing yet another Top 5 Billboard Independent Chart release during their journey from pop moppets to distinguished gentlemen isn’t enough to shock you, then think about this: Bono has called Hanson’s music “genius.”
“If you’ve only heard ‘MmmBop’ or ‘Where’s the Love?’ then there’s definitely a big change in perception,” Zac, the youngest Hanson, who just turned 22, told What’s On with a laugh. “I mean, I was only 11 then. That’s not me now, and we want people to know what we’re doing now. But at the same time, ‘MmmBop’ got us to where we are and it’s a part of what people love about us. I’m very proud of that song.”
Something else Zac is proud of is the fact that, like Bono, Hanson’s making a difference in the world. Having teamed up with Toms Shoes in an effort to aid Africa with the band’s latest tour, the multi-Grammy nominated act will be selling Toms shoes at each tour stop. For each pair purchased, a pair of shoes will be given to a child in need during Toms’ upcoming shoe drop trip to South Africa and Ethiopia.
“We can’t just keep waiting for a better solution,” Zac said. “There will never be this big red button that will solve the world’s problems. We need to use what’s available, and this is proof that something so small can make such a huge impact.”
No stranger to making a difference with their music, Hanson donated proceeds from their 2006 single “Great Divide” to HIVSA, an African AIDS relief organization. The single, which was released exclusively on iTunes before the release of The Walk, helped introduce the band to the digital age, an era Zac admitted the industry is still adjusting to.
“The digital nature—trading songs on the Internet, the iPod—that’s been the biggest change to the business,” Zac said. “It changes the way people listen to music, how it’s sold…People always talk about ‘American Idol’ and how reality TV changed the business, but really ‘Idol’ is just ‘The Monkees’ flipped backwards and spun around. The digital format is new. And while it helps music, it does hurt artists. You always hear, ‘Oh, artists don’t need the money’ [when someone shares a song], but with ‘Great Divide,’ that money went to charity, and I’m sure there are people out there who have the song on their iPods who didn’t give any money. Music needs to find a new avenue to be sold—coupon books, something. It really needs to figure itself out.”
While Zac and his brothers ponder the best way to release their music in the future, one thing they don’t have to worry about is how their new lives (all three of the Hanson brothers are now married, and Isaac and Taylor have kids) will affect their careers. Despite being known as a cutesy family act, Zac said the group never really thought of themselves that way, and growing up doesn’t necessarily mean the band will grow apart.
“If we were just a band because we were brothers, we would have fallen apart by now,” Zac said. “But we’re brothers who just happen to be in a band. Sure, there have definitely been moments where it’s been like, ‘Enough!,’ but our love for the music is what’s kept us together.”
From puberty to marriage, boyhood to fatherhood, it’s clear that Hanson doesn’t plan on going anywhere anytime soon. And while the band continues to mature both inside the recording studio and out, with a whole new generation of Hansons out there, it’s only natural to wonder if the guys will ever bring their infectious pop/rock tracks back to the demographic that made them famous.
“Who knows,” Zac concluded with a laugh. “We always love the challenge of experimenting with different styles; maybe there is a possibility of a Hanson/Raffi duo in the future.”
By Heather Turk