Taylor Hanson [HANSON]
TH: Hello, How are you?
FV: Hi, I’m good how are you?
TH: I’m good. Nice to talk to you.
FV: Nice to speak with you too. You ready to kick this off?
TH: Go to town.
First, let’s talk about your new album The Walk. What direction did you take with this record? Do you think your musical style has changed?
Um, has it changed, it’s sort of a trick question because at its core honestly I think we’re really the same band at least. In some ways on this album we were really going back to influences from early on. I mean, it’s actually more sort of R&B influences, and has sort of some old school elements to it. The way we recorded it was very, you know, off floor live. You know in the room. That’s actually kind of like it going back to how we started, but at the same time there is definitely a … there’s an evolution in sound for sure.
If you listen to Middle of Nowhere and then you listen to The Walk, you definitely would hear a huge difference. I think the thing about this album was we really wanted to make sure that our messages came through clearly. The things we’re talking about, the lyrics we’re talking about and also sort of just the musicianship of the band. So, I think that’s probably the biggest difference about this record; and there are just a lot of messages that we’re putting out there for people to try and grab onto. Just things that we really… we didn’t want people to miss.
You’re currently on the second leg of The Walk tour, what was the cause of splitting it into two parts?
Oh what’s the point in splitting it? Well, in this particular case there was a specific reason why we split it. Isaac had a really severe health scare; he actually had a blood clot in his arm in the middle of the last tour. We basically had to take a break, he had to get the surgery done… we had to take care of that.
How is he doing now?
He’s actually doing very well! He had a pretty intense surgery where they had to remove part of his top rib because a vein was being pinched in his shoulder that was creating a problem. Amazingly he’s gonna be fine and in fact they say… the doctors encouraged him to stay active and take care of the problem, but continue to play to keep things moving. But, that was a big deal so really since December, we said we were really going to prepare for the next tour, continue to promote the album… but, we had to break it up.
You know, sometimes we like to tour… even when you don’t have to take a break like that, because sometimes you need to leave room for people… to not overexpose yourself to the fans and give them a little break. There is also touring in different parts of the world. For instance, later this summer we will be in Latin America and Europe… later on in the year is the plan. So, the plus of going to different places sometimes creates a break in the tour in the States, or wherever you may be.
So, you’ll be touring Latin America through the summer and into the fall?
The dates aren’t confirmed as of yet, but it’s going to be the end of the summer and then we’ll also be in Europe throughout the fall.
Can you tell us more about your collaboration with TOMS Shoes to take action against the HIV/AIDS epidemic and poverty in Africa?
Yeah! The TOMS collaboration has been really organic. Actually, after we released the song, “Great Divide” as a charity single, there was just a sense that we wanted to find a way to give people something tangible that they could do, and a find a way to connect on a very honest level. So, basically we had this idea of these barefoot mile walks, and the thought being that we could again do something tangible that anyone could do. The idea with TOMShoes was a fantastic company with a very simple idea, just buy a pair of shoes and the second pair is donated to a child living in poverty. As we were going into this tour, TOMS had originally announced that they would help reach the goal of 50,000 pairs of shoes and they were also focused on going to South Africa, and just knowing our shared goals, we reached out to TOMS and say, ‘you know, let’s get together and talk about how we can do something.’
Literally just over coffee, we sat around with Blake who starts TOMS and just brainstormed about ideas, and just say ‘hey, we’d like to do these one-mile walks at every show and bring TOMShoes with us and encourage people to take action by buying a pair of TOMS as a way of… people can make a difference.’ That was really the connection that we both shared an interest in connecting with individuals in a very honest way. Basically, The Walk campaign kicked off last late summer and yesterday was our fifty-second mile. We’ve walked more than fifty miles and we helped TOMS reach the goal. They reached the goal that they set out to make of selling 50,000 pairs of shoes and in the middle of the last tour we made our way to Africa and joined TOMS with the shoe-drop delivery. We delivered the shoes because that’s what we set out to do, saying ‘Hey, we’re going to complete the job. We’re not just going to put the shoes in a crate and send it off. We want to go and have people see us literally putting shoes on their feet.’ You as a demonstration for our own kids, you know this is very tangible which you can do. It’s very real and the impact is real.
What a fantastic cause you are doing! That was such a great idea.
Well, thank you very much.
Going back to you the tour, you have the band Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers, as well as new artist, Kate Voegele, opening up and fans seem to be responding well to them. What’s the process you go through when choosing your touring mates and who you think is the best to open a Hanson show?
Well, it’s a mix of things. It’s something that people who are working on your team, you know, bringing ideas. Or there are labels or managers that say ‘hey, we want our band to go out with you.’ It’s also that you’re coming across bands that you’re interested in and say, ‘well this band would be great’ and then touching base with them. As far as picking acts, it always has to come down to someone that we think musically works. I mean we don’t like to take people out that we feel won’t connect with our fans. And also, we’re very focused on introducing people to music. We feel we’ve always encouraged our fans to be open, I mean we’re not going to put somebody on the tour with us if we don’t think that they at least have something cool about them. So, we encourage our fans to really get into it, to have a good time, and be open-minded to whatever is going on.
In that matter with Stephen Kellogg, they definitely have a base and have been touring for a lot of years. It’s kind of cool to see their different fans that are big followers of them and they come out to see the Hanson show.
Is there any truth to the rumors that you don’t intend to perform “MMMBop” at every show?
No, that’s definitely not the case… it’s probably just the easy rumors starting. There was only one show so far that we didn’t play it at, because we ended up playing one of the other tunes off the first record instead. But, yeah in fact almost… pretty much every show we play that song.
It’s a crowd pleaser!
Yeah, it’s a crowd pleaser and its funny though… like it is a crowd pleaser, but at the same time it’s not really the song that… it’s not the peak of the show. You know what I mean? People do want to hear it that makes total sense. It’s strange because when you go to see a show… it’s not actually, sort of the most ruckus causing tune. It’s just sort of that song that everybody knows. It’s like when I went to see Counting Crows and I wanted them to play “Mr. Jones”.
We’re never afraid to play it, it’s like we made a point of just talking about the fact that it’s not crossed the ten year mark with that album [Middle of Nowhere]. It’s been ten years, so singing that song carries a meaning, just thinking about… you know we’ve had a lot of fans have stuck with us a long time so it’s pretty amazing.
You guys recorded an acoustic version of that album! You actually performed “Yearbook” for the first time, live at that show. Will you be performing other songs from the album that you don’t play too often; such as “Speechless” or “Lucy”?
It’s a possibility, yeah! I mean, “Lucy” is another example of not having done… pretty much at all. Yeah, I think that’s something we’ve been having fun with. It’s just throwing in some songs we haven’t played very often. I will tell you one thing that’s great about having done this thing for so long and having now, a really broad repertoire… you know, we have a whole lot of songs to pull from. There are always so many tunes that we can’t play in one show, it allows for a lot of options for… you know, let’s throw this curve ball in and let’s put this song in there.
Switching gears – The media often compares Hanson with the newest brother act, the Jonas Brothers. How do you feel about that? Do you think they have more of an advantage then you did by being apart of the Disney machine and the popularity of internet marketing?
You know what… I don’t envy their position being marketed by the Disney machine. I really, really hope that they’re able to figure out a way to transfer what they’ve got going now into a long-term thing. With them, I think in some ways they’re at more of a disadvantage than where we were when we started, because the business is so turned upside down and they are apart of such a huge engine with Disney that figuring out a way to transition away from that and create something that people are going to connect with and going forward, I think will be a challenge.
They seem really talented and they seem genuine about it… so, tell them I wish them the best. I think it’s a compliment to be compared from the point of view of, you know, they’re brothers that play and make music… but, obviously the music is very different, really. In fact the only real comparison is just that we are brothers and there’s sort of a tone to the attitude that they’ve got… sort of a very positive group.
You’re right though, because the industry is turned upside down. It seems as though, when you release an album these days it comes with a movie, reality series and a clothing line. You guys never did that and you stayed grounded. Are you glad that you never feel into that?
Well, I mean getting there and having all these things… it’s not that every band doesn’t get those opportunities, everybody just doesn’t take them. We did have a lot; especially early on when people were even more inclined to sort of go for something that was a cheap shot… you know the ‘Oh, let’s do this’ kind of cheesy thing. We just turned them down; we just said we weren’t interested in that stuff. We were never trying to cash-out. It’s like everybody thought we were in the casino, when were actually over there putting our money into stocks and bonds. Everybody else was like, “Casinos!” [Laughs] “Let’s go make some bucks right now!” We’re like, “No, are you kidding? We’re going to take all of this stuff and walk over to the bank. We’re going to hire an investment firm.”
That’s the way we were… trying to turn this into a career, not the money itself. But, you know that was always our perk. That’s the way we’ve always looked at it too. I think the TV shows and the things that we have done, as far as letting people inside the story of Hanson and sort of doing things that are more about the ‘celebrity’ or sort of, the ‘personality.’ We’ve done a documentary; we’ve done podcast and we’ve done cameos on various things over the years. But, ultimately the idea of making a career out of a collection of totally celebrity driven things, we tried to not focus on it.
Speaking of the documentary, “Strong Enough to Break”, which followed the journey from your split with Def Jam Records and the start of your indie label. Can you tell us when fans will be able to see it in its entirety?
When will they finally get it? [Laughs] You know, we are actually making plans to put it out finally. We’re not giving any dates, but the goal is to put it out this year. I mean, the thing about it was we decided when we’re planning on releasing it that the idea of putting it on the podcast in streams allowed us to reach different people and allowed us to make it more liquid, and people could get a hold of it. It’s clearly not something we’re going to make a whole lot of money on, or something that’s going to be a massive, exploding hit. It’s something that’s appealing to people that are interested in that now, and also to fans and people who heard about it. Our hope is to put it out this year.
Well, your released your last two records, Underneath and your latest The Walk off your indie label, 3CG. Are there any plans to sign other artist?
We do plan on signing other bands. I mean, the thing about the way we’re set up is that we really do run everything and a label traditionally does the albums… records… releasing things… promotion. But, aside to the “record company”, we also manage a lot of certain aspects of Hanson’s business — whether it’s our web stuff, online fan club, or merchandising – all those sorts of aspects for the band. One of the things we decided to do is not sign a band that we couldn’t afford to put all of our energy into. I think our goal is to get to a point where we can devote a lot of energy to a project. Also, as a band we’ve just been trying to learn what it is that we really can provide as a label, what services we can provide, and what a label really should be doing today. We’re waiting to really say, “This is the motto what we think is going to work,” and sort of using our own projects as getting big projects and figuring out how to provide a better service for our fans and for the fans of other artist.
It was just announced that you’ll be doing the annual Rock Boat early next year. Can you tell us more about that?
The Rock Boat is just this fun thing! There’s a ton of different artist to do it and it’s basically like a cruise ship filled with a bunch of bands and fans have the opportunity to buy one ticket and spend about five days on a big ship, seeing way too many bands. I mean, it’s ridiculous. We were asked to do the Boat and we thought it was a great idea for us, especially with our devoted fans… the ones that are active. With us trying to come up with things that are unique, I think that plays into the idea of doing things that somebody can really get into a connection with… a special type of event, something that’s not the norm. That works. It’s just something that’s unique, we’re trying to create opportunities that fans that are not the “average fan”. Not just a passive fan, but somebody that is more active in the Hanson community. They’ll think, “Oh, that’s cool! I’ll check that out.” It’s also cool for us to just let people know that this is happening a long time in advance. It’s been often that tours are announced late when things are coming together. But, to be able to plan next January, something is going to be happening with Hanson.
It’s a new way that fans will be able to experience your music! It’s really cool. Do you know how many shows you’ll be doing?
We will be doing three shows on the Rock Boat. It will be a mix of certain things, and you know one of the reasons we did it too is that we had so many friends who had done it. I mean everybody from Michael Tolcher, who is also on this year. We know that from touring with the guys a little bit. Umm, other bands like… Barenaked Ladies, Guster, Keeton Simons, Stephen Kellogg… who just recently did it, I believe. You know, Kate Voegele had done it, which I didn’t realize until right when we first met Kate. It’s a mix of different things, you know to be asked to be on it… it seemed like a great thing to try out, have a fun time with it and it be something special for our fans.
Since our magazine is aimed at bringing fans closer to their favorite artist. When we interview musicians with such a dedicated fanbase like Hanson’s, sometimes we like to throw in a question or two from fans.
Justin actually wanted to know the stories behind your songs, such as, “Fire On The Mountain” and “Been There Before”.
Well, “Fire on the Mountain”… it’s actually almost a little bit too deep to go into it fully. I mean, I will tell you that the song interestingly is one of the songs that almost didn’t make the album. It was an idea that we kind of had on hand. We were actually getting towards the end of the record and a friend of ours heard a demo we were putting together of it, and he was like, “Wow, you guys have to record that song! It’s so cool.” So, then we kind of assessed it and said maybe we should, so it kind of came back to the end of “Running Man” at the last minute.
The song is about that sort of undeniable half reality of the fact that we run from the thing that’s in front of us and we have to respond to the challenges that we’re faced with. As people and as humanity, we are presented with clear messages, with these things that are apparent… these challenges. Often times, we sort of push ourselves away and hide from them. You know, ultimately it’s like the song says, in the end it’s “Live, learn, life, love, die, dust, gone.” You go through these steps where things can happen, no matter what and you have to open your eyes to the messages that are coming across, the things that are meaningful and decide if you want to be apart of it. The song was necessarily written about our journey in Africa, but interestingly as we went forward, it really became more poignant in that way. I think it carried a lot of meaning that can hopefully encourage other people to understand some of the things we talked about with TOMS and just encouraging people to get involved.
Um, “Been There Before”… actually the core of that idea was around 2001 and we’ve been working on this song for a long time. We sort of had it in the back of our minds and had known that it was going to come together at some point. It was always really about music… how it moves you, and how art influences and inspires what we do. It mentions how Otis Redding talked about two men sitting on the dock of the bay and you know the fact that his plane went down, and the whole world sings his songs. It talks about the man in black on the screened in porch singing “Chariot Swing Low”, and that was a reference to Johnny Cash and his music. Ultimately, everybody’s been down on the street corner in their town, in the place that they’re from and we’ve all kind of been there before. We’ve all heard that song and it’s pushed us along in some way. That’s what the song is about, and how music is the soundtrack to your life, and how we are all sort of connected by it — by the messages and the music that inspires us. Also, it’s really a direct reference to our story and how music artist have motivated us and been apart of our personal story.
You know, the music is the soundtrack of your life, and I want you to know that I have been a fan of Hanson’s since the beginning. I also love the new record, the songs are so intense and I think it’s some of your best work.
Oh, thank you so much! I really appreciate that.
Thank you Taylor for taking the time for this interview.
No worries! It was good to talk to you.
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