When they emerged with the 1997 hit album, Middle of Nowhere, it wasn’t unfair to lump Hanson into the same category as other boy bands.
They had all the gooey harmonies of bands such as N’Sync, they were undeniably in the realm of harmless school girl-friendly pop and, unlike some of their peers, they were actually boys.
Never mind being old enough to vote or even drive a car. At age 11, singer/drummer Zac Hanson would have just barely finished passing under the, “you must be this tall to go on this ride” cut-outs at the local fair.
A DIFFERENT WORLD
Today, it’s a different world and boy bands don’t command the charts the way they once did.
Playing the Edmonton Event Centre tomorrow night, Hanson seems poised to outlive them all, with more than a decade and a lot of lessons learned.
“If we have any longevity at this point, I think it’s because we followed our own gut and never catered inappropriately to other people,” says Isaac Hanson. For Isaac, writing their own songs and playing their own instruments has allowed the band to form a more honest connection to their music.
“That doesn’t mean that there aren’t incredible artists who take others’ songs and make them their own,” says Isaac. “Look at Aretha Franklin, for example.”
LEARNING THE HARD WAY
It also doesn’t mean there aren’t potential pitfalls to sticking to your own material, too. Hanson learned this the hard way when the band’s label, Island/Def Jam, began rejecting dozens of songs meant for the group’s sophomore major-label effort, This Time Around.
“We had a very negative situation,” says Isaac. “It was the whole hip-hop label, pop rock band thing and it didn’t work out too well.”
Or did it?
The experience forced the brothers to start an independent label, 3CG, home to Hanson’s latest record The Walk. Today they are in a good place.
Sure, the band’s playing the EEC in West Edmonton Mall instead of Rexall Place, but Isaac says they’d rather have a fulfilling career than launch hit-or-miss attempts at platinum record status every time they exit the studio.
And if The Walk is any indicator, the benefits of that kind of freedom may reach beyond Hanson’s own bank accounts.
Not requiring an iota of buy-in from anyone else to do so, Hanson returned from a trip from Africa with the sudden urge to create Great Divide, an aid-generating song – in the smooth pop style you’d expect – that utilized a recording of African school children.
From there, they just ran with it.