More than 10 years after their debut album, “Middle of Nowhere,” the members of Hanson have become seasoned veterans of the music business, despite only mere 20-somethings. Currently in Canada and soon to be in St. Louis, Hanson is returning for the last leg of their “Walk Around the World Tour.” Started in fall of 2007, the “Walk Around Tour” was a major element in their work with TOMS Shoes, which donates a pair of shoes to needy children in Africa for every pair purchased by customers.
In addition to TOMS Shoes’ donations, Hanson also donates a dollar for each fan willing to take a barefoot mile-long walk with them before shows to demonstrate the difficulties shoeless African children go through on a daily basis and to raise awareness about other issues in Africa, such as AIDS and poverty. Isaac Hanson spoke very strongly about these topics in a recent phone interview.
“HIV is incredibly preventable if people understand what it is, but that’s a big part of the issue in Africa: an incredible lack of understanding of the virus itself,” he said.
There is always a measure of cynical reaction to a story about a celebrity doing good deeds, and the Hansons are well aware of the dangers of involvement with charitable causes.
“You always have to be careful when you start to talk about issues, because you never know if you’re going to turn people off of them,” Hanson said. “But we had to take that risk because it’s really important to us.”
They take their roles and responsibilities in charitable work very seriously because the brothers recognize the importance of individual work in changing the world.
“The government is like a giant Band-Aid: It helps, but ultimately, it has to be fixed from the ground up, while simultaneously being fixed from the top down,” Hanson said. “It has to be a partnership. And that’s why we want to have people know that a mile-long walk makes a difference.”
Isaac also recognized the influencing power of Hanson’s fan base, especially when in supporting their endeavors—musical and charitable alike.
“There’s no question that over the years the fan base has evolved. It’s exciting to see the people who stuck it out for 10 years, and the new people coming to our shows,” he said. “I don’t know what to credit for that, but we try our best to honor our fans.”
That reciprocal dedication to their fans was evident after the band needed to cancel it’s most recent trip to St. Louis when Isaac Hanson was hospitalized for a pulmonary embolism.
“It wasn’t a dramatic car wreck,” he said. “It was much subtler and scarier than that because it sneaks up on you.”
With Isaac having to undergo emergency surgery, Hanson was forced to reschedule a few shows–including the one at the Pageant in St. Louis—but resumed touring almost immediately. For something potentially fatal, a lack of a recovery period might be too much, but Isaac shrugged off the suggestion that it was too soon to resume touring.
“If the doctor said to me, ‘Look, you’re not going to be able to safely go out there and continue being a musician,’ I would seriously have had to reconsider my lifestyle,” he said. “But he didn’t say that. In fact, guitar playing is a good thing for recuperating from a surgery.”
Being confronted with mortality leaves a mark.
“My view has always been that life is short, and you need to make good on the time you have. That hasn’t changed,” he said.
Indeed it hasn’t. While it was a life-affirming experience for him, he doesn’t plan on living his life recklessly any time soon. As a public figure and a father, he understands the importance of upholding responsibilities.
“You don’t know how long you have, and you should be 100 percent yourself,” Hanson said. “You should live your life with passion, but also with convention, knowing that you want to be remembered in a positive way.”
It’s been more than a decade since their most well-known song, “MMMBop,” and things have changed in many ways since then—a fact that Hanson certainly acknowledges.
“I think our approach to music has always been similar, but the inspiration is always new. I like to think that every record expresses a very unique experience behind it. Hopefully, we’re getting better every time.”
And what about bands that they simply enjoy?
“There are plenty bands that we like now, but I don’t know necessarily if they influence us. For example, I think the Electric Six is just a really awesome, interesting band. And the band that’s touring with us now, Everybody Else, is a really cool ’60s pop band.”
Hanson will be playing in St. Louis Tuesday September 23 at the Pageant. Tickets are still available.
The doors open at 7 p.m., and the show starts at 8 p.m.
But Isaac Hanson has a final word for everybody, fans and haters alike. “Even if you don’t come to the show, come take the walk. It makes a difference.”