Article: Interview with Isaac Hanson

By | October 29, 2008

Touring has already brought the Hanson brothers around the world in their careers and now they’re on a mission to go that distance again, but by foot. Continuing this fall is their Walk Around The World tour, where along with fans, they take time before each show to walk a mile to help fight poverty in Africa. They hope to reach a tally of 24,902 miles—the distance around the world.

They have grown up since you may have last heard them back when boy bands ran rampant. Last year saw their fourth studio album released off their own label, 3CG, and a book showing photos of their travels in Africa titled Take The Walk is coming out.

Life has been busy for Isaac, Taylor and Zac Hanson with making music, partnering with organizations like TOMS Shoes to help provide African children with shoes and still maintaining a home life with their wives and children. Isaac took time to discuss a little about what they’re trying to accomplish, their fans and even, Bono.

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You will be releasing a book with an EP accompaniment soon. How are all of your experiences and what you saw in your journeys in Africa translated in them?

One of the things that the EP is all about is not only describing some of the emotional things that are going on, but also to inspire people and give people a little lift. There’s songs like ‘Follow Your Lead’ and ‘Hope It Comes Soon’ that are motivational songs. Then there’s ‘Lay Me Down,’ which is about a very tragic subject that happens all the time in Africa—the thing that no parent wants to ever do is outlive their children. People that are born with HIV and AIDS, only have a three year life expectancy if they are untreated. This song talks about being a dad and trying to address the emotions and the subject and ultimately say that I’m not ready to go through this.

Then does ‘Lay Me Down’ hit home a bit harder for you guys because you all are fathers?

Well of course, having children and having that perspective.

Is it harder to do live then?

In some ways it makes it hard and in other ways it makes it closer to home. The thing that makes it hard is also the thing that makes it important or the thing that makes sense. Because you can only imagine how you would feel if your child you love, was this child. So, it helps to make the song more real. Sometimes it’s feeling something even though you don’t really go through it is as powerful as actually going through it.

How do you feel people can get inspired by the book and not feel overwhelmed by where to start?

First of all, the book comes from a point of view that all of us are having. Which is ‘Where do I start? Is it really an issue that I should deal with?’ No, it’s not necessarily your problem. But at the same time, the other side of it is nothing valuable is ever easy and sometimes a generation of people is called to be great.

Well, it’s somewhat similar to our grandparents who fought the World War. It was their time to prove themselves and luckily they prevailed. And I think in a similar way it’s a challenge for our generation today. Thirty five million people have died from this virus, 70-some-odd percent of cases of HIV/AIDS in the world are in sub-Saharan Africa. And it’s also overwhelming poverty and that’s what creating the problem as well. People aren’t getting educated, people don’t have a way to learn or understand what is going on. Thirty-five million people have died, 14 million kids are orphaned by the virus right now and it’s expected to be 24 million by 2010.

I don’t think people know the stats, it’s scary.

It’s really scary. This is a disease that is killing off the people that are making the economy work, the people that are raising the young. And ultimately, the economic impact is staggering. It’s an opportunity for us as young people to say, ‘You know what? We don’t need to storm beaches with guns, we need to storm hills with help. We need to be a partner.’ And I’ll plant one quick seed for you. There’s a thing called microcredit and it’s one of the profound ways that Americans, the average American can help out average Africans in a way that was somewhat impossible years ago and was just a fully developed concept. I think that’s one of the incredibly hopeful elements of the future.

With all you are doing for overseas, are there organizations you want to help here in the States in the future?

We have an obligation as people to leave the world a little bit better off than the way we found it. Sometimes it’s in our own backyards and sometimes it’s an ocean away. We do have challenges in the U.S., there’s no question. And I hope that the next president of the United States is wise enough to see that it is not just the job of our government but ultimately the job of the president to inspire people.

Switching gears to music, did starting your own label make you see the music industry differently as artists?

Well I think that seeing the music differently caused us to start our own label. Ultimately it was not the easiest solution. In a lot of ways it might have been more immediately comfortable for us. But I guess it’s that kind of western- entrepreneurial-Oklahoma-something-crazy in us that just said, ‘The music business is falling apart and the only thing that matters is our relationship with our fans.’ If we have our own record company, we have the freedom to serve our fan base countless ways that would otherwise create tension between the record company and us.


Do you think that it would be easier if the music business was as it used to be?

Well, I think there’s an incredible future ahead of us, but I think it requires a couple of things. It requires entrepreneurial bands. Bands who are willing to do the work and understand the responsibility to manage themselves and not be afraid to do the things that every band has to do starting off. But they have to be willing to continue to do that once they are succeeding in a broader way. I don’t think that’s all that dissimilar to how it’s been for a very long time. But the thing that has changed is the way that fans get music.

Fans have to understand that piracy is a big problem and it’s ultimately coming from upcoming bands who cannot make money because they can’t sell enough records to pay off the money they spent making it. A reason why it’s become a problem is because the record companies were ignoring the fact that the world was changing. Getting stuff for free is only the symptom, not the cause. The cause is that people need to discover music, they want to find it, they want to be excited about it.

Do you feel there’s a lack of music appreciate with outlets like MySpace, where there’s so many songs out there for fans to jump around to?

I think it’s part of our culture right now. Things like social networks have become a big part of people’s lives. I do think people take for granted the value of music in their lives. But I think there’s a growing appreciation of music and I think there’s a lot of great music out there. Our hope is in the future we can start helping people to find good music and ultimately that we can be a filter as well. We can be the people that can say ‘Hey, check this record out!’ and people believe you. And I think that’s part of the problem. People feel like MTV, radio stations and things like that are just talking heads. They don’t trust them, they don’t feel like their opinion matters.

I read that Bono is a fan of your music. Speaking of him, with all your charitable work, do you think we’ll be considering you guys the new Bono later on?

[laughs] You know, I can’t even answer that question. All I can do is live my life as best as I can today. I hope we have a long future ahead of us and we believe in the fact that we have fans that are responding to things that we feel passionate about and I hope that that continues and I hope that will grow. I hope that people will feel like they can trust who we are and that they can have a relationship with us as a band and that turns into, who knows what that will turn into.

Check Hanson out at the Paramount Theatre in Asbury Park, NJ, on Oct. 30 and at the recently opened new venue, The Wellmont Theatre, in Montclair, NJ, on Nov. 1. For more info, visit hanson.net.

Photo Credit: Bryan Johnson