Born: 03/14/83 In: Tulsa, OK Is: Musician
Taylor Hanson was only nine years old when he formed a band with his brothers Isaac and Zac in their hometown of Tulsa, Oklahoma. A few months after his 14th birthday, the band’s bubblegum single “MMMBop” broke the sound barrier, rocketing to the top of charts the world over and copping three Grammy nominations. Since then, the group has kept pretty quiet, although contrary to popular belief they never actually broke up. In the years since their major-label debut, Middle of Nowhere, they’ve recorded four more albums and have another due out in the spring of 2010 — one that will “get back to the core… pop and soul elements that weren’t as much on our last couple records,” says Taylor. But while the Hanson boys keep plugging away at their musical careers, a few things have changed. For one thing, they’re not exactly boys anymore: All three of the brothers are married with children (seven, between the three of them), and their voices are noticeably lower than the pubescent crooning on “MMMBop.” And for another thing, they’re now an indie band — they released their third and fourth studio albums on the 3CG label they started in 2003.
As it goes, Taylor’s been getting some on the side, too. In 2006, after years of batting around ideas with his friend Adam Schlesinger of Fountains of Wayne, Taylor says, “we started talking about doing this straight-ahead live-guitar record and kicking me out to the front of the stage without an instrument, just to be a singer.”
“Kicking out to the front” is a little misleading — Tinted Windows is clearly a vocal showcase for Taylor, who usually shares the spotlight with his brothers. But it’s not as if he’s at risk of eclipsing his other bandmates; if anything, he’s learning from them. “The whole idea of doing Tinted Windows is really writing with other musicians,” Taylor says. “It stretches different creative muscles.” Backed by former Smashing Pumpkins guitarist James Iha and Cheap Trick drummer Bun E. Carlos, Tinted Windows is a super-group in the vein of CSNY or the Traveling Wilburys, and its members’ illustrious rock ‘n’ roll histories are immediately apparent on the band’s eponymous first album, which has a distinctly glam-rock vibe, with an underlay of the same pop-savvy songwriting that made Hanson a Clear Channel mainstay in the ’90s: Imagine the Darkness covering “Wonderwall.”
There have been distractions, to be sure — though not the debauched type one might expect for a young musical heartthrob. Taylor is happily married, with four kids (he met his future wife, Natalie Anne Bryant, when he was 17; they wed two years later). “I’ve had a great life,” Taylor admits. “I don’t have a lot of complaints. But it’s definitely a path that sets you apart from your peers. You have to really be ready to take it on, in all of its glitz and grit.” On closer inspection, Taylor’s life does seem to be suspiciously idyllic for a former childstar — especially next to the most obvious example, the late Michael Jackson. Taylor counts the King of Pop among his biggest influences, but acknowledges their paths couldn’t be any more different. “He had some pretty unhealthy things within his family,” Taylor says. “We’re lucky we didn’t have that. We just happened to be young when we started. We would say to people when we started, ‘Sure, I’m fifteen right now but I’m not going to be forever.’
With three sons of his own, the odds seem high that the world may someday see a Hanson 2.0. “My kids are really musical,” Taylor says, “and they very well could go on to make music.” Dad is already preparing himself for that eventuality. “I would be a little freaked out,” Taylor admits, “but I probably wouldn’t have any choice.”
Wears: a jacket by Thom Browne, shirt by Versace, pants by Marni, shoes by R.M. Williams, tie by Dolce & Gabbana, vintage suspenders from Screaming Mimi’s, silver ring by Tiffany’s