Article: Hanson thriving after split from record label

By | October 11, 2009

Eagle Tribune

Taylor Hanson says he and his brothers, Zac and Isaac, have never let themselves believe they couldn’t do whatever they wanted, so long as they put their minds to it.

This trait — along with some genuine musical talent — probably explains why this one-time teen pop group has done what is exceedingly rare in the music business. They’ve built a career in a field where most teen stars see their careers flame out before they’ve reached an age when they can legally drink a beer — even at a venue at which they have performed.

With Hanson’s latest CD, “The Walk,” it appears the group is positioned for the kind of long term career the three brothers have said they wanted ever since they catapulted to the top of the pop charts with the 1997 hit song “MMMbop,” when they were in their early teens. (Oldest brother Isaac was 16 at the time, and Zac was all of 11.)

“It’s a record that’s kind of about saying we’re survivors, and ‘The Walk’ is the journey,” Taylor Hanson said in a recent phone interview. “It’s not a run. It’s not a sprint. It’s not a chase.

“We’re not going anywhere. We’re not going anywhere as far as leaving. We’re headed straight forward. And I think that’s what ‘The Walk’ has done. I think it’s cemented further just the qualities that we hold essential to this band.”

In reality, though, Taylor Hanson knows his group’s career could have very well hit the skids had the group not made the bold move five years ago to break away from its major label deal with Island Def Jam and start its own record company.

The group was making its third album, “Underneath,” at the time, and found executives at Island Def Jam — which after mergers had a roster weighted more toward rap and R&B — to be unsure about the CD or Hanson’s musical direction.

“We found ourselves having sold millions of records standing in board rooms with corporate label guys from a rap label that had no idea what to do with us,” Taylor Hanson said. “And we saw every major label that looked almost like carbon copies of that.”

So Hanson negotiated its release from Island Def Jam and started its own record company, 3CG Records — a bold move considering band-owned labels at the time were very much unproven ventures.

“Underneath” became pretty much a transitional album for Hanson, in both a creative and a business sense. Its acoustic-rooted sound signaled a shift away from the sugary pop elements of Hanson’s early music toward a more mature — and credible — style rooted in classic soul and rock music.

“The Walk” took that musical growth process further. For this CD, Taylor (keyboards/vocals), Isaac (vocals/guitar/bass) and Zac (drums/vocals) plugged back in and crafted an appealing sound that combines the pop sensibilities of their early songs with a punchy soul-rooted sound. “The Walk” has prompted comparisons to Maroon 5, and while Hanson’s sound leans more toward pop/rock, it’s an accurate enough reference point.

On a business level, the group was able to have enough success with “Underneath” and “The Walk” to put 3CG on solid footing and put in place the mechanisms for promotion and distribution that should allow Hanson to have the resources and visibility needed to have a viable career.

Hanson has also used the freedom of being a do-it-yourself group to get involved in the fight against poverty and the spread of AIDS in Africa.

While making “The Walk,” the three brothers visited Africa and saw firsthand the tragedy of AIDS and poverty. Since then, the group has undertaken a variety of efforts to raise money to fight AIDS in Africa, including a pre-concert walk on the day of every show. The band, which announces the time and location for the walk on its Web site on the day of each concert, donates a dollar for every person who completes the one-mile trek.

On this fall’s tour, the group will continue to do one-mile walks (barefoot at that) before each show. And when it comes to the gig itself, the group will have something new for its fans — a handful of songs to play that will be on the group’s next CD, due for release next year. Acoustic versions of four new songs are included on a new EP, “Stand Up Stand Up” that Hanson has released as a preview for the next CD.

Taylor Hanson said the group will also include some special songs in the set, such as covers or older tunes that haven’t been in the band’s recent live shows.

“We have a lot of amazing fans that follow us or come to multiple shows,” he said. “So we always go to lengths to make it (the live show) unique and make it fresh.”

Hanson with Hellogoodbye, Sherwood and Steel Train

When: Wednesday, Oct. 14, at 6:30 p.m.

Where: House Of Blues, 15 Lansdowne St., Boston

Tickets: $35, $26

Info: 888-693-BLUE or www.hob.com/venues/clubvenues/boston/