Hanson still hot: Brothers have sold more than 15 million records

By | August 2, 2010


Taylor Hanson has been making records for 15 years and has been a pop star for 13. The band he shares with his brothers, Hanson, has sold more than 15 million records, runs its own label and its discography numbers 16, counting live albums and compilations.

And he just turned 27.

“We’ve had fans for years, for 13 years since the first major album, but the good thing is that we’re kind of at that age where we could just be getting started,” Taylor Hanson said in a phone interview. “It’s nice to be in your mid-20s and have a really, really long set of experiences and knowledge about what it is that we’re doing instead of just learning the ropes today.”

Taylor, Zac and Isaac Hanson recently released “Shout It Out.” It finds the band in comfortable territory, making the kind of Top 40 pop and Motown-inspired soul that helped sell 10 million copies of “Middle of Nowhere,” the 1997 album that made them teen idols. “Thinking ‘‘Bout Something,” the new album’s lead single, has even been charming the blogosphere.

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“Shout It Out” was written during a stressful period for the band, Hanson said. They were busy doing promotion and touring for “The Walk,” a 2007 record that Hanson described as especially intense because of its ties to raising awareness of Africa’s rampant poverty. In addition, Zac was adjusting to his first child, Taylor’s family had recently grown to four and Isaac had a newborn.

To relax, they did what they’ve done since pre-school: They made music.

“These songs began to pop up as sort of a fresh breath,” Hanson said. “They were almost moments of solace that would pop up at sound check and between shows. They were reminders that our band is so connected with soul music and early rock ‘‘n’ roll, and that’s really the calling card and the stamp.

“There really was kind of a consensus of getting over the hump with this record, of going back to a little more backbeat, a little more old-school R&B tone. So it was kind of reminding one another of what’s essential to the group.”

Hanson came out of Oklahoma in 1997 with all the trappings of a gimmick band. Isaac was the old man at age 16, with Taylor 14 and Zac 11, but they had been writing and performing for years and had released two independent albums.

“Middle of Nowhere” was produced by the Dust Brothers, then a sign of cool, and eventually yielded five hit singles. The band hasn’t slowed since and has a catalog deeper than a lot of bands, but still can’t completely escape its origins. For many music fans and writers, they’re still a trio of kids.

“You feel a lot like, ‘Didn’t we already have this conversation?’” Hanson said of the band’s image. “You can’t begrudge the reality that it takes a long time for lots and lots of people to have knowledge of what you do. But that being said, between an artist and the journalistic world, there’s definitely, I guess, a lazy bug where people roll off a log and pick up the phone and don’t know what band they’re talking to.”

Hanson is sometimes criticized for being a pop band, which is fine with the brothers. To them, pop means something much different than Justin Bieber or Disney Radio.

“We think of pop and hooks as being an old-school reference, and a lot of people today say pop and think of slick production and synthetic stuff,” Hanson said. “To us, it’s songs with hooks and melodies and something that’s singable for anybody, music that people can connect with.

“Every record has had a certain influence but we’ve never been anything that we’re not.”

Reporter Jeffrey Lee Puckett can be reached at (502) 582-4160.

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