MMMBoys! Hanson shows its grownup side

By | October 4, 2010

WestLinn Tidings

Hanson knows a thing or two about longevity in the ever-changing music industry.

Transforming from the three young boys in Tulsa who had teenage girls worldwide chanting gibberish words like “MMMBop,” the now twenty-somethings are each husbands, fathers and touring in support of their summer release “Shout It Out” (3CG Records).

The album’s name seemed relevant at their Sept. 22 Wonder Ballroom performance in Portland – as young men and women (and a few parents) – mouthed every lyric the Hansons penned in the past decade. For the band that allegedly holds the record for the loudest concert in music history, the show proved that, while the Hansons and fans may have grown up a bit, their optimistic, soulful tunes with catchy choruses are as contagious as ever.

Nominated for several Grammy Awards, their messages are positive, their talent is raw and they treat each of their fans like friends.

Catching up with lead singer and keyboardist Taylor Hanson, 27, via telephone after the show left me inspired – and melting into my phone as I quickly dialed my girlfriends to squeal. (And I’m not one bit ashamed).

My second time interviewing the singer, he again impressed me with his entrepreneurial advice and the importance of spending time away from the microphone to market his band and reach out to fans. Coming to Portland is always a fun part of his job, he said.

“There’s always a good energy in the crowd. It’s a good music city,” Hanson said.

Here are a few highlights from our chat, and I’m sorry if MMMBop is not stuck in your head – what power I have:

Tidings: Did you guys do anything fun while you were in Portland?

Taylor Hanson: “At the end of the night, we went to Voodoo Doughnut. I’m the resident foodie of the band, so I’m always up for a food adventure. … We got a massive doughnut that’s bigger than your head and one of the Cocoa Puff doughnuts, Captain Crunch (doughnut and) a bunch of the sprinkle ones.”

Tidings: Your set list at the concert included songs from all five of your studio albums. How do you decide which songs make the cut?

Taylor Hanson: “Knowing that we hadn’t been in Portland in a while, as far as doing an electric show, we tried to go back into the archives a little bit more.”

Tidings: You’ve donated thousands of dollars to those with HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa on behalf of your fans that walk one mile barefoot with you before concerts. Your website is super interactive – with live feeds for fans to see you play live as well as postings on Facebook and Twitter. Why is your connection with your fans so important?

Taylor Hanson: “We’re kind of the first generation that’s watched it all happen. We were young, and a lot of our fans were younger than us or around the same age when we first came out. … A lot of bands that were mainstream and at the top of the charts (at that time) didn’t really have (that same fan interaction) because their audience wasn’t ready to embrace (technology) as much. For us, it’s unique because we’ve had … 13 years of cultivating a connection with fans that have been fueled by being able to have that personal connection.”

Tidings: How have you managed to stay away from paparazzi TV shows like TMZ and tabloid websites like PerezHilton.com? Why are you guys not in rehab?

Taylor Hanson: “I would hope it’s because we have a few brain cells. TMZ is a vicious and sad condition that our country, somehow, is embracing. I don’t know why. … Most artists and most successful people are not in that category. It’s a very small percentage of people who either got in this business really not knowing who they were and so they fall back on abuse or fame for the sake of fame. … We’ve had our hairy moments, but we have our heads on our shoulders. We like what we do. … It’s the kind of thing where, if you don’t want to be seen, that stuff won’t be seen.”

Tidings: How do you stay so positive? “Shout It Out” is a fun record with upbeat, feel-good rock and roll songs. Tell me about coming up with all these words.

Taylor Hanson: “It’s a more upbeat record from top to bottom aside from a couple detours. But interestingly, if you actually look at the lyrics, all the songs that are positive are saying ‘We have to get through it.’ Life’s not that easy, but we have to see the light at the end of the tunnel.’ … The songs and words are drawing you forward and helping you through it. … It’s sort of ‘finding your way.’ ”

Tidings: What advice do you have for musicians out there trying to make it work in the music industry?

Taylor Hanson: “Be dedicated to it and … be patient. … You have to have a healthy impatience and not be willing to settle but also have a long-term perspective and vision.”

Tidings: You mentioned that you have to have continual drive to further your career. What do you mean? How do you stay energized?

Taylor Hanson: “There are times throughout your career when things fast forward and you get to leap forward and rush past a bunch of hurdles. And then you have a whole other set of hurdles, and you’ll have to continue to jump over those. … Nobody else is ever going to care as much as you do so; you can’t expect other people to step up and pull you.”

Tidings: You said that, when your wife and four kids are on the road with you, it could feel like “a traveling circus.”

You’ve experienced so many cultures and life lessons while traveling the world, I’m sure. What do you hope your kids learn from you?

Taylor Hanson: “If anything, (I hope) they see the example of sticking to what you’re passionate about.”

Tidings: When your kids and your brothers’ kids grow up, will there be another Hanson band?

Taylor Hanson: “There will never be another Hanson. There may be other Hansons that make music. I can’t say that one of our kids won’t turn out to be a great musician. That’s up to them. Hopefully, they’ll pick another name, or that would be confusing.”

Nicole DeCosta is the West Linn Tidings editor and the editor of the Homes and Style sections, which appear in the Lake Oswego Review and West Linn Tidings. She also writes features for the Review and is a musician.