Taylor Hanson talks modern music, famous fans and his ‘highly musical’ kids

By | November 3, 2010

Tampa Bay Times

Want to feel old? Listen to this: Taylor Hanson is 27.

He’s older than Marc Zuckerberg. He’s older than LeBron James. He’s older than Rihanna, Rafael Nadal and Scarlett Johansson.
Criminy: He’s older than the Fox network.

“Especially with the last album, we’ve started to see a younger contingent of fans,’” said Hanson, the lead singer and keyboardest of his eponymous band of brothers. “We’re talking about younger fans, and they’re still in high school and college — which makes you realize, ‘Wow, we’ve been doing this for a while.’”

When MMMbop took the world by storm in 1997, critics not only praised the song, but predicted Hanson’s sheer talent would enable them to stick around the music industry for the long haul. Turns out they were right. Oklahoma bros Taylor, Zac and Isaac Hanson have aged well since their days as pixieish blond preteens, releasing album after album of well-received rock ‘n’ soul and winning over fans who, believe it or not, couldn’t care less about MMMbop. They’d rather hear later songs like Penny & Me, Go or Thinking ’Bout Somethin’, from their 2010 disc Shout It Out.

Not familiar with those singles? That’s fine. Just know that tons of Taylor-loving women in their 20s know the lyrics by heart, and will be singing along when Hanson plays the State Theatre Friday night. The band performs at 7 p.m. Friday; tickets are $25. Click here to purchase.

We caught up with Taylor Hanson by phone from his Oklahoma studio, where he was working on a five-disc DVD set, 5 of 5, consisting of live performances of each of the band’s five albums.

I’m going to the show in St. Pete, and I’m looking forward to it. But you probably won’t be surprised to know that my wife played a big role in our decision to buy tickets. Do you get a lot of that in your crowds — husbands and boyfriends who are incapable of stopping their wives from buying a ticket?

(laughs) Well, I hope it’s not too painful for you. You know, there’s a unique dynamic with the band. You have, on one level, guys who were probably 14 when I was 14, who are like, “Man, I hated you — all the girls were screaming; they had their Hanson posters on the wall, and I wanted to put a fist through it.” But that goes away over time. We’ve always had more female fans, but unless you’re, like, a heavy rock band, that’s almost always true. There’s almost always more music buyers that are women. Guys are just slower. We’re more stubborn.

Do you get dragged to concerts by your wife? And don’t take that the wrong way — I’m not being dragged to this concert; I’m going willingly.

Yeah, I see how it is. Well, there were a few times, which shall remain nameless. I don’t want to go through the hit list.

You’re 27, but you’ve lived on the road almost your whole life, and you have four kids. Are you starting to feel old?

(laughs) Yeah, man, I’m all kinds of things. We’ve definitely put our bodies through stress and strain in the last decade. But I wouldn’t say anything like, “I feel the gray hairs coming in.”

You haven’t reached the point where you’re like, “Oh, the music these kids today are listening to, I just don’t get it.”

Well, I’ve always felt that way.

(laughs) You didn’t understand why people were listening to Hanson in the ’90s?

I was glad people were listening to Hanson. But there’s always only a few things that are current, that are popular, that I think are good. Every time we put out a record, I’m always scratching my head about half of what’s on the radio, thinking, “I’m glad they’re playing our record, but what about that other stuff?”

So what are you into these days?

I think Arcade Fire continues to put out great records. I think Taylor Swift is a refreshing pop artist, because she actually knows who she is. She has no delusions about who she’s talking to, and she’s really talented.

Were you upset that she and Taylor Lautner sort of co-opted the Taylor name in pop culture?

(laughs) I think I’d have to take that one up with their parents. And also, we’ve met a couple of times, and she’s been nothing but complimentary of me and of us. So, no problem with the Taylor name. I think she’s done a pretty good job with it.

Who’s the most surprising Hanson fan you’ve ever met?

We’ve had a few different people like Alice Cooper or Michael Stipe from R.E.M., where we were like, “Oh, I didn’t expect that.” (Toto’s) Steve Lukather, who is definitely a rock dude, has been really complimentary.

Given your ties to Oklahoma, have you spent any time around Flaming Lips?

We haven’t spent much time around them. We have a lot of mutual musicians that know each other. But we have not interacted with them a lot. They’re sort of their own little bubble. I’m not sure that they are actually based in Oklahoma City. I think they’re based in space.

Since ’97, MMMbop has undergone a little bit of a makeover in concert. Is that by necessity, with your changing voice and skill set, or is it just to keep things fresh when you play it live?

Part of it is, you’re 27 instead of 14. Everything’s going to sound a little different. It is kind of strange — I think on this tour, and the last couple of years, we’re probably delivering the most accurate performance of the first record that we have in years. In some ways it sounds more accurate to the album in our live show now. But it’s just an evolving thing. You try to figure out a way to play where you’re accurate to the song that you wrote a decade ago, but you’re also still singing it with conviction, so it’s not, “Okay, turn on the pre-recorded song in your brain.” You’ve got to go out there and still perform it and sing it, and not go on autopilot.

Have your kids shown any musical proclivities just yet?

I would be lying if I said no. They’re definitely musical, highly musical. But I think being musical and whether they’ll actually be musicians is a whole different question. We were going to be musicians because it was obvious that we had this strange drive, and our folks said, “We can’t really stop you. We need to support what you’re doing.” It is a fine line, though, because as kids, starting our band, you realize that the support of family and friends is huge. You ask yourself now, when you see some musical interest and talent in your kid, “Should I be really encouraging it? How do I do this?” All I know how to do is just wait for it to come from them, and be willing to encourage it.

We obviously know what you and Isaac and Zac are doing now. What about your other four siblings?

They all have varied interests. Our youngest sister is 12; she’s doing a lot of 12-year-old girl activities. All of our other family members are really creative in their own respects, from acting to painting. And there’s a little bit of involvement in our business, because if somebody’s willing to help be part of the family business now and then, we’ll always let them.

Tinted Windows: Is that over? You guys doing anything else with that?

We are not committing to any dates right now, but I think there’s a pretty broad sense that we will make another record. But it kind of what makes Tinted Windows fun is that it’s not as much pressure. It’ll happen when it happens.

— Jay Cridlin, tbt*