Hanson brother opens up ahead of Chicago stop

By | September 25, 2011

Kane County Chronicle

It’s been quite a musical ride for Hanson, which struck pop gold in 1997 with the song “MmmBop.”

The three brothers from Tulsa, Okla. – Isaac, Taylor and Zac – will perform Tuesday and Wednesday at the House of Blues, 329 N. Dearborn Ave., Chicago, as part of the band’s “Musical Ride Tour,” where fans are given the chance to vote online to choose the album they want Hanson to play each night.

Meiko also is on the bill. The show starts at 6 p.m. and tickets are $32.50 in advance, $35 the day of the show, available at www.livenation.com.

The Kane County Chronicle recently had the chance to talk to 25-year-old Zac Hanson about the tour and other topics.

How has the tour been going?

It’s going great. It’s definitely something different than we’ve ever done.

It’s been surprising how well it has worked, and how it feels like a body of work. You don’t really reflect on things that much in your life, especially when you’re 25.

You guys perform two nights in Chicago. How is that going to work?

Each night we’ll play whichever album wins. An album is maybe 13 songs, but we’re still playing upwards of 21 songs in a show.

You’re still going to hear songs from every record, songs that you recognize, singles, stuff like that. You’re getting a variety. We’re just featuring an album as a centerpiece for the set.

“Rolling Stone” readers were recently asked to pick the worst songs of the ‘90s, and “MmmBop” ended up No. 6 on the list.

It’s amazing how a song can end up on the worst and best lists in sort of the same breath. That song has been highlighted as one of the best songs of the ’90s, and obviously, one of the worst.

How do you take that?

Oh, I don’t take it at all. The truth is, that song represents a really unique moment in time.

It was No. 1 in 27 countries at the same time. There was a whole group of people who were sick of grunge music and torn jeans, and then we came out with the song.

Unfortunately, it may have opened up the door for a lot of crappy, synthesized pop music. That song was so huge, it became sort of a cultural statement, it became sort of pop culture, not music.

Last year, the band released it’s fifth studio release, “Shout It Out,” and you guys got to play with such music pioneers as Funk Brothers bassist Bob Babbitt and horn arranger Jerry Hey, who worked with artists like Michael Jackson, Quincy Jones and Earth, Wind and Fire. How was that experience?

It was awesome. Bob Babbitt played on records that we grew up listening to. Our original influences to want to make music were late ’50s and early ’60s rock ’n‘ roll and Motown records.

Whenever you sit in a room with someone like that, you are in a little bit of awe. And Jerry Hey is an amazing arranger.

So was the album a kind of homage to the music you grew up with?

When you look at songs from the album like, “Thinking ’Bout Somethin’ ” or “Give A Little,” they definitely harken back to those records. They sort of have a sensibility about them.

In some ways, I think it is. I don’t know if I would call it our homage. We didn’t try to make a record that way.

But it’s part of who we are. I think you do hear it in there.

Are you guys working on new songs?

Right now, the focus is obviously this tour that goes through basically the end of the year. But next year, we will be definitely working on a new project, a new album of sorts. We have lots of different ideas.

Are you guys going to go in a new direction, try something you haven’t done before?

I think we’re always trying to do things we haven’t done before. It’s not about being something different, for us, it’s about continually inspiring yourself.

If you’re not excited about the record, if you don’t feel like you’re pushing yourself, then you are not doing your job and no one else is going to feel excited about it.

Are you finding that people who grew up with your music have families of their own now and are introducing them to your music?

Absolutely. We are a reflection of a lot of our fans. People have followed the band for years and years now. We see a lot of familiar faces.

I think the core Hanson base has been with us for 15 years now. You see some of them with their husbands and wives and kids, which is cool.

It’s such a unique experience for me. I was 6 years old when we played our first paying professional gig.

Next year is the 20th anniversary of us being a band. To be almost 20 years into it and to have already done so much and have fans that are introducing their younger brothers and sisters and their kids to your music, it’s sort of surreal and amazing.

It’s sort of one of those things where you go, “Wow.” You go into it hoping for those kinds of results and to actually have them, you don’t know what to do with yourself.