Pop-soul trio Hanson find their niche

By | January 26, 2012

Edmonton Journal 

Oklahoma brothers still going strong, years after MMMBop hit

EDMONTON – Twenty years into a career that some predicted wouldn’t last much beyond a few records, the three multi-instrumentalist brothers (Zac, Taylor and Isaac) that make up Hanson have managed to find a nice little niche for themselves in the music world.

If they haven’t found a multimillion-selling single to compete with their breakout hit MMMBop (1997), they’ve still established themselves as a successful independent act after severing ties with Island Def Jam in 2001. Both Underneath (2004) and The Walk (2007) have done well on their band-owned 3CG label, and while they’ve kept true to their signature pop-soul style, they’ve also, dare we say, matured as musicians. Most endearingly, they all still live in Tulsa, Okla., where they were born and raised.

Journal: It seems as if most bands, when they finish touring, split off to different parts of the country.

Zac Hanson: “Yeah, it’s true that we don’t go to separate cities, but we do go to separate worlds. When we’re not working, we have different ways of relaxing. Music brings us together, but if we weren’t musicians we probably wouldn’t be that close. I mean, we have this mutual interest in the band and we respect and enjoy each other’s company, but other than that we’re very different.”

Q: How do you manage to make it work, then?

Zac: “It’s a constant challenge. There was something Bono once said about being in a band for a long time: It’s like pushing back the tide. It’s impossible but somehow we’ve done it. It’s a hard process, especially when things get crazy and you consider stopping, but it’s always a fleeting thought. Clearly there’s so much fulfilment in what we do that to stop isn’t really a consideration, though sometimes … ”

Q: Well, you’re still young; there’s always the possibility of throwing in the towel and managing a Target.

Zac: (Laughs) “Actually, I can romanticize working at the fast-food chain down the street. That might be nice, just making combo No. 6s all the time, get discounts on my meal.”

Q: … and not have to deal with adoring Hanson fans?

Zac: “Well, it’s not like I’m Paul McCartney or anything, and this is Oklahoma — there aren’t many paparazzi here. Theoretically my wife would still care for me.”

Q: Do you still look back with fondness on your beginnings?

Zac: “For us, being successful in the ’90s was a form of torture because we got lumped in with a number of teen pop artists that were making music that wasn’t anything like what we did. We were like, ‘Please, please don’t put me in that category.’ Yeah, we’ve always been lovers of great songwriters. You listen to Otis Redding all your life, and then Billy Joel and James Taylor and you automatically search for hooks and melodies.”

Q: Were the Beatles also a factor?

Zac: “You know, we always listened to American music, and the British Invasion was largely absent for us for a long time, maybe for the first five years. It was all American singer-songwriter and soul music and rock; then we heard the Beatles and that was a huge thing. But really, we’re an American band in the worst and best way.”

Q: You can hear that love of Motown and Stax on your last album, Shout It Out (2010). For Shout It Out, you brought in (Motown bassist) Bob Babbitt on a few tracks, which must have been more than a little thrilling.

Zac: “Oh, man, we had so much fun with Bob. He just told stories all day long, and you can’t stop him, because it’s in his personality, but you also don’t want him to stop. Being around him is like reading this amazing history book where you’d hear about things like little Stevie Wonder jumping in the front seat of the car to drive and almost killing everyone. It was such an honour to have him there, because he’s this huge personality, and he wanted to be there. I mean, he flew in from recording with Phil Collins in Zurich and he was happy to be there.”

Q: Maybe that’s why he’s still going.

Zac: “I think so. That may be the secret. It’s hard, and not many musicians survive that long, but I hope that maybe I’ll be one of them as well.”

Concert preview


When: Friday at 7:30 p.m.

Where: Festival Place, 100 Festival Way, Sherwood Park

Tickets: Sold out

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