To do anything for 20 years is an accomplishment. Think about it. To be a student, to run a business, to play a sport, to hold a job, to be married, to write a novel. Whatever that “it thing” might be, spending 20 years doing it is an eternity in our fast-moving, update, upgrade, society. 20 years doing it extremely well? Now that’s really saying something. Enter Hanson. Isaac, Taylor, Zac, three brothers from Tulsa, Oklahoma who formed a band as teens and have still got it.
Hot on their Anthem World Tour, which comes to Portland on Saturday, OMN got the opportunity to chat with Isaac about their long musical ride.
Growing up with parents who supported their musical talent and a dad who’s job as an accountant for an oil drilling contractor required him to travel, the Hanson brothers were fortunate to see and explore a lot of the world.
“We really did not spend very much time in traditional schooling environments. When I was a young kid and we were traveling because of my dad’s job, we spent a little bit of time in Ecuador and a little bit of time in Venezuela and a little bit of time in Trinidad and Tobago. During that time, we went to kind of more traditional schools, We also did some co-ops where various families get together and spend three days a week in school and parents trade-off teaching different subjects. I had a very good time doing that, but ultimately as a kid I was more interested in music. As we got older, and got the opportunity to play shows and make records, schooling became something that we did exclusively at home. I would get through my lessons so that I could start writing songs or rehearsing!” Hanson explains.
Hanson has been at this for 20 years. That’s a lifetime in this current musical industry. And a testament to their music. Solid. Talented playing. Uplifting performing. Slowly building up a reputation and fan following that’s real, not superficial. They are proof that you can still make it if you’re not polarizing. That you can still be heard even if you haven’t been in a brawl or crashed your car. That you don’t need rehab, bankruptcy, revealing outfits or bizarre texts to stay relevant. That just because the industry changed doesn’t mean that you have to scrap what you stand for.
“The music business has changed an extraordinary amount. We kind of jokingly said this in the recent past and I actually think it is a very interesting comparison. I think the music business is kind of like the whaling industry. We are still trying to sell blubber for the lamps that need to burn it to operate. Everybody else is moving towards kerosene.
“There has to be a better way to bring the audience into the value of the content that is being made so that it is a business that actually works. The truth is, it costs a lot of money to make records, it costs a lot of money to go on tour. It is something we all feel privileged to do and want to do. So we focus on making the best record we can every single time, and that is why most of our records are spaced out by about three years. We think that the quality of the music is the most important thing along with the connection to the fans,” says Hanson emphatically.
And perhaps this is the one thing that makes Hanson stand out. Their connection to fans. Through their music, through their contact. Simple and unaffected. They have a big picture worldliness about them that is noticeable and appealing. Maybe it began when they traveled the world as kids, but they get it. There is more to Hanson than just Hanson. They care about the fans, they care about other artists, they care about the profession as a whole. They care. That care extends around the world as well. It takes them as far away as Africa where Hanson’s mission is to help. It’s genuine. They literally walk the talk.
“We think you need to do something that you’re passionate about no matter what. Since our album,The Walk, in 2006, we have been doing one-mile barefoot charity walks before every show. We sponsor every single person that shows up to walk with us with the first dollar donated on their behalf to one of five causes in Africa. We just felt like that was something important and valuable after we took a trip during the making The Walk and met a bunch of really incredible and excellent organizations that were doing great work there. We felt like we could find a way to support them and so that’s what we have done. In various ways, our music has kind of reflected that, songs like “Great Divide,” songs like “Fire On The Mountain,” and various others on our records, but particularly on The Walk,” Hanson recalls.
Anthem is no different. There is a passion that comes through in a rousing surge making the album’s title quite appropriate.
“Well, I think with every record you’re trying to do two things. You’re trying to both be consistent with who you are and what records in the past have been, but then you’re also continually writing new songs and therefore moving forward and evolving. I think this record pulls from a lot of different areas of our music that we have kind of established as this very clear part of our band’s DNA. We get our inspiration from various Motown and R&B artists and rock ‘n roll artists from the ’50s through the mid to late ’60s. So I think that that is very much a part of what the Anthem record is, but I think the most prominent part of is the fact that guitar gets a major comeback on this album.
We have in the very beginning of the album, three songs and they are very clearly and aggressively led by some guitar rifts and a very aggressive attitude. You know the song called “Fired Up” which basically has a DNA of an AC/DC song for all intents and purposes. It is very straightforward, very simple, and very rock ‘n roll, very rock, frankly.
Then, you have the song, “I’ve Got Soul” which kind of comes from an R&B side of things, but it is a much more aggressive type of R&B. It is a James Brown style of aggressive R&B, more so than it is a Motown kind of R&B.”
“Finally, you have the song, “You Can’t Stop Us Now,”’ Hanson adds, “which frankly has a little bit of an AC/DC type quality to it, too, but ultimately is a little bit more like a “We Will Rock You” type of a song, like a Queen song. It has a very significant underpinning of aggressive rock as well, and there are various other songs on the record that also go in that direction.
We think that’s something that we have a tendency to do. The past record was a little more pop, a little more R&B; this record is a little bit more rock and has a little bit more blues and gospel influence. That seems to be a pattern for us. We kind of flip-flop between those two genres from record to record,” Hanson describes.
And that’s what keeps it interesting. The music. The caring. Not the tabloid headlines or in your face commercialism. It fits with Portland’s down to earth and keep it real attitude.
“We look forward to being in Portland. Portland is always a great place. We can’t wait to be back!” Hanson says.
Hanson, we can’t wait to have you back. Clearly, that’s the case because their show on Friday, September 27 at the Aladdin Theater is sold out.