All grown up: Hanson still catering to its fans

By | October 16, 2013

Detroit News

Hanson Visits Music Choice's U&A

Taylor, left, Isaac and Zac Hanson have been cultivating a close relationship with fans. (Jamie McCarthy / Getty Images)

Hanson has a special deal going for fans: Attend 100 or more shows, and Isaac Hanson will play whatever request you want.

Well, not officially. But the guitarist and singer of the brother trio says at a recent show he was approached by a fan who had been to several hundred of the band’s concerts, and when she asked him to play a certain song for his solo that night, he was more than happy to comply.

“That’s a small thing for me, but that’s a respectful thing to her,” says Isaac, on the phone last week from a Hanson tour stop in Winnipeg, Manitoba. And that’s just one example of the tight bond that exists between Hanson and its fans.

Hanson is the trio that exploded onto the pop charts in 1997 with “MMMBop,” the irresistible (or irritating, depending on whom you ask) blast of sunshine that shot straight to No. 1 and made the Hanson brothers — singer Taylor, drummer Zac and guitarist Isaac — teen pop idols. In the years following “MMMBop,” the group’s pop success waned, but Hanson was able to cultivate an intense relationship with its diehard fans.

Isaac noticed that connection early, and the band has catered to those fans, with the annual Hanson Day celebration in Tulsa every May (it’s actually a full weekend now) and other events designed to celebrate the Hanson brand. The group plays Pontiac’s Crofoot Ballroom on Sunday, part of the tour behind the group’s 2013 album “Anthem.”

“Ultimately, our connection with our fans is a music-focused connection,” says Isaac, 32, the group’s oldest member. “It’s about the experience you have in the room when the music starts. It’s not just about the celebrity thing. It’s about the songs, it’s about the music.”

Isaac says the band made sure it was about the music early, and would switch up set lists from night to night on tour. On Hanson’s first outing, the group only had a few original songs under its belt, so it worked up a bunch of ’60s covers to round out its set. And as they mixed those songs up nightly, each show became unique.

When Hanson toured behind its album “This Time Around” in 2000, the tour’s official program had a place where fans could fill out the set list from the show they saw. Eventually, fans would trade set lists and tales from shows online.

The group learned that scarcity was an asset and would work up songs and retire them after only a handful of concerts; the band covered Ben Folds Five’s “Kate” at one show in Richmond, Va., and never played it again.

“I think that sunk into fans pretty quickly, because we made such a point of it,” says Isaac, who is married and has two sons. “These days, so much can change from show to show, and you’re trying to keep things interesting” — both for themselves and for their fans.

Hanson knew early on it didn’t want to be a flash in the pan; the three brothers were in it for the long haul.

“The goal for us was always to be doing this as long as we possibly could,” says Isaac, who says their parents encouraged them to think long-term from the beginning.

“That might sound overly ambitious for a teenager, but when we got into this thing, we were thinking about people like Billy Joel and Michael Jackson who had been doing this for years. The Beach Boys, that was a group made up of brothers, a cousin and a friend. These were all things that were going on, that we were thinking about, and we said, ‘This can work.’ ”

Building relationships with fans has enabled them to keep going, and the fan community has become its own society. Fans travel to multiple shows, meet up and have friendships with other members of the Hanson family.

“Ultimately, more than anything, I’m just grateful for the fans we have, and I think our fans have always known that,” Isaac says. “It comes, and it can go just as fast. So the more you respect it and the more you care about it, that sticks with people, and that sticks with you.”


7 p.m. Sunday

Crofoot Ballroom

1 S. Saginaw, Pontiac

Tickets $31

(248) 858-9333

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