It’s hard to believe it’s been almost 20 years since Hanson exploded onto the pop music scene with their smash single, ‘MMMBop,’ and debut studio album, Middle of Nowhere – which has since sold 10 million copies.
It’s been a roller coaster two decades for Zac, Taylor and Isaac Hanson – but the brothers are still at it. They just wrapped up a special 10-city tour across the U.S. and Canada, featuring two concerts in each of the 10 major markets.
ET caught up with the music moguls in Los Angeles – where they reflected on their impressive career longevity and how their choices paved the way for artists like Taylor Swift. (Watch the video to see the interview.)
“Wow, we’re really stubborn, we just will not go away,” Taylor, 32, jokes when he thinks about how much time has passed since Middle of Nowhere hit shelves. “I think really it just makes you feel proud to still be looking out at happy people who are singing along.”
“Songs like ‘MMMBop’ actually talk about how things come and go and how you have to be able to hold onto relationships and people that matter… it stands the test of time I think because it’s actually saying something, it always was,” he says.
Zac, who just turned 30 last month, chimes in. “When we were really young, people would say, ‘What are you going to be doing in 20 years or in 10 years?’ and I would say, ‘We’ll be playing music, we’ll be making records, we’ll be touring the world if we can.’ To be this far into a career and see your dreams realized, it kind of makes you smile.”
And in another 20 years, the guys don’t see that changing.
“I think as long as we’re interested in it and as long as we’re making music we’re proud of and doing tours that we’re enjoying, I think, yeah, we’ll be doing it,” Taylor says.
It hasn’t been an easy 20 years though. Hanson was affected by the PolyGram and Universal merger in the early 2000s, and were subsequently transferred from Mercury Records to Island Def Jam. After a three-year struggle with the label to release a second studio album, the band parted ways and formed their own independent record label in 2003, 3CG Records. Hanson documented the struggle in the 2006 documentary, Strong Enough to Break.
They released their third studio album, Underneath, on 3CG Records in 2004. The album hit No. 1 on the Billboard Top Independent Albums chart. But it’s risky choices like that which set Hanson apart.
“There were a lot of people looking at us going, ‘Why would you do that?’ and we went, ‘Well, because the only way that we’re going to consistently be able to control whether or not we release and record records is if we take those reigns over,” Isaac, 34, explains.
Today, artists forming record labels and going against the label grain is becoming the norm. Earlier this year, Demi Lovato and Nick Jonas formed Safehouse Records while 5 Seconds of Summer started Hi Or Hey Records. Even Taylor Swift penned a public letter to Apple Music, and chose not to allow her songs to be streamed on Spotify.
Though they were questioned for their decisions years ago, today, Hanson is happy to be part of a movement that allows artists to take a stand.
“It is very cool, and huge kudos to Taylor Swift for using her platform to make a point as opposed to hiding behind being successful,” Taylor says. “Because she has stuff to lose, right?”
He continues, “For us, we are happy to be a part of the story of how the music business has changed and I think it’s really exciting to see people of all stripes trying to look for alternative ways to reach fans because that’s the thing that’s not talked about enough, is that the people that are hurt the most by an industry that’s maybe not really thinking about the future of music… is the audience.”
Taylor, clearly savvy about the music biz, is hyper-aware of the future – and foresees more changes coming soon.
“The real heart of the challenge and the future of the music business is figuring out what’s the future way that were all going to consume music so that people want to start bands and make that their life and share great music with the world,” he explains. “If you can’t earn money on your songs and if you can’t sell concert tickets… then the world begins to lose great artists. And so we just feel like we’re a part of the story.”
Come back to ETonline next week to hear what Hanson told ET about their families forming a new band – and their plans for an upcoming album.