Hanson has a storied history with South By Southwest, from busking on the streets of Austin as youths and famously singing a capella at the closing barbeque and softball tournament before signing its major label deal in the mid-90s to headlining a tribute to fellow Oklahoman Leon Russell at last year’s Texas Recording Academy chapter Block Party. The brothers added to that legacy on Thursday afternoon by coming in from Oklahoma especially for a rare, and lightly publicized, trio performance at the John Lennon Come Together For Education day party at the Belmont.
The group turned in a generous and intimate 12-song, 55-minute show that fit the event with plenty of songwriting stories as Hanson worked through acoustic renditions of “Strong Enough To Break,” “Penny & Me,” “Madeline,” “Weird,” “On And On” and “MMMBop” — the platter played to a sea of cell phone cameras — before plugging in for “Thinking ‘Bout You,” “Been There Before,” “Where’s the Love,” This Time Around,” “A Minute Without You” and “Lost Without Each Other.”
“We kinda consider ourselves locals,” Zac Hanson told Billboard afterwards. “Tulsa’s not far away, so to support music in this region makes a lot of sense. It seemed like a cool way to come and be part of the festival without doing the rigamarole, and it really connects to something we see in sort of our immediate future.”
Taylor Hanson — who turned 35 on Wednesday — teased that at the beginning of the show, telling the Fansons in front of him that the group was “quietly plotting the rest of our year.” That will include a tour Hanson plans to announce in April, as well as the group’s “next big project” that the brothers were being circumspect about on Thursday. “It’s very musical,” Taylor said. And though Zac said the group is “in the studio right now recording new music,” Taylor added that “we don’t really think about our music under the terms of, like, records anymore. Some of it’s a product of 2018 and some of it is a product of being a band that tries to think about the bigger picture, the kdea of long-term, of songs living past your lifetime.
“Year 26 for our band this year — we just need to make sure every project we do is exciting and challenging for us, and hopefully it’s a great story.
Hanson’s 2018 may also include more partnerships with the John Lennon Educational Tour Bus and, according to Taylor, “making our project an opportunity to talk about the importance of supporting music in every school and in every community. The whole idea of creativity is so important to American culture, so important to our future.” And, Zac, added, “it’s really about our love of seeing music education grow for kids. We all have kids. We started as kids. One of the first things we did as a band was playing in schools. So if we can help that keep going and grow, we want to.”