Taylor Hanson chats with PEOPLE about the band’s newly released song “Against the World,” and what it means in terms of their album of the same name
Hanson is continuing their song-by-song album release with its fourth and latest offering: “Against the World.”
The album’s title track, Taylor Hanson tells PEOPLE in an exclusive chat surrounding the song and video’s release, is “[about going] against the odds — and anybody that’s built something or just even lived through life through this couple of seasons, I’m sure has felt that sense of being against what seemed like impossible obstacles and finding a way through them.”
“As artists, we’ve found a lot of camaraderie in the audience that’s joined us for our journey,” adds Taylor, 38, of himself and bandmates/brothers Isaac and Zac Hanson, who have been putting on a summer concert series in their hometown of Tulsa, Oklahoma, to promote the album.
Ahead of their PEOPLE-exclusive performance Friday afternoon, Taylor opens up more below about the song, its kaleidoscope-inspired music video (premiering exclusively with PEOPLE now!) and what’s next for the band.
PEOPLE: Can you touch a bit on the significance of “Against the World”? What inspired you guys to name your album after that song in particular?
Taylor Hanson: Well, this project has been germinating for a long time. And even before the pause of the year during the [COVID-19] pandemic, all the songs and the idea behind the project had been in progress. The name of the song was partly the spark for the name of the project, and I think the idea itself — the message — was at the heart of why this title became important.
I think one of the most important lines in the lyrics of this song that summarizes the messages is, “These might be hard times, but they’re our times now / It’s just you and me, and us against the world.” It’s saying no one chooses the obstacles, no one chooses the challenges that the world brings, nobody chooses what unknowns will be in front of you, but we choose how we’re going to move forward; we choose how we’re going to overcome, and how we’re going to make the most of that situation. And more often than not, those challenges are what craft us to become the people we ultimately become over time.
It’s an interesting message, because the song is definitely about being up against difficulty, but once again, I think this is at the heart of who we are as people. What we’ve tried to project with our career is it’s never been about only talking about positive things — it’s definitely always been a conscious choice to tell stories and talk about struggles in those lyrics, but be looking for an answer, be looking for a way forward, looking for a way through. And so that’s what this one is all about.
PEOPLE: The video includes a lot of unique artistry that seems to touch on how Hanson is evolving as a band. Can you speak to that?
Taylor: This album and these songs are being released one at a time, and every one of them has a visual component — a video. And to do many more videos, we created a sort of template for all of them that are performance-based. So they’re all fairly simple, but what’s interesting about the approach we took is we’re really treating each song like the artwork of the single. We’re looking at the textures, we’re looking at the video vignettes that we incorporated and then looking at how we can simply bring that texture or that color or that approach to what is essentially a live performance.
With this song, even the key lighting component was this flood of white light, as well as images literally taking on mountains and cliffs and physical obstacles. Once we began to really put together the pieces, it just felt like we needed to take people to a slightly more abstract place. And so you see this kaleidoscope of shapes and you see the inversion of what’s down; it’s sort of like we’re performing in a hall of mirrors. It’s an effect that has been used before but we felt like it was really fitting to be a little more abstract with this song, which is really sort of posing that question, “Can you come through those impossible odds?”
When you watch the video, the black and white and the intensity of it hopefully frames the meaning of the song and helps people to go into the story of the song and be curious, versus just seeing us standing on a stage.
PEOPLE: You guys are celebrating 30 years as a band next year. Do you have anything special up your sleeves to mark that anniversary?
Taylor: All of us are looking forward to a real return to touring next year. Because of the nature of the remainder of this year, our consistent touring has still been essentially a residency in our hometown that other people can now come to, and then a live streaming broadcast of that each month; we’ve yet to really return to the stage tour until next year. So I think, first of all, the plan to be touring and bringing the music to people around the world is a big part of what we’re hoping for next year.
And yes, there are some themes in 30 years. It’s interesting — when you hit 30, now you’re walking the line of, ‘We don’t want to just be talking about the years past and moving into legacy territory,’ but it’s all a landmark — it’s something that few bands [can] ever say. And so what I’m hoping is through the acknowledgment of that year and that kind of milestone, that we can also, with anything, be expressing gratitude. And hopefully we can do that in many different ways — the giving back of creativity and sharing creativity with people, and realizing that we now have something maybe that we can give, like those who gave to us [and] inspired us.
I think that’s just been on my mind. It doesn’t give you a clear example of what we’re doing, but that theme is something that I think, hopefully, will be a part of what we’re doing next year.
PEOPLE: The next two albums Hanson is performing as part of your summer concert series, alongside the thus-far-released tracks from Against the World, are Underneath and The Walk — the first two albums you guys made after opening your own record label. Can you tell me a little bit about what they mean to you now, looking back?
Taylor: Underneath and The Walk are definitely pivotal records for the band. And every record has its important qualities to a career but Underneath, firstly, was a musical statement and the album that survived the turmoil of transitioning from a label. I think the most relevant thing about what you hear in that album if you look at it now is this theme that we’re discussing, which is finding ways, surviving, being willing to break, being willing to go through that painful tearing down and building back up. That’s the theme of Underneath, is the being a little more layered and revealing some frailty [while] at the same time, still having that genuine sense of optimism and that sense of the future is bright and we believe in what’s next.
The Walk took us on a walk. I mean, it [literally] took us to Africa [and] sparked, I know for me personally, that excitement of realizing not only are we able to share our passion for music, but then we can share and invite people to join us on things that really can make an impact on people’s lives — tangibly, with the Take the Walk campaign, particularly over the several years focused on that project. And that was meaningful as a companion to that music; both those things were for one another. The Walk is probably our darkest record next to Against the World, which you’ll hear as more songs are revealed. I think The Walk really took on lyrics that were more about the struggle, more about the pain — more about the choice to walk the line, walk the tightrope, than we’d ever discussed. And when we made that album, the top subject was we want the lyrics to be heard.
So I’m very much looking forward to this weekend’s concerts. … It’s going to be a great chance to reflect on work that we’re really proud of. Hopefully fans really get a lot out of it.
PEOPLE: Hanson is a pretty regular part of the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival performances. Is there a Disney trip planned this fall?
Taylor: We are all hopeful Disney is a part of our year. That is not set currently, because Disney’s navigating the same thing all of us are with big events. The families, of course, are always hoping we are returning to Epcot. If it’s happening, we will all be grateful. So currently still pending.
It’s definitely something we expected to do, going into this year, but things are still emerging. It’s interesting at this point in our career — you have things that have kind of become tradition, [like] the [Hop Jam] beer festival, and Disney now has become one of those. … It’s nice to have these touch points, and we’re excited to see it come back.
PEOPLE: So how’s life otherwise as a dad of seven? Is [7-month-old daughter] Maybellene hitting any super cute milestones lately? How are the older kids with her?
Taylor: Everyone is over-the-top in love with Maybellene. She is really the joy of our house — some people have particular personality characteristics, and this little lady is just the happiest child we’ve ever had. So she’s living up to her name — Joy is at the heart of her name. So she’s been a joy.
Now we have co-parents with our older kids, and we have … we like to call them the “real siblings” — the siblings that are close in age. They interact with less mercy for one another. But yeah, we’re in a really great place at home, [wife] Natalie and me and the kids. Lots of different parts of life happening between 18, the eldest, and 7 months. So we’re very full.
PEOPLE: I want to say I saw Natalie post something on social media saying that you guys were done expanding your family. Is that still the case, or do you see another baby in your future? I know you, Isaac, and Zac are the oldest of seven yourselves.
Taylor: I’ve always been superstitious about being openly clear publicly or even saying out loud, “This is the end” or, “This is not.” I would never have predicted being a dad of seven growing up — I would’ve never predicted being a dad of five, honestly. So we have an awesome group and we do not see more in our future, but we’ll see what happens.