Cast your mind back to the mid-90s. A time of scrunchies and baggy denim jeans, a time of carefree days spent discussing the latest happenings in Heartbreak High with your mates while sucking on frozen Zooper Doopers in the playground, and a time when the ridiculously infectious earworm hit, MMMBop, was blasting out of seemingly every radio across the country.
Hanson’s 1997 surprising chart sensation thrust the band onto the global stage, turning the unlikely trip of three young American brothers into bona fide celebrities overnight. And while many 90s fads didn’t go the distance, Zac, Taylor and Isaac are still making music three decades on. In fact, this year marks the band’s thirtieth anniversary since their debut. A milestone that is as shocking to the band as it is to their original 90s fanbase.
“It’s wild!” Zac Hanson tells WHO of the milestone anniversary.
“I mean, 30 years since we started and 25 years since we were first in Australia… it’s a strange, strange thing. Because we started when I was so young — only six! — it’s hard to disassociate yourself from the band as every memory involves a time when we were either singing together or travelling or performing. I feel really proud and blessed by everything we’ve done. I mean, three decades. Wow!”
Hanson’s debut album sold 10 million copies globally and three Grammy Award nominations and a succession of sell-out stadium tours worldwide swiftly followed.
While many young musicians would have fallen foul of the meteoric rise (and accompanying ‘child star’ curse) for a then 11-year-old Zac it was a different story.
“I think there’s a positive ‘shield’ in being too young,” reflects the 36-year-old.
“I mean, kids don’t care about sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll! I mean, not when you’re 11 or 12! Those pitfalls that are associated with success and fame when you’re a bit older, when you’re in the middle of all the self-discovery hormonal, ‘I’m gonna go spread my seed and conquer the world’ phase. That wasn’t an issue for me then, I just cared about singing or writing a song!”
Another vital component in Zac’s toolkit then helped him stay grounded he says during the rollercoaster ride of finding fame was his support network of sibling bandmates.
“We had one another,” he says.
“That kept us from struggling. It made it easier to understand the feelings that came with it and it sort of saved us from the insanity and craziness.”
It’s a method that clearly works. The trio have consistently kept family at the core of their lives and, rather than relocating to Tinseltown or to the bright lights of New York, all three brothers are still based in their hometown of Tulsa, Oklahoma.
And, three decades on they’re still making music together. Most recently, upcoming album, Red Green Blue. Comprising three solo-led projects in one record, the new album is slated for release in May.
“It’s essentially three solo projects,” Zac explains.
“Rather than working on it together we went away and wrote five songs each.
“We’re individually unique, but we’ve grown up together — sleeping in the same bedroom, listening to the same boombox, picking the same CDs or tapes, playing together…even our vocal chords are almost as close as they can be. So, it’s still Hanson — the blessing and the curse of Hanson is that we’ve never followed trends. We just always sound like Hanson!”
Growing up together, and touring and working side by side for the last three decades has meant that the three brothers have fallen into defined roles in the band.
“You definitely have to play your role, both as a band member and as brothers,” explains Zac.
“Isaac is probably the ‘therapist’. I’m sometimes called ‘sarg’ on tour, because I’m so focussed on getting things done, and Taylor has always been the big dreamer.
“I think we complement one another, but that’s not saying that we don’t have our struggles — we’re human after all. And everything you think we do, we absolutely do — fights and all!”
Hopefully in-fighting will be kept to a minimum when the group hit the road once again on a new international tour later this year — a tour that will also see them returning to our shores.
“The last time we were in Australia was almost four years ago,” says Zac.
“Australia has always been a particular good place to us — way back since our earliest records. We love playing there.”
Just as pandemic-related 90s nostalgia has infiltrated everything from our wardrobes to our TV screens with 90s reboot after 90s reboot (Friends, anyone?) so too has it impacted our listening habits and fans of Hanson in the band’s 90s heyday will undoubtedly comprise a large portion of audiences Down Under.
“Nostalgia is a beautiful thing,” says Zac. “It’s a different word for ‘good memories’ I think.
“As a band, when you go on stage and sing songs that the audience has a load of memories associated to, you have a responsibility to do it well. People love it for what it was and who they were at that moment.”
The new album aside, the COVID-enforced hiatus from touring has resulted in another another project for Zac: a baby.
“It wasn’t just like ‘we’re stuck at home, what do we do? Let’s make a baby!’” he says, chuckling.
“But it was a rare opportunity that you don’t have when you’re part of a traveling band. It was a moment where the world kinda stopped and we wanted to create something of lasting lifelong value.”
The latest addition for Zac and his wife, Kate (who he married in 2006 after five years of dating) brings their total brood to five, and the total number of kids amongst the three musician brothers to a whopping 15. So, how does it work as a touring musician juggling the demands of fame, fans, and fatherhood?
“I won’t deny that technology is making it easier to be more present,” he says. “My kids and I play video games together — even when I’m on tour — so we have those moments of connection and shared experiences and that definitely helps.
“You have to get better at what you do because you a person waiting for you who needs your attention, your advice, and just your presence. Fatherhood really drives you to change your priorities in a positive way.”
Zac says that some of his greatest lessons have been derived from his children — lessons that he now lives his life by.
“Kids help you realise the preciousness of the moment and the fleetingness of life,” he muses, sagely.
“I love to learn from my kids and the greatest lesson is love — that love is really what makes the world go around.”