Interview with Taylor Hanson, age 29, of Tulsa, OK.
It seems like things have really ramped up this album cycle [for 2010’s Shout It Out], and that, for some reason, the cycle seems to be a lot more global than the last couple.
It is. I mean, we’ve been on our record company for almost ten years, which is pretty crazy. And this is our third record put out as our own label.
One of the big goals of this album was to reach a lot of fans all over the world, and the advantage of our starting our career so young has meant that we’ve been able to reach fans all over the world, which is really hard to do. It’s hard to have a base of fans in the Philippines, or Australia, or Europe, or South America. But with this record we’ve seen it as a mission, that it’s something that needs to happen.
So that’s taken us… it’s been a big effort to get that going, and really lay out a great tour. And actually it’s getting exciting now, because we’re starting the next album process sometime next year, but I think a lot of the legwork with this record of coming back to a lot of places after several years is going to play in to the promotion of the next album pretty well.
Are we going to hear some really new stuff?
You may get a little sneak peek. Shout It Out has been out for a little while in the US, and the challenge of touring is that you can’t clone yourself, and you can’t be everywhere. So we’ll be working on music on tour, and we will be at the point where there are new ideas, and things floating around for the new record. So you might get a little sneak peek.
Was that always part of the world domination plan, to tour Australia this time? Or did you see something and think, “You know, Australia just might be ready for a Hanson tour again…”
Well it is part of the world tour, but to be honest we’ve wanted to make an Australian tour happen for the last couple of albums. On the Walk album we really tried to coordinate. But especially when you’re independent, all of the things that go with world touring – it’s expensive, there’s all the logistics, all the partners that you need to bring together – and I guess it all just fell together the right way, and the goals just aligned with all the other things that needed to happen.
So it’s going to be a really good tour. And it is exciting to see that there is a natural energy from fans – multiple shows are selling out, and I guess that just means that it’ll be that much more entertaining.
It was great to see all those sold out shows, with people clamouring for more. That was nice.
Yeah – we added a second Melbourne show and Sydney show because there was clearly a demand for tickets. Which is a good thing.
It’s a really good thing. I’m sure you’ve been told several times already in this block of interviews that there’s a bunch of ‘90s bands touring Australia this year. But even that NKOTB/Backstreet Boys tour that they did for some reason didn’t sell out, and there are all these one-hit-wonder bands coming out, and you guys keep getting lumped in with that. But none of them are selling out shows the way that you guys are, and there’s obviously an enthusiasm for it that belies this ‘90s band’ tag.
Well, we are a band that came out of the ‘90s. But I think it’s pretty fair to say that most of these bands are doing ‘comeback’ tours, or ‘reuniting’ tours. But with us, that’s not the case – we’ve made records and toured for the last fifteen years. And I would hope that that’s part of the difference. It does happen that there’s been the right amount of time for people to get nostalgic for the previous era, but for us it’s been a continuous build. And I think that, hopefully, these are genuine fans who maybe didn’t get to see us last time, or who heard some of the record and liked it.
I was right in the original demographic – I was 11 in 1997.
Yeah, I guess that’s probably right in there. So you’re Zac’s age? You’re 26?
Yes, nearly. So yeah, so I was just the right age. And I have to say at school it was always the Hanson faction vs the Backstreet Boys faction, there wasn’t much overlap.
Well, we appreciate you standing up for us. Our whole thing was, we did have a very unique situation to have success so young, and that has its positives and its negatives.
But the thing about our band – if you go back and watch old interviews, we’ve always said the same thing. We grew up with a lot of classic American rock and roll and soul records, and the truth is we’ve always been music nerds – and that was the only reason we ever did this.
So my hope is that stubbornness wins in the end. We’re sort of like the roaches, you can’t get rid of us. We’re going to be around, and we’re going to continue to make records, and it’s all about the survival of the music over time.
So it must have been a huge coup to get someone like [Funk Brothers bassist] Bob Babbitt to come and work on the album.
It was, yeah. One of the best things, aside from Bob’s amazing skills as a player – and he really has incredible touch, and has played on so many classic records – was sitting around and just talk about sessions he did: talking about being with Little Stevie Wonder, when Stevie Wonder was 16 years old; Marvin Gaye, on and on.
And the things that people think we would be excited about – stardom, flying in private planes, crazy rock star stuff – that’s fun, but the stuff we really get over the top about is sitting with people that you really have that awe for. People who made records that you think of as the cream of the crop.
I’ve enjoyed hearing that soul influence come through more in the last couple of records. That’s been a really fun thing to hear.
You will definitely like the next record. I hate to say that too much in advance, but there will probably be even a little more of that in there.
Well yeah, I’ve really enjoyed that. Because this is the thing: there are very few bands that I’ve been following for as long as I’ve been listening to you guys. And it helps when you start before puberty, but –
(Laughs) It does give a bit of an advantage!
But it’s been good. And then you went off and did Tinted Windows, and that was so much fun to see.
Oh, thanks! Yeah, that’s a whole different thing. And musically, it was such a different headspace. There’s a lot of records that that is inspired by that I’m a huge fan of, but with Hanson we’ve always drawn most of our influence from things that had that R&B pop kind of swing. But making this [Tinted Windows] record was about writing pop songs, but they are totally straight ahead. There’s not a keyboard on the record, just loud guitars and really in your face… And it’s really fun to combine the different characters in the band. Bun E., of course, who really is iconic as a drummer. Then James, who has such an amazing, distinct guitar style and is a great writer as well. Then Adam, with his skill as a producer and a writer. And for me, getting to be a part of that collective of musicians was so awesome. It’s so cool to turn around and go, “That’s Bun E. Carlos playing drums!” Not that Zac isn’t an awesome drummer, but that guy played ‘I Want You To Want Me’!
I’d be nerding out pretty hard too. Is there anything more happening with that?
It’s kind of an open-ended story. For everybody it’s a side project: James is doing A Perfect Circle stuff, and he’s been working on a solo record for a long time; Adam has Fountains of Wayne, and continues to write and produce stuff; Bun E. actually hasn’t been on the road so much. He has another band that he’s playing with, but he hasn’t been on the road with Cheap Trick. And, of course, I’m talking to you about what I’m doing.
So it’ll fit in there somewhere. The first record took about three years to get made, just because it was slipping in between other things.
I wanted to get back to the tour: when you’re a band who has a really strong period early on, even if you’re The Rolling Stones, people want to hear the early hits. Does it both you at all that, even though your new stuff is so great, you still have to play ‘MMMBop’?
Does it bother me? No. But it is part of the package. It’s an optimistic way to approach it, but you have to be this way about the whole thing: if you’re going to go out there and hope that people are going to go out there and learn your songs, and know your songs, there are going to be certain songs that more people know than others. That’s the way it goes. So of course you want people to know each record, and know all the stuff, and that’s why you continue to make records and play music. But I’m proud of where we’ve come from.
I think it would be harder if those weren’t really our songs from the beginning. But ‘MMMBop,’ or ‘I Will Come To You,’ or ‘If Only,’ and ‘This Time Around’ – they are all songs that we wrote, and so you have your own nostalgia for your songs. And we were a garage band. Those were songs we banged out, and dreamed that one day people would know [them]. And then you turn around and realise that millions of people love a song that you wrote in your garage.
So I guess it’s just a double-edged deal. I realised a long time ago that getting frustrated with people knowing certain songs was just a pointless concept. And not to carry on too long, but, for the most part, as a touring band, when you’re really going out there and playing shows – you’re playing for your fans. You don’t go and buy a ticket when you don’t know at least a few songs, or if you don’t like the band beyond hearing one song on the radio. So there’s a lot of songs that people know. And that first record obviously has those songs that are the first songs that people heard from us, so it’s natural that people are going to want to feel nostalgic for it, and want to hear it.
Do you ever miss it? Obviously you’ve kept up a level of success in the US since, but do you miss that ‘97/’98 period when it was just that absolutely batshit, ‘Hard Day’s Night’ stuff?
Is ‘batshit’ a technical term?
Yeah, I think it would be [laughs].
You know, I don’t think any band gets into making records saying, ‘We want to do decently well.’ Everybody wants to conquer the world, everybody wants to have influence over people, and have hit records. So, to some degree, you’re always shooting for the stars. And the first record was a completely rare situation to have that kind of over the top success. But no, I don’t sit around – and none of us do – saying, “Man, those were the days!” I mean, this year it will be twenty years that we’ve been together as a band. Since we were kids. Really young kids. And there are so many other things that we have on the bucket list to do, but I don’t see it as looking back. I still have ideas I want to do. And maybe that means we’re nuts, but I’m still looking forward to what’s next.
Yeah, I think that’s a really healthy attitude to have. But you must now look at people like Justin Bieber and think, ‘Oh, man, you need to get out of there.’
No, I don’t think ‘get out of there.’ I think it’s hard to survive success. In a way, failing at something is easier to some degree. Say you put out a business, or a record, and it doesn’t work– nobody knows that it didn’t work, that it wasn’t a hit, or wasn’t successful. But if you really do succeed with something, then you have to continue to be that, and live that, so it had better be something you really like. And for us, it was, so that made it really easy. But for somebody like Justin Bieber, or anybody who has huge success early, I hope it’s music that they wanna do. If he doesn’t feel authorship on a song like ‘Baby’ then it will be frustrating fifteen years down the line.
And I suppose you guys had a very different approach to being the biggest band in the world – you weren’t doing what he’s doing, and going to West Coast Customs and getting chrome wraps on your sports hybrid. Were you?
[Laughs] No, we weren’t.
I mean, on a taste level, I’m not a huge fan of the chrome wrap. I’m just too snooty for it. I would much prefer a Maserati, a matte finish, brown leather – that’s my style. But money is such a weird thing, and the way people choose to spend money is up to them. And it doesn’t show more success to go spend your money on crazy stuff. And we’ve had a nice life, and all of us have invested our money well, and haven’t been unable to feed our families. We’ve all done well, but we’ve never had the idea of yachts and helicopters as the goal.
And you always seemed really close to your family, and your parents and your siblings. And now you’ve got your own families. But you always seemed really grounded.
Well it’s all a lie [laughs]. Again, in an earlier interview, someone was asking about stories about how many girls we hooked up with, and all that kind of stuff. And, to me, it’s sort of like, “Do you know people like that? And do you actually like that?” Because I don’t have friends like that, I don’t have my buddy who is kind of a slut. So I think our whole approach to life has just been more like, the people you know are your friends have basic rules of engagement in dealing with each other. I’ll go and get a beer, or two, or three, and go have a good time. But there’s a point where it’s like, “I really don’t want to forget what I did for the last year. I want to remember that.”