Over a decade and five albums later, Hanson is back with their latest, "Shout It Out." They're not quite the boys you remember. They've got a grown-up look and a few twists to their sound -- piano-driven arrangements, a more soul-oriented feel -- but the band never left its summer-pop roots.
Lemondrop chatted with Taylor Hanson about the new album, life as a husband and dad, and whether he's tired of playing "MMMBop." His answers may surprise you.
Lemondrop: "Shout It Out" is a new sound for Hanson. Did you go into the studio having a certain concept for the album? Taylor Hanson: This album is a celebration of what we feel about our band. We've crossed over a lot of different hurdles and are comfortable in our own skin. It is a major forward step. It captures something we wanted to be on the last couple records and hadn't gotten quite what we intended. The songs were based on melodies and influences going back to the music that was close to our musical upbringing; the singer-songwriter, '60s and '70s R&B and rock & roll tones.
Is a song better when it's based on something specific in your life?
The quality of a song does not depend on the subject matter. It depends on what subject matter gets into the song, but it doesn't depend on whether that subject matter actually happened. As little kids, we would write songs about betrayal, relationships that had gone bad and the cheating woman. Where did that come from? You don't know exactly where stories come from necessarily, but that's what a song is. It's a relatable story. The songwriting process is about never turning off and always being aware of what's around you and not being afraid to be inspired by things.
You've been in the industry for nearly two decades and left your label to start a record company. How was the transition from being a band to running your own company and calling the shots?
The reason we did the label was because we felt like it would allow us to put the music first, not because we always dreamed of being a record label executive. We really like the idea and are passionate about the changing business and where the music industry is going. We started the label almost eight years ago and we've survived that process.
The reason it's working is because a lot of the traditional channels of reaching people lost touch with who the audience was. They left this big gap where people that are really focused on what they make and their audience have a much better shot at being able to compete and that's what we've been trying to do. To just say, "Are we making things that we can fight for?" And, "Are we paying attention to our fans? Are we listening, are we talking to them, are we getting them excited?" The basic theories are the same as when we started, but the process has just changed.
You've been together for nearly two decades. What makes you able to stick together?
You can't really know why. You're just grateful that people still want to come out and see you. But, I do have some theories. A huge part of it is that sense that you can never coast. You can never put it on cruise control. Inherently, bands go through phases where they either get tired of each other, they have industry problems, or they need space from one other. A lot of times bands reach a point where they stop looking around for inspiration and being alive in the moment and being relevant to themselves and making stuff that is fresh and continually growing.
Sounds a lot like a relationship. You're all married and have kids. I heard you met your wives at your shows too, is that true?
There's a little more back story to it, but technically, yeah, it's true. We all met our wives at our shows. When you look back at our history, it's pretty funny to say.
How has being married and a father influenced your music and songwriting?
If it didn't affect your songwriting, then there's something either wrong with your life or there's something wrong with your songwriting. Being a dad and being married, there are so many things going on that it'd be impossible for it to not affect what you'd think about and the perspective you have. It's been a continual inspiration. When you have kids, you remember things about yourself and you remember being in the moment. There's an established relationship tone that's different in this record. The subjects that come up are celebrating the everyday and surviving. It's a different feeling.
Are you tired of playing "MMMBop?"
Well, no. I'm not tired of it. We obviously want as many people to know as many songs as possible. If I went to see Counting Crows, I'd want them to play "Mr. Jones." Because we tour so much, we've probably played many of the songs on the first and second record as many times as we played "MMMBop" now. So, it's not too bad.
And, of course, we had to give readers a chance to ask Taylor Hanson some questions.
@travelinganna: You've seen so much success early on and are one of the few bands that remain grounded. How has your religion/upbringing kept you focused on careers instead of fame?
From my perspective, the "fame" was always a byproduct. The reason we do what we do is because we genuinely love making music. We love performing. We love making things we feel other people will get excited about, that's always been the driver. I'm sure the things that were instilled in us as kids and throughout growing up have definitely hammered home. The idea of valuing stuff that is more lasting, not of the moment. I'm sure that's impacted our personal lives and the way we were portrayed as public figures.
@nancyfishgold: Do you plan on expanding your record label and signing acts in the future?
We definitely plan on working with other acts. We want to work with bands from the point of view of serving the artist. The traditional label deal is not necessarily the best way to help an artist these days. You used to need the label because recording and marketing a record was so expensive and prohibitive. Now, there are a lot more pieces and a lot more ways to work with artists. What we've been saying for years is that we've been acting as guinea pigs. The goal is to develop our company so we can help artists in ways that we've seen there is real need for. It will happen, but it will be done in a less traditional way.
@rainydaymovies: What inspired you to make latest video for "Thinkin' 'Bout Somethin'"?
I was on YouTube and I had "Thinkin' 'Bout Somethin" playing. We were fans of "The Blues Brothers" as kids and always talked about references to the music from that movie. I literally had a scene playing from Ray Charles when he's in the music store and he starts playing and people dance in the streets. When it played, I saw that "Thinkin' 'Bout Somethin'" matched up rhythmically with that clip. The idea came from, "What if we recreated this scene from the film, but did it in our way and captured the essence of that movie."
It's essentially a recreation of the scene from "The Blues Brothers" with our own flavor. We reached out to dancers all over Oklahoma, Texas, Missouri, and Kansas. We invited fans to come and be part of the video shoot. We had people who literally just showed up that day. It was amazing. The street was full of hundreds of people. Once everyone started to do the basic moves, it looked incredible.
Watch each video below. Notice any familiar faces?
"Thinkin' 'Bout Somethin'":
"The Blues Brothers" clip:
Annie Reuter writes music blog, You Sing I Write where she interviews bands, travels to music festivals and uncovers what it's really like to spend the day with a rock star.
We all remember Isaac, Taylor and Zac, the three brothers from Tulsa, Okla., better known collectively as Hanson. They stormed the music scene back in 1997 with their catchy hit (how could we ever forget?) "MMMBop."
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