June 29th, 2013
by Logan Brendt
The Tulsa-born Mmmbopping band of brothers known as Hanson have come a long way since they gate-crashed pop culture with their ubiquitous brand of musical delights. It’s almost hard to believe that their new album titled Anthem, is their ninth. Sixteen years after the debut record, with several world tours under their belt, they’re now all married with children and have even ventured into beer production with their aptly named Mmmhops. For those that were fans of the band from the beginning, this can all make us feel a little old, wondering where all that time went. So we caught up with Taylor Hanson, one third of the band and primary singer in order to reminisce a bit, and of course talk about the new album.
I have to say, I’m really excited to interview you since I’ll admit, I was the typical, teenybopper girl back in the day and you were my teen idol.
[Laughs] It’s funny how time is. It’s strange. You wouldn’t think years ago that we’d be talking.
Yeah, it’s only taken sixteen years for this dream to come true. You know, the nervous, 13-year-old version of myself kind of wants to throw up.
[Laughs] Well, if you need to take care of that, that’s up to you.
So, the sound on your new album, Anthem, is highly evolved from where you started. Do you ever regret some of the songs you wrote when you were younger?
No. If you really listen back to our music, and if you strip back the high voices which you know, tends to come with being 13 years old, you can tell that the music was always inspired by classic rock and roll, gospel, and pop from the ’50s and ’60s. But of course there are certain lyrics that, as a writer, you know you wouldn’t write today—some of the more lighthearted things.
What influenced your songwriting then as opposed to now?
When you’re a kid, you haven’t experienced the things you’re putting into a song, but you’re finding a way to take a feeling you have and put it into a simple narrative. I remember in some cases, emulating Michael Jackson or Otis Redding songs I had heard of love lost, and felt I could connect with what it felt like. That’s still what you do as an adult, as a writer. You’re essentially trying to look around your world to see how you can become a vessel to say something that is interesting and something that you’re proud of, because you have to go out and sing it every night.
Since you’ve put your last four albums out on your own label, what have been the benefits to this, in comparison to releasing on a major label?
The label that we ultimately left was very dysfunctional and extremely corporate, not focused on how to develop their artists. The greatest benefit to our choice to be independent is the ability to focus on the long tail of our career, and being able to develop a really strong, direct relationship with our audience. When our first record came out, because we were lucky that we were as young as we were, we connected at a time where we all watched the technology stuff become like the currency that we all use. Because of that, we were one of the first bands to be able to have that relationship directly with our audience.
We also never gave up ownership of our website, we never gave up ownership of our songs. We walked away from the label and did well and were lucky that we had some good people in our camp to cut good deals. It’s easy to point fingers at the ‘big evil record company’, but we walked away doing well. Nobody bought Ferraris or yachts. We invested in ourselves and bought instruments and built a studio.
That’s a lot different from what you see the “teen idols” doing nowadays.
Well, we didn’t set out to become teen idols, but we did set out to make music. We were just lucky that we broke early on. Being kids and succeeding wasn’t the mission, it was just the first chapter for us.
Are you thankful that you’re not growing up in today’s internet culture, with all of the gossip sites and their invasive paparazzi?
As far as the increased intensity of the bubble that goes with that audience, I don’t envy Justin Bieber, if that’s the question. The intensity has definitely gone through the roof.
Did your fans ever flash you guys on stage?
Yes, I have been flashed many times on stage. Usually it’s sort of like, “Why did you choose to do that? I’m not really sure why you wanted to share.”
When was the first time it happened to you?
I was probably fourteen. That kind of thing is in a completely different light than a one-on-one with a girl. Like, you’re in a crowd of thousands of people— it doesn’t even connect in the same way. It’s crazy stuff. But we didn’t get into it for that stuff, and I say that because there are definitely bands where the goal is “sex, drugs, rock and roll,” with rock and roll in small print.
What was one of the worst moments for you on stage?
In ’97 or ’98, we were at a large event for a radio station in Chicago and at that show we had major technical problems. Literally, the power source blew up. I lost power on my keyboard rig, and we had to play through an entire group of songs with just full on feedback in our monitors. All this while there are cameras broadcasting up on the Megatron in front of 20,000 people.
What is a dream of yours that you haven’t yet achieved?
On a more personal level, I checked off a box before I turned thirty, of learning to sail. But on a career level, I want to continue to grow the impact of our non-profit Take The Walk campaign which fights against poverty and HIV/AIDS in Africa. But for the continued list, I love to cook, so I’d love to do a restaurant tour and spend more time doing that.
After years in the business, if you could go back in time and tell yourself something that would have benefited you now, what would it have been?
To have stepped out of the major label even sooner, and probably choose cotton over polyester. You know, with this new record, there’s so many bridges between where we started. We’re really proud of where we’ve come from. We were a garage band— ’90s kids that were wearing grunge rock outfits and had the shaggy hair. But we listened to soul music and rock and roll, so we sounded more like a melodic pop band. We were determined, but lucky to succeed.
Anthem is out now.