Setting The Watch – Living Tulsa Time With Hanson
Livin’ on Tulsa time, Livin’ on Tulsa time
Well, you’ll know I been through it
When I set my watch back to it
Livin’ on Tulsa Time.
In 2012, I set my watch and travelled to Tulsa for Hanson Day.
At Chicago airport, while waiting for a delayed Tulsa connection, I struck up a conversation with a fellow traveller. She was returning to Tulsa from England and she was interested in why I was travelling from England to Tulsa. We went for coffee and shared our stories of passions fuelled and fulfilled by travel, learning and music.
As a Tulsan, my friend was especially interested in the story of a woman of mature years, travelling so far to see a band, in their hometown. While she was well aware of Hanson’s story in the context of Tulsa, she was surprised by the intensity of the love they draw from so far away.
It is a strange and wonderful thing this connection between Hanson, their fans and the City of Tulsa.
Many fans describe Tulsa as their Graceland. At all times of year, they travel from the corners of the world to drink coffee just yards away from 3CG Records, drive past the house where Hanson penned MMMBop, or reflect on the history of this city of the most amazing music.
For some time, the Hanson Day visitor was assured that the Hanson story could be followed around Tulsa via West 78th St, The Blue Rose Café, the Thinking ‘Bout Somethin’ mural in Greenwood and Cain’s Ballroom, to name a few iconic places.
It was a time to look back to the past from where Isaac, Taylor and Zac came and to stand in their footsteps.
However, as Hanson grow their business and investment in Tulsa the essence of being part of the Hanson story in its evolution, is changing.
Now the Hanson Day experience is also about looking forward to where they are headed, standing along side them, resetting the watch and catching the excitement of what is on the Oklahoma horizon.
I spoke with Jerry Wofford of Tulsa World and asked him about Hanson and his perspective on their journey, career and place in the Tulsa music scene and beyond.
What is your job at Tulsa World and what has been your association with Hanson over the years?
I am a features writer for the Tulsa World who focuses on music. I’ve had the position for nearly three years and during that time, I’ve had the opportunity to interview and visit with the Hanson brothers several times, mostly for coverage surrounding the Hop Jam. It’s a festival the Tulsa World has been a part of since the beginning. We have extensively covered the festival and written long profiles on the band, their history in Tulsa, their music and how it’s changed over the years and what the future has in store for them.
What makes Tulsa such a special place for music and the arts?
Tulsa has a rich history in music that’s not just country music, though that’s what put it on the map. Cain’s Ballroom in Tulsa is one of only a handful of venues in the United States that can claim such a rich musical heritage. We have Leon Russell, Garth Brooks, Hanson, Bob Wills and many more people who were influential in the music world who didn’t get that same attention. Today, Tulsa is a nurturing city for the arts, with venues all over town that highlight our diverse scene. Every night of the week, there’s music somewhere in town. The musicians and artists here care about their work and find support from other musicians and artists. That aspect, the collaboration, is especially unique to Tulsa.
What stands out to you about the connections that Hanson have and the contributions they have made to the developments in the Tulsa music scene?
Hanson has been able to maintain a presence in Tulsa because they’re so much a part of it. Just this week, I saw Isaac at Chipotle on Monday and at a coffee shop downtown on Thursday. They’re so much a part of Tulsa it’s just like seeing anyone else you would know. As far as developing the scene here, they were one of the first to inhabit the Brady Arts District when it was still a barren landscape of warehouses. Their presence, especially with the Hop Jam, has been a galvanizing force, even if it’s not hugely public.
What stands out about the way Hanson have forged a career based in Tulsa?
They went their own way, blazed their own trail. They showed that it’s possible to create art and not be forced to go to the hubs of Nashville or LA or New York. You can have both the Tulsa quality of life and a career in music. Also, they were able to take the fans they gained early on and take care of them. Maintaining and building the fan base they did, has given them a huge benefit.
Do you think that Hanson or indeed anyone had envisaged the development of the Brady Arts District and North Main St, when they sited their offices there in 2003?
I moved to Tulsa in 2010 when it was just in the infancy of what it’s become today. Even then, if you had asked me about its future, it would have been difficult to imagine this. And it’s difficult to imagine what it will be in another five years. With Bob Dylan’s archives and the OKPOP Museum both in the process of building a home in the Brady, it will certainly be a hub for music and art lovers across the world. And Hanson were pioneers in that.
Has anything surprised or particularly impressed you about the direction that Hanson have pursued in their career to date?
It’s been interesting to follow how they have branched out beyond music to other business ventures. Especially with the beer, they’ve gone from that band of kids to adulthood, and their career has followed in step. Their music is creative and expressive as their lives have changed and they do it their own way, beholden to no one.
How does The Hop Jam sit alongside other music festivals in Tulsa like Mayfest, The Centre Of The Universe and the newly mooted Route 66 event?
The Hop Jam has grown steadily and efficiently, not too fast that it outgrew itself. It provides something unique and different, especially being free. It is the largest beer festival in the state now. This year will also highlight an entire stage solely focused on local music. Other festivals highlight locals, but letting those play alongside the big national acts provides them a platform they wouldn’t have otherwise.
Speaking as someone who knows and understands a lot about the Tulsa Music scene, how do Hanson and their music follow in the footsteps of the great musicians from Tulsa and Oklahoma?
Oklahoma has always forged a spirit of independence. Hanson exemplifies that, too. Bob Wills helped to popularize country music in the 1920s and 1930s, right from Cain’s Ballroom. It’s hard to hear a rock album in the 1960s that didn’t feature Leon Russell or other session players from Tulsa. Garth Brooks again changed country music forever. Hanson transitioned from teen pop to refined and respected artists.
What are your thoughts on the music that has been brought to The Hop Jam so far and is coming this year?
The Hop Jam has been great about highlighting local musicians, but also bringing in a wide range of music. What they all have in common is it’s a ton of fun to watch. Polyphonic Spree last year, you can’t help but get a big grin on your face when they play. The same is true for Edward Sharpe. It’s big and joyful, fun and family-friendly.
Taylor Hanson recently said this to you in an interview,
I think deciding to say it’s ( Tulsa) worthy of investment in and it’s worthy of treating it like this is a real industry. This is a real thing that involves people’s businesses and talents and resources,” Hanson said. “We need to be able to keep talented people and get talented people to say, ‘Tulsa. I want to be there.
How do you think this growing investment in Tulsa and its music might develop in the future? From both Hanson and others?
Things are moving quickly to do everything to support and build up our music scene. Abby Kurin, director of the Tulsa Office of Film, Music, Arts and Culture, has done an incredible job coordinating the different entities so that people can work together toward one goal, which is to make Tulsa a destination for musicians and music lovers. For example, Kurin coordinated Tulsa’s presence at Austin’s South by Southwest Music Festival, which included a performance by Tulsa native Leon Russell. She has also organized several film and music mixer panels, where those in the industry discuss their work while also getting to meet those who share their passions. Those connections have become important in strengthening the fabric of our music community.
In the same interview with Hanson you commented that,
They see a spirit in Tulsa that is found in few other places, with a class of creative people who are making their own way, but doing it together as a community.
Can you define this Tulsa Spirit?
Oklahomans have always had a strong independent spirit, of making our own way and making it the way we want to make it. When that idea crosses over into art, it allows for another level of creativity and drive. That can be seen in everyone from Hanson to the singer-songwriter busking during art crawls. And Tulsan’s by and large support the efforts of local musicians. It’s a unique blend of strong independence and collaboration and support that makes a perfect storm.
How do Hanson exemplify this in your opinion?
Here’s an example: They wanted to make a festival that featured great music and beer from near and far, so they just did it. It took a lot of work and a lot of planning, dedication and creativity, but they made it their own. They took an idea and made it reality their own way, and Tulsa responded appropriately.
You have covered the Hanson day events in the past for Tulsa World.
What has struck you about the nature and vibe of these events and the fans that travel from all over the world to attend?
First of all, the most surprising part to me is how far people come for the weekend. It’s impressive and shows remarkable dedication that you know the Hanson brothers appreciate it. I love going up to talk to these groups as they arrive and learning that they’re from all over, meeting back in Tulsa for one weekend a year, just like they never left. The best way I can describe the weekend is, it’s the happiest family reunion I have ever seen.
From your meetings with Hanson how would you sum up their character as Tulsa born musicians and entrepreneurs?
They may not be in the front of the line getting the attention for their work, but they’re always there doing the strong work. They’re smart, humble and hard workers. And as someone with three brothers myself, I see a lot of that brotherly relationship between them that I’m so familiar with. It’s a strong bond from which we all benefit.
With its musical roots deeply set in rich soil, the City of Tulsa, in the dusty state of Oklahoma, is a place of growth. Name-dropping the greats of this city is a privilege and as the watch ticks time forward, Hanson’s name and place among them settles even more firmly into the red river rock.
It is no wonder that Hanson sing Tulsa Time now and then. The many trips through Arizona and on to California have seen them return to this place that a young Taylor Hanson once said was, ‘always home’.
Hanson’s own documentation, which is intensely detailed, shows the nature of their own journey ‘through it’, and with the watch ‘set back to it’, the reality of this livin on Tulsa Time is fascinating.
Those who are sincere about following Hanson are advised to set the watch to Tulsa Time, because for all the travelling and touring this band does, there is something brewing down on North Main St and it isn’t just beer.
With many thanks to Jerry Wofford for his time and thoughts.
To read more from Jerry Wofford, Hanson and Tulsa World go to,
More from Tulsa Times
Music in Tulsa Links
Credit and thanks to Hanson, the Hop Jam and Tulsa World for the images used in this piece.