By: Manuela Garay-Giraldo
Fifteen years have passed and the boys you might remember from Hanson are now men, with a record label to call their own. The pop-rock trio is coming to Belleville with their Shout It Out tour. The band was first introduced in 1997 with their hit MMMBop from their first album Middle of Nowhere. QNetNews spoke with lead guitarist and backup singer Isaac Hanson, the oldest of the brothers, to find out what the band has been up to lately.
QNetNews: Could I ask you to talk a little bit about your Shout It Out tour?
Isaac: First of all this is kind of the third leg of the Shout It Out Tour. We did an initial run in the U.S. and about five months later we continued on into Europe and South America. And now a couple of months after that we’re continuing on through Canada and also South East Asia. So we got some shows in the Philippines and we’re crossing our fingers for a couple more shows in South East Asia.
We are promoting this latest record, it’s the fifth studio record that we’ve done. And the tour in general focuses on much of the latest music, but it hits a wide array of music from all of the albums in the past as well as personal favourites of ours that are cover songs that we often work in there. And we’ve consistently done this from the beginning playing songs from the 50s and 60s that were inspirational to us.
Q: So what kind of songs can we expect to hear?
I: I’ll give you example of songs that we do cover, because our set list changes every night. Songs like Gimme Some Lovin’ by Spencer Davis Group, Never Been To Spain made most famous by Three Dog Night in the ‘70s.
Q: So is the ‘70s a huge era for you guys?
I: More like late 50s, early 60s were the biggest influence for us musically. Particularly southern R&B and soul music. Everything from the early people like Little Richard, Chuck Berry, coming from the South and Mid-West of America people like Aretha Franklin to all kinds of Motown from the Jackson 5 and to the The Temptations to everything in between.
Q: So you mentioned before about your set list changing every night and how does that work for you guys? So do you have songs that you must play and play around with the order?
I: To a degree there are always songs that need to be played like singles. Things like MmmBop to the latest single Give a Little from the latest record, those are songs that we know are going to be a part of the show, it’s just a matter of figuring out where they go. You focus on tempos, shall we say, of the shows. Some of those are singles, and some of those are just songs that are very motivational and have the right tempo and set the right mood for the beginning of the show or a certain point in the show. There is a song that was not a single, but is has been consistently kind of a fan favourite which is called ‘Been There Before’ which is off of our forth record, which almost always kind of in the middle of the set, after an acoustic, or towards the beginning of the set. You kind of have places where songs feel kind of feel really good in certain places of the set.
Q: Do your sets reflect the mood you are in that particular day?
I: I think it does to a certain degree, but what we try and focus on two key things: one is making the best show possible no matter what, making it interesting and an inspiring experience. Because ultimately our job is that people walk into the venue and they’re saying to themselves, ‘I’m excited about being at this show.’ So the first thing is being entertaining. Our goal is to think ‘how do we make that show no matter who you are or what stage of being a ‘fan’: how do we make it the most interesting and entertaining show?’
First is being entertaining and the second point is … you’re also trying to say, ‘you know what? When you come and see a Hanson experience, it’s a unique experience every night. It’s to make sure we stay fresh. To make sure that we don’t start going through the paces and then it becomes something mundane. So that it becomes something that is important to us every single night and keeps our chops well honed.
For us it is most important that we represent the music in the most exciting and motivated way, and one of those ways is to make sure that, whether you’ve been to 20 shows or it is your first show, that it is interesting and different.
Q: Let’s talk about your record label, you have your own company now called 3CG. How did that come about?
I: Well the way it came about from the concept of: necessity is the mother of invention, that applies very appropriately to the formation of our record company. Early on we had very strong support and bold support from our initial record company that who signed us and we had big success with our “Middle of Nowhere”. Now, because you know, people took risks, they saw something that they found unique and interesting and they said “wow, these young singer/song writer kids are musicians and all, ok, we’ll sign them.” When everyone else over and over again, turned you down. Literally fourteen different labels, more than once said “Sorry, we’re not going to sign you” The label that signed us in 1996, it took getting to the right person. They turned us down three times before they said yes. So to me it’s perseverance, you don’t take no for an answer, on some level or a rather.
All that to say, during 1999, leading into the release of our second record, the entire record company that we had been a part of, that had signed us initially was basically canned. I’m talking everybody, from the president to the A&R guy was gone. So literally right as we are releasing our second record disaster struck. And we all knew it, and we all knew it was gonna’ be a problem.
So going into our third record, here we were starting completely fresh in a way that was very dangerous for us creatively; and basically it proved to be impossible to work with this new company.
Q: How long did it take to release the third studio record?
I: It took four years to release the record. We started writing and working on that record at the end of 2000, and the record didn’t get out until the middle of 2004.
Basically, necessity being the mother of invention, as I said, after spending years, and 80 songs and the whole nine yards; the most songs we had written and recorded for any record was 25 at that point, so we are talking about four times the amount of material that we had submitted to a label, and at that point we were all kind of looking at each other and saying ‘do you guys even know what you want? Because, um, we have given you a lot of stuff and we really tried to work with you here, and this clearly to us seems like an un-functioning relationship.’
So we ultimately submitted the record and we kind of forced everybody’s hands and said ‘the record is done. And Oh yeah, by the way, we don’t wanna’ be here anymore.’ So we figured out a way to leave that label and ultimately started our own. Although we did look around, and we did talk to several labels and almost signed with one in particular. But as we started going down that road we realized that amongst other things we could find ourselves in the same situation in a couple of years. And that made us very uneasy.
After spending years of trying to get a record done, and years of silence with our fan base and not really having anything to tell them except for ‘we’re working, we promise’. We said ‘alright, we’re never gonna find our selves in this situation again’ and the best way to do it was to take the risk our selves.
So we started the record company and every single record we have released on 3CG has been either no. 1 one or no. 2 on the indie chart, and we have been top 25, if I remember correctly every time as well. So we’re very proud of what the company has done and chart positioning ultimately doesn’t really matter on some level or another. What matters is that it’s sustainable, and what’s most important to us is we’ve had a consistently good relationship with our fan base over the last eight years of formation of the company. Toured a lot more in various places around the world and in the U.S. than we had in previous periods.
Q: How have you seen your fan base change?
I: Well fan base does change over the course of time. What you do have is a core of fans that were initially introduced to you when your first record came out. So we have a healthy group of fans somewhere in their late teens or early twenties ‘til late twenties, which are the main group of people. But also at the same time we’re consistently seeing new faces. We keep running into young musicians, particularly young guy musicians. Walking up to us and saying things like ‘I saw you guys on T.V. and I looked at you and thought, you know what? I can do that too!’
Q: How does that feel?
I: It feels really cool, because, to me, that’s exactly what you hope to do, on some level, is to motivate people. Because that’s how I felt about seeing artist on television or hearing records. I think about people like Michael Jackson, and hearing early Jackson 5 stuff and going ‘wait a second, how old was he? Oh, we can do this!’ You kind of had this realization in your head and it’s kind of the affirmation of your desires.
Q: You were close to that age as well when you started. As I understand it, this year marks the 20 year anniversary of your first performance, does it not?
I: May 15th of 2012 will be 20 years since we started performing together.
Q: That’s mind boggling!
I: It is mind boggling! I was eleven, Taylor was nine and Zach was six. It’s a wonder that we still tolerate each other.
Q: How does that work? Do you get in each other’s faces?
I: Oh! We get in each other’s faces a lot. You know what’s interesting, I was talking to somebody just last night about our band dynamic and our relationship because it’s a unique scenario. The best example I can think of that might relate to somebody in a more intense way, it’s like having a start out business with somebody you’re married to. That might be kind of an awkward comparison, but it’s the best one I can think of off the top of my head. But here is a scenario where it’s complicated, you go home, and you come to work, and it never changes.
The irony is that when we’re not on tour, and we’re not on active work mode, we spend very little time around each other because we spend so much time together otherwise.
Q: And you all have families by now as well…
I: Yeah, we do have kids. Zach and I both have two kids and Taylor has four.
Q: Do they come on tour with you guys?
I: They do from time to time. Not all the time, but they have.
My four year old recently when asked what his daddy did, he told his mom “daddy plays the rock and roll guitar, that’s his job.” I find that to be thoroughly amusing. That’s my job description.
And the other day I also got into a discussion with my four year old. I was asking him what he liked and what he wanted to do and he was talking about different things and he goes “well, what is it that you do?” He was curious about the details, he was trying to figure out what daddy really does.
So anyway, it’s a weird life. And we get in each other’s faces a lot. But the irony is because we’re related to each other, and because we do have so many years of history, it kind of forces you resolve the challenges. I think that if we weren’t related, the band would not exist.
I: Yeah, because things get really intense. An you have to have an extraordinary amount of respect and devotion to the band and to one another to get through some of the craziness. Part of that is the formation of the label and surviving all of that mess that was going on, and then all the other chaos and craziness that comes along with it.
That being said, it’s so much fun. I mean, who wouldn’t die to have the job I’ve got? I write songs and put them on records and people sing them back to me! This is a job that does not suck. Granted there are a lot of long hours and a lot of intensity and in some cases very literal physical pain; ‘cause of the traveling, and the distance and the lack of sleep and all of that. But I’m not going to complain for a second, because you gotta work in your life, and why not work in something that you love? And in this case I love my job.
Q: What is the Canadian release date for Shout It Out?
I: Unfortunately, one hasn’t been set yet. We’re working on it. My guess is March-April, sooner rather than later that’s the plan.
Q: Does this go back to you owning your own record label, is this an example of one of those differences between being signed to a big company and having your own?
I: Well yeah, to some degree, I mean the music business has been in extraordinary dire circumstances for a very long time. And yet we’ve been able to sustain a huge portion of our business in a way that is really cool. We’re just thrilled that so many of our fans have stuck around and continued to be supportive in spite of years of silence. It ultimately it gets back to the music. The only reason we do the work, and the only reason why we want to have a record company is because at the end of the day I am song-writer and a singer and a musician first. All of the other stuff is to facilitate my passion for writing songs and going up on stage. It’s about relating to people, it’s about having that emotional connection. And saying ‘you know what? Yes, things are rough right now, and guess what, either here is a song that you can relate to, or here’s a song that is all about being in that place, or here’s a song to remind you that you don’t have to be in that place, and oh yeah, by the way, let’s all jump up and down an have a good time.’
You have this weird scenario as an artist where you have two sides of coin. You have the extrovert I’m-up-on-stage element, and then you have the introvert I-write-songs- and-make-records part.
Q: What inspires you to write songs?
I: Life, everything about it. There are so many complexities to the human condition, and there are so many things that can provide inspiration. Much of those inspirations are over coming challenges in your personal life, it can be as big as surviving, having to find a new job, or the loss of a loved one, or the loss of a relationship that you thought was going to last. Or it can be about celebrating the fact that it’s a really nice day out side. There’s just so many complexities on how to express those realities. And it’s exciting to be in a scenario where you have the opportunity to explore that reality. In some of the more intense songs I find I get sucked into the song and become, that person for a time, you get sucked into the emotion of it. You become the person the song is talking about.
Q: What would you say are the topics that you zeroed in on in shout it out?
I: Some of themes that we settled down on in this record, there are several songs that are about letting loose, encouraging someone to shout it out, literally.
The first song which the title ‘Shout It Out’ actually comes from, a song called ‘Waiting For This’ it literally says ‘you’ve been waiting for this moment, you keep telling yourself, no, now, this is not the time, this is not the time, maybe some other time, I’m not gonna go for it just yet’ but, this is the time, this is the place, this is the thing you need to be doing now, is seizing the moment because there is no other time like now to paint the town red. To just go for it, to take the risk. That’s what this album is trying to convey.