Hanson: The ‘Street’ Interview

TODD GRABARSKY
and JON LEVIN
Daily Pennsylvanian
University of Pennsylvania

Street Music: How is your latest album Underneath different from you older stuff? What were you trying to achieve?

Isaac Hanson: I would say Underneath is probably the most mellow record we’ve done over the years. Albums like This Time Around or Middle of Nowhere definitely had mellow moments. But the mellow moments were not quite as acoustic, I guess you could say. Not quite as organic. With Underneath we wanted to give the songs as much breathing room as possible.

Do you think about your audience when you go into the studio to make a record?

Definitely not. If you’re making music for an audience, you’re doing it for the wrong reasons. You want to create the best musical experience. You never go into a record saying, ‘Well, I’m going to aim to please this group or that group.’ You go in, and you make the best record you can.

Do you think the fans from the ’90s are the same people who still buy your records and go to your shows?

Well, if you go to a Hanson show, you’ll see somebody who’s dressed like they’re from suburbia, you’ll see somebody who’s dressed goth, and you’ll see somebody who’s dressed preppy. The fans have evolved over the years. But there are always repeat fans.

How has Hanson matured in the last five years?

Because we were successful in our early teen years, everybody always uses the word “mature.” I always say, “It’s not so much maturing as it is evolving.” I believe that if you listen to the subject matter on all our albums, there’s a lot of similar threads. Not in an immature or mature way.

What happened in your personal lives recently?

Honestly, we spent a lot of time trying to make this record happen. A lot of our personal lives were immediately wrapped up in getting a record done. Taylor got married. He also has a little boy and a little girl. I didn’t get married or anything like that. But we also formed a record company — we’re about to hit our two year anniversary.

How was it recording the album on your own label?

A good part of the album was recorded while we were still under contract with Island/Def Jam. But the record company we were working with was not the record company that signed us. It was a hip-hop oriented record label. So when it came to making that record, we knew we were in a somewhat dire situation. We went into the studio and finished the album, and delivered it to the record company and said, “We’re not sure we want to release this record with you, because we don’t think that we’re seeing eye to eye on this.” And so we were able to negotiate out of the record contract, and then record a few more songs.

What is your social life like, given the atypical upbringing you had as a teen star?

My social life is thoroughly robust. I have a couple of really, really good friends, and I’ve had good friends since I was a kid. I think it’s crucial to always remember where you came from. And also, my brothers are really grounded, cool people and they don’t let me get away with too much shit. I met my girlfriend at a show. She was fifth row and I was like, “That girl is really, really cool. She looks really cute. I need to meet her.” Two years later, I’m still dating her. I’m never in one place very long, but there’s advantages: I never would have met my girlfriend, who’s from Florida.

In the ’90s, Hanson was portrayed with a very wholesome image. How true to that did you stay out on tour?

It’s pretty hard not to be wholesome when you’re 11 years old, as Zac [the drummer] was. I think it would have gone over a lot worse if we would have had an 11-year-old crack addict. I think that would’ve been really odd. I’m just like everybody else, man. I go out with my friends and have a good time. I’m personally a whisky fan.

Jack Daniels?

I’m a little bit more of a Maker’s Mark guy than a Jack guy. Jack is always a good default though. I like some really good Scottish malts. I’m able to get a hold of really random stuff. We could have a whisky tasting party.

We were thinking about it, actually. You’re coming to Philly soon. We can write a feature: “Five Rounds with Hanson.”

That’s funny.

We’re serious. If you’re down, it’s front page.

Good talking to you guys, I look forward to maybe running into you guys when we’re in Pennsylvania.

Yeah, we’re serious about “Five Rounds with Hanson.”

Well, you never know. Let’s just leave it up to fate.