Listen: 90s Icon Taylor Hanson joins Laura Bennett on Hope Drive to chat about 30 years in the industry
Nineties kids beware, a wave of nostalgia is coming this year as pop icons Hanson mark their 30th anniversary and get set to release their seventh studio album Red, Green Blue in May.
Formed in Tulsa, Oklahoma, when brothers Zac, Taylor and Isaac were just seven, nine and 11 respectively, Hanson initially built a regional following of fans before their 1997 album Middle of Nowhere – and its first single MMMBop – launched them on to the world stage.
In the years that followed they have sold over 16 million albums internationally, and enjoyed a rare enduring relationship with fans that have journeyed with them since their debut.
In fact, in Tulsa, “Hanson Day”, which was meant to be a one-time occurrence marking the release of Middle of Nowhere and its success, has become an annual event celebrated by fans and that will be used this year to commemorate the impending anniversary.
Speaking to Hope 103.2, Taylor said, “I think the connections that people make – especially when you’re young – to music and to pop culture are stronger than ever”.
“They are what form your views and you hang on to those,” he said.
“I feel really proud that we’ve had that connection. Music is extremely personal. I’m very grateful that we’re a part of people’s lives.”
“I’m very grateful that we’re a part of people’s lives,” – Taylor Hanson
The first single from the new album, Child At Heart, is a timely gift to longstanding fans of the band, as Hanson sing about the youthful spirit that’s needed as you get deeper into adulthood and how it can help you find hope in difficult times.
Listen: pop icons Hanson perform their new single ‘Child At Heart’
“[Child At Heart] is talking about coming through difficulty and the idea of finding hope, and being hopeful even though you’re looking down the barrel of feeling like you want to go inside, you want to give up,” Taylor said.
“[You’re] looking in the mirror as well as looking across at someone else that’s struggling and saying, ‘Hey, you’re here for a reason. Don’t stop giving your heart to things, don’t stop hoping for good things and expecting good things’.”
When it comes to getting older and taking on the responsibilities of fatherhood – Taylor has seven children with his wife Natalie – maintaining a child-like spirit is important to him.
“I think keeping a sense of awe, keeping a sense of possibility – that’s the best thing that I see from staying connected to my kids,” Taylor said.
“[Hanson] have been doing what we do for a long time [and] guys and girls that are our age, that have grown up with us, you see people that start falling into their patterns, and stop growing and stop learning and stop chasing the dream.
“Real depression and real despair start to come in when, I think, people stop expecting new possibilities.”
“You’re here for a reason. Don’t stop giving your heart to things, don’t stop hoping for good things and expecting good things,” – Taylor Hanson
So, does Taylor think having success at a young age can make it harder to be excited about the years that follow that success?
“Our experiences have been extraordinary, and certainly test you,” Taylor said.
“Having success and being young, that has a chance of really distorting your view of yourself and the world – and absolutely could cause you to lose sight of things – but I don’t think that is a path that is more susceptible to [issues of depression].
“All of us [in the band] have been able to give so much of our lives to things that we really believe in.
“A lot of people don’t get to [do that] so I would say we have a lot of reminders every day that there’s a reason to choose to be optimistic and hopeful, but it doesn’t mean it’s easy.”
Something that has helped Taylor find hope and build resilience through life’s tougher moments, comes from the way he and his brothers were taught to approach their work early on.
“We’ve always had a sense that what we’re doing is not just an accident,” Taylor said.
“Our songs have an uplifting quality to them but in every one of our songs we tend to comment on the challenge but then look for an answer, and that goes back to our youth.
“We were really encouraged to strive for things, that things mattered: what you did mattered, what you said mattered.
“So, we’ve always approached our work that way, and our songs that way.”
“We’ve always had a sense that what we’re doing is not just an accident,” – Taylor Hanson
Having grown up largely in the public eye – even if it was before the onset of social media and its 24/7 commentary of your life and career – Taylor and his brothers know what it’s like to have their actions scrutinised, and for onlookers to make assumptions about their lives.
For starters, “the ‘boy band’ moniker was never one we particularly embraced”, Taylor said.
But he accepts that no-one, famous or otherwise, is ever “fully understood”.
“You don’t control what other people say, you only control what you put into the world,” he said.
“You do have to make choices about what you listen to and what you give credence to, because these days everybody has a platform, everybody has a way to share their opinion.”
That reality doesn’t make Taylor feel the need to clarify all his views online, in fact, it makes him even more passionate about his music.
“We’ve tried really hard to put as much of our voice into the songs and into our actual craft, because that’s why we’re here,” Taylor said.
“We’re not here because we need to have an opinion on everything out in the world, and we also know that everyone doesn’t need to have an opinion on you.
“You just try and focus on what you can control, and you hope to share things that you think matter and look for people that are responding in a way that is positive.”
Taylor’s perspective really is one indicative of someone who has been making music for a while and who has the benefit of a few years of life under his belt. So, as Hanson mark their 30th anniversary, what advice would he give to young Taylor?
“I would encourage him to be bold and to be confident,” Taylor said.
“I would probably just be the older adviser that I would like to have had in addition to the people around me that said, ‘Hey, stick to your guns, fight for it, be bold, don’t be fearful. Keep taking chances.”
“You don’t control what other people say, you only control what you put into the world,” – Taylor Hanson
Hanson’s latest single Child At Heart is out now from their upcoming album Red, Green Blue which drops May 20.
Listen to Taylor Hanson’s full interview with Laura Bennett in the player above.