Walk steady

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Taylor Hanson says he and his brothers, Zac and Isaac, have always believed they could do whatever they wanted, so long as they put their minds to it.

This trait - along with some genuine talent - probably explains why the one-time teen pop group has accomplished a rare feat in the music biz: The brothers have built a lasting career in a field where most teen stars flame out before reaching drinking age.

With Hanson's latest CD, The Walk, the group is continuing a successful run that started in 1997, when "MMMBop" shot to the top of the pop charts. (Oldest brother Isaac was 16 at the time and Zac was all of 11.) Some 14 months after its release, The Walk still has enough life to allow Hanson to return to the concert trail for a three-month tour this fall.

"It's a record that's kind of saying we're survivors and 'the walk' is the journey," Taylor Hanson said in a recent phone interview. "It's not a run. It's not a sprint. It's not a chase.

"We're still touring on it," he said. "We're not going anywhere as far as leaving. We're headed straight forward. And I think that's what The Walk has done. I think it's cemented further the qualities that we hold essential to this band."

In reality, Taylor knows Hanson's career could have hit the skids had the brothers not made the bold move five years ago to break away from a major-label deal with Island Def Jam and start their own label, 3CG Records.

At the time, the band was making its third album, Underneath, and realized the executives at Island Def Jam were unsure about the CD and Hanson's musical direction.

"We found ourselves having sold millions of records standing in boardrooms with corporate guys from a rap label that had no idea what to do with us," Taylor said.

After Hanson negotiated its release from the label, Underneath became a transitional album, in both a creative and business sense. Its acoustic-rooted sound signaled a shift away from the sugary pop of Hanson's early music and toward a more mature style rooted in classic soul and rock.

The Walk took that musical growth further. For this CD, Taylor (keyboards/vocals), Isaac (vocals/guitar/bass) and Zac (drums/vocal) plugged back in and crafted an appealing sound that combines their pop sensibilities with a punchy, soul-rooted sound. It's prompted comparisons to Maroon 5, and while Hanson's sound leans more toward pop-rock, it's an accurate enough reference point.

On a business level, the group's had enough success with the two albums to put 3CG on solid footing. Hanson has also used their freedom as a self-employed band to get involved in social causes.

While making The Walk, the three brothers visited Africa and saw firsthand the tragedy of AIDS and poverty there. The group has undertaken a variety of fundraising efforts since, including a pre-concert, mile-long walk on the day of every show. The band announces the time and location on its website the day of each concert, and donates a dollar to charity for every person who completes the walk.

On this fall's tour, the group will add one more component to its efforts: the release of a coffee-table book, Take The Walk, sharing the Hanson brothers' experiences in Africa. The book also contains a five-song EP of new, related material.