Hanson Returns to Musical Roots with ‘The Walk’

Assistant Editor

TULSA TRIO: From left, Zac, Taylor and Isaac Hanson will release their fourth studio album “The Walk??? on July 24. The brothers recently started their own Tulsa-based record label 3CG Records on which they have released their last two albums.

Courtesy 10th Street Entertainment

Ten years ago, American music was in the midst of the summer of pop and for millions of teenage girls around the world, Tulsa became a musical Mecca. “MMMBop” took root in fans heads, the addictive, nonsense chorus refusing to budge once planted there, and Tulsa brothers Isaac, Taylor and Zac Hanson went from being hometown musicians to an internationally known band.

Since 1997 when the hysteria following the band was compared to Beatle mania, Hanson has made their name on being dedicated musicians and songwriters who know how to write catchy pop/rock songs with infectious yet poignant lyrics. Their latest album “The Walk” showcases their talent through taking a trip back to their musical roots.

“We really had an arc and a message behind it,” Taylor says of the album’s overall theme. “Because the last record was more disjointed in the way it was made, this record we really wanted to have a cohesive message and approach.”

The band has also made a return to their hometown in recent years. In 2004, Hanson split with their record label, Island Def Jam, and formed their own, 3CG (3 Car Garage) Records. The Tulsa-based label has given the band the freedom to do things their way this time around, an attribute that shows musically and lyrically throughout the album.

“Being on our own label has allowed us to continue on the path we’ve been on,” Taylor says. “I think it’s allowed us to stay true to our inspirations and the way we’d like to see the music made. Leaving (Island) allowed us to focus on long-term planning, writing songs and working with producers in a more cohesive way.”

In the earlier part of the writing process for “The Walk,” Hanson gathered together Oklahoma musicians such as Zac Maloy, The Hero Factor and Graham Colton for a songwriting workshop. “Watch Over Me” and “Running Man” were written at this conference and included on the album. As the brothers began to focus on writing the rest of the album, they searched for a producer that would understand where they had come from and where they wanted to go. One name came to mind: “Penny and Me” producer Danny Kortchmar who has worked with Carole King, James Taylor, Don Henley and Billy Joel.

“We brought Danny on because he comes from a background of playing live and recording in other people’s bands and is very focused in arrangement and not just layering parts,” Taylor says. “We tried to capture what our band sounds like when we sit down and play together.”

As documented in the band’s free podcast, “Taking the Walk” (available on iTunes), Kortchmar worked with the brothers in Tulsa to achieve musical perfection. The result is a collection of songs that takes the listener on a journey.

“The Walk” starts off with the album’s strongest rock songs, “Great Divide” and “Been There Before,” before diverting into mellower, more contemplative songs like “Go” and “Fire on the Mountain.” The lyrical core of the record focuses on recognizing the odds, triumphing over them and ultimately finding a passion for life.

“Overall, there’s definitely a theme of going up against great barriers and finding your way through them,” Taylor says. “’The Walk’ is about taking everything that you are and boldly moving forward, taking on all these different obstacles and getting through it.”

The unique component of the album is the South African children’s choir backing multiple tracks, echoing choruses and filling out background vocals. The brothers traveled to South Africa last summer after meeting with a Tulsa-based health technology company involved in the fight against AIDS. In addition to recording with the choir, the trip also had a philanthropic benefit. On World AIDS Day last year, Hanson released “Great Divide” on iTunes and donated 100 percent of the profits to the Perinatal HIV Research Unit in Soweto, South Africa.

“We were very inspired by the message of “Great Divide” and thought ‘what would happen if we tried to capture our journey through this music?’ We thought we should record while we were over there,” Taylor says. “We set up a session with a music class at a local school. They learned some basic parts and they added to it with African dialect. In an afternoon, we recorded it and it was very inspiring. It wasn’t even that it was perfect, but it was very pure and organic and it totally captured the message of people needing help.”

From first listen, “The Walk” is classic Hanson full of luscious Beach Boy-esque harmonies strewn throughout choruses, rhythm and blues inspired guitar riffs and bass lines and an overall sound so fulfilling that one would be hard-pressed to find something with more heart. According to Taylor, this sound reminiscent of the beginnings of rock-n-roll is exactly what the band was after.

“I think “Great Divide” is the best example of what we wanted to do differently on the record, a sound we hadn’t created before. “Been There Before” is another example of what we wanted to do with the record, which is to bring back some of our R&B influences. That’s really what we were inspired by to begin with: old R&B and classic rock-n-roll music.”

In ten years, Hanson has risen to the top of the musical world, ridden the turbulent ride of record company mergers and returned to their beginnings. “The Walk” documents this journey beautifully and will, as written in “Been There Before,” “move you, soothe you and fill your heart and soul with the roots of rock-n-roll.”

For more information on Hanson and “The Walk,” visit www.hanson.net.

Updated 08-02-2007

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