Taylor Hanson sounds exhausted. Our phone conversation is interrupted frequently by his long yawns.
You’ve got to give it to the man: he has every right to be craving a little extra bit of shut-eye. At just 24 years old, Taylor is co-running his own record label with two of his six siblings, promoting his album, “The Walk,” and organizing barefoot walk-a-thons to raise awareness of poverty and AIDS in Africa.
Oh, and he’s a married father of three. Not too time-consuming at all.
At least that rumour about a fourth child en route is false.
“It’s a complete rumour. We’re not expecting,” Taylor replies in a serious PR tone. But then, as an afterthought, exclaims, “I’ll tell you what though. That rumour has spread far and wide! There’s been a lot of babies in the air. We’ve got a lot of Hanson grandkids now,” he jokes. I can practically see him rubbing his face in sleepy disbelief.
Yes, the travelling Hanson family band is pretty huge already. Older brother Isaac, 27, also has a child with his wife, and Zac, 22, is married as well. Touring together must take a lot of coordination, to say the least. Taylor fondly compares it to how classic rock bands used to travel with their entourage of girlfriends and wives.
At least he gets a chance to stretch his legs. The mile-long walk-a-thons are held before every Hanson concert, where they raise money to buy needy African kids a pair of shoes.
“The walk is a symbol,” Taylor says. “By walking a mile, you’re really reminding yourself and the people that are around you that this is something that individuals are doing, but when individuals do it together it becomes something that has the ability to make a huge impact. Through the walks, we’re able to say, ‘You know what, this is what it’s like to be in need.’ When you feel the soles of your feet are raw and sore from walking that mile, you then are reminded that somebody might need something as basic as a pair of shoes.
“And it’s really not just about giving somebody shoes; it’s about starting the thinking process and asking, ‘What are the real things that I can be a part of doing? And what are the ways that I can make an impact here? And simple things that I can apply?’ And the shoes is the beginning.”
Taylor and his brothers will be strolling into Canada in early December (Dec. 2 in Toronto, Dec. 3 in Hamilton, Dec. 5 in Ottawa and Dec. 6 in London), which puts a few kinks in the whole barefoot plan. Other than the certainty of contracting hepatitis, Taylor fully realizes that braving the Canadian winter may not be the smartest move.
“We’re not saying that people absolutely have to walk barefoot. We’ll see. We’ll continue our walk regardless. One thing we don’t want to do is try and do something good and give everyone pneumonia.”
Illness is definitely not an option, especially for Isaac. Following a near-fatal pulmonary embolism last month, Isaac is preparing for more surgery.
“He’s actually doing fine,” Taylor sombrely assures me. “I mean, he has a significant issue that he has to face. Fortunately, he had the blood clot removed and is technically okay as long as he stays on top of those issues. He’s got a rib and a collar bone that are pinching the vein which is causing that to happen. So he’s going to have a rib removed at the end of the year and have to kind of take a break for six to eight weeks so that can heal. It’s definitely something we’re all very thankful that he made it through, and was just saved by being able to recognize that issue and doctors doing an amazing job. But he’s okay.”
There’s that tired voice again. The idea of losing his brother and band mate is definitely a heavy thought.
How about discussing the ways in which recording, touring and promoting have changed since the band broke up with their label in 2001 and formed their independent label, 3CG? Oh, I see that’s weighty topic as well.
“I think, honestly, the biggest thing generally was to maintain the path we’ve had creatively. We were in the process of having to adapt to this changing music business in a bad way before we left. You know, it was this very corporate system and a lot of very non-creative people that are working at this record company. It was just a matter of, we want people that really believe in what we’re doing in the long run and want to be a part of building our career. That’s what the decision to start the label was. We want to be in the position to control what we’re doing. Also, going forward, we do want to be involved in supporting other artists and helping to create a record company in an environment where we can empower other artists to succeed. [This business] is about building fanbases in the long-term, having a relationship with [your] fans and a career. Not just trying to have a quick hit single and move on.”
Yes, gone is the carefree “MMMbop” Taylor of yester-year that I fawned over while reading Tiger Beat at age nine. (Well, to be honest, Zac was my favourite. But I was not impervious to Taylor’s pretty.) And maybe it was to prove they weren’t those floppy-haired little kids anymore that they braved the Howard Stern Show this May. Taylor laughs recalling the ordeal, when Stern grilled them on their masturbatory habits, if they’d had premarital sex and whether they smoke pot (It’s all on YouTube, if you want the answers.).
“Our wives were horribly nervous, but they handled it really well and were understanding of the situation,” he recalls. “You don’t go onto Howard Stern thinking that it’s going to be clean-cut. We decided that we wanted to go on there and present our music and be kind of talking about what we’re doing with somebody who is perceived as kind of a hardliner. And what’s great about it is when you can go in there and have somebody like Howard Stern basically give you props as an artist. That’s the most important thing, because you’re speaking to an audience that’s isn’t necessarily up to date on what you’re doing. And you’ve got somebody who’s known for advocating things that he’s really into. And he was really, really supportive. So the stuff that was really embarrassing… well, it was more than embarrassing, it was awkward. You know that that’s just part of what it is to go on Howard Stern and you kind of have to deal with it.”
Yes, that’s pretty much the best way to sum up Taylor Hanson right now: he’s dealing with it. Dealing with the balancing act of being a family man on the road. Dealing with the weight of responsibility he feels to use his music as an inspirational tool. Dealing with the scary idea of his brother’s mortality. And dealing with his legions of fans who support him in everything that he does….
Well, I guess that last one helps.