“…we’ve been doing this for a long time and we love making pop rock music or whatever it is we make and to have the chance to present the music we’ve been working on both new and old in one show in a different way than ever before…”
From Release: During the past quarter-century, Isaac, Taylor and Zac Hanson have made a significant mark in music, beginning with their meteoric rise off the back of 1997 global smash ‘MmmBop’. Their debut album ‘MIDDLE OF NOWHERE’ spawned a string of Top 40 singles, followed by countless radio hits, five more studio albums, multiple Grammy nominations and record sales exceeding 16 million. String Theory is the next frontier for HANSON, telling a story of aspiration and fortitude against the odds. The music resonates with authenticity, coming from a group whose signature is never to chase trends, but instead to stay focused on their melodic artistry, establishing themselves as one of the few artists of their generation able to continually reinvent and reimagine their music, which has helped them to maintain an active global fan base over 25 years after their founding.
While producing and engineering a record for a friend we interrupted Isaac to talk about Hanson’s return to Australia for their String Theory tour, the concept, the creation, the album, the future, and more…
Isaac, it is a pleasure to talk to you because you’ve now completed my Hanson set after speaking to Taylor and Zac before, so now I have all three and I’m stoked.
Well you saved the best for last, or at least I hope *laughs* and if you didn’t just don’t tell me because then I won’t feel wounded and feel bad about myself *laughs*.
Of course we’re here because you’re headed back to see us in Australia, this time on the String Theory tour, so can you tell us a little bit of what people can expect at these shows?
Well, for one it is a very unique show for obvious reasons, this is the first time we’ve ever done shows with a full symphony like this and it’s really exciting for that reason, I mean this is one of those things I think pretty much every musician dreams in theory of doing something like a big horn section or big string section on a song you know, but then when you combine a big horn section and a big string section and add a percussion section you get an orchestra. So this for us was icing on the cake of kind of musical ability, things that you always dreamed of doing but now you could really do. I think in many ways too it was about challenging ourselves, we’ve been doing this for a long time and we love making pop rock music or whatever it is we make and to have the chance to present the music we’ve been working on both new and old in one show in a different way than ever before and to work with an Oscar winning composer who is a long-time friend and was our ideal collaborator for this project David Campbell and to be able to put this together in one big package has been really in effect a dream come true.
What was the process like choosing which songs you would rearrange for String Theory?
It was an interesting process I’ll say that much, we had to come at it several different ways and we had a bunch of false starts. Once we kind of closed in on the fact that David would be able to do it with us we then set out and said OK now that David likes the idea of what we’re talking about how are we really going to accomplish this? We first started with songs that seemed to lend themselves to having strings on them, then we also made the list of oh these are songs that we feel like fans and non-fans alike probably expect to potentially hear in the show and we started culling down through this list and then we scrapped the list *laughs* and said you know what this isn’t working, it just wasn’t gelling together it just wasn’t making any sense and what we discovered is that we had to come up with some kind of storyboard, some kind of story, some kind of motivation for the show and that came in the form of words that kind of described a narrative, a process that this character was going through and there’s a song called ‘Reaching For The Sky’ which is a brand new song which makes its debut in ‘String Theory’ and it’s a ballad, and it starts the show and that was the first thing was wait a second we’re starting the show with a ballad, why? Because you’ve got an orchestra behind you and you can do things that you could never otherwise do with a ballad and so it started to unfold very, very quickly and we thought OK this is the right direction, these words, these emotional guidelines are the helpful thing that we hit the right tone for people and it’s all a biography in music but we definitely added our own kind of career trajectory in mind as we were talking about the inspiration and the words and the emotional tone that we were setting throughout the show. So it is guided by our own life experience but it’s not only about our lives.
Were there any that you did choose that just didn’t work in that kind of style?
Well unfortunately one of my favourite songs, actually two of my favourite songs over the years were on ‘Middle of Nowhere’ a song called ‘I Will Come To You’ and a song called ‘Weird’ and we had thought that those would probably make it or at least one of them would make it, and they ended up not making it which was kind of strange, even though ‘I Will Come To You’ for example was on the list that had a full string section and an arrangement that David had done twenty years ago and we were like OK well this will definitely make it and for some reason or another we ended up with a few too many ballads and ‘I Will Come To You’ although it’s not exclusively a love song it definitely leans that way and really there are not a lot of love songs in this show, this show is more about a character going through the ups and downs of life and trying to decide whether or not to continue to chase the elusive dream or not, and whether to kind of push through the tragedy or not, whether to see the light at the end of the tunnel even though you’re going through personal crisis. It kind of walks you through this whole process which I think every human being in some form or another goes through this in their lives, but it’s just a way of creating a narrative that we identified with and I think a lot of people will find themselves identifying with when they see the show.
Songs like ‘MmmBop’ made it because ‘MmmBop’ is an important part not only of our career and our lives but the song itself has a certain kind of melancholy quality to it in the verses and we were able to let the orchestra pull out some of that melancholy in the verse but still let the chorus shine and celebrate the kind of catchy unique quality that is ‘MmmBop’ at the same time and I feel really, really good about that as well. This show is as much about new music as anything too because we have songs like ‘Reaching For The Sky’, ‘Battle Cry’, ‘Breaktown’, ‘No Rest For The Weary’, ‘Sound of Light’, ‘Siren Call’ these are all songs that are either unreleased or have never been released to the public and only the fan club has ever heard them, so these are songs that re really unique to this show and really shine with the orchestra behind them.
In terms of new music we have the String Theory album, in keeping this all a surprise for me and for the shows is this a live album or studio recording of these songs?
It is a studio record
So was it a different process playing these songs in the studio compared to the stage?
I mean yes in a fact it was but what was really interesting in order to do the show and in order to arrange the show the way it’s done we actually had to do… we kind of made the record before we finished it which was we took original recordings and kind of reworked recordings and we kind of laid them out and made the show and said, hey David, this is what we’re thinking, and we want this song to start with a broken down chorus where it’s only the vocals and the orchestra… we want this song to go up to this massive crescendo and then everything drops out except for the violins, we kind of had these kind of big, overarching ideas from song to song and literally had to lay out by the second, by the bar, by the beat what we wanted the show to be. Even before we went through the process that it was the final record recording, so there was an extensive advanced I guess you would say *laughs* pre-production process of laying out the show for David so he could hear it so he could then arrange parts over, underneath, around and on top of those recordings and then we had to build the album around that combining in some cases and like there’s a song called ‘Breaktown’ which is in there but the recording that we ended up choosing to use we thought we’d actually re-recorded but we realised that the recording that we had made of this song that had been around for fifteen years, the recording that we had done when recording our fourth album ‘The Walk’ with our friend Danny Kortchmar we listened back to that recording and said wait a second, this is exactly right, we thought it wasn’t right but when you put and orchestra around this it is going to be perfect and so we actually were able to pull things out that had never been released, that no one had ever heard and be able to put that in the show.
So, it’s this cool amalgam of taking unheard things before and making them brand spanking new by putting an orchestra around it. Then songs like ‘Mmm Bop’ and ‘Where’s The Love’ you’re recording from scratch because it’s not like the vocals from 1997 would ever work, so it’s this really cool combination of brand new and stuff from the vault and everything all combined and stripping everything back and making sure that the orchestra comes through and shines as well as brand new recordings, so it’s a really cool mish mash or stuff that I think takes people through our career in a way that no other project ever could. What was really cool too is not only were we able to work with David on this record which was super fun and he was able to help us realise a vision that we had only imagined we could achieve but also in addition to that we had our friend Jim Scott who we have been pining to work with for years and years and had never worked on an album before and we had him mix the whole project for us and he put the final finishing touches on this album and he’s of course worked with everybody from Tom Petty to the Red Hot Chili Peppers to countless other people and have won Grammys and all that and he’s an absolutely exceptional person as well as an extremely talented engineer so it was fun to have him be part of the project as well.
Lastly as we’re out of time, let’s try and predict the future, so I want you to finish this sentence for me. In 2019 Hanson will…
Hanson will be… how do I say this without giving something away?
No! Give something away!
*laughs* In 2019 Hanson will be doing things that people don’t expect them to do.
I can’t wait for that Heavy Metal album, man, that will be amazing!
Yes, well you may be closer than you think, you never know… *laughs* there are a few ideas floating around, let’s just say we’ve got a few fun ideas on rotation that we’re trying to decide which one to do first and we’re really excited. Our goal is to be extremely prolific over the next couple of years.
As you said, best until last let’s go with that!
*laughs* Thanks very much, I appreciate it.
HANSON | STRING THEORY AUSTRALIAN TOUR 2019
Presented by Chugg Entertainment
Wednesday 27th February – Palais Theatre (All Ages)
SYDNEY – SOLD OUT
Monday 4th March – Sydney Opera House Concert Hall (All Ages)
Tuesday 5th March – Sydney Opera House Concert Hall (All Ages)
Wednesday 6th March – Canberra Theatre Centre (All Ages)
Friday 8th March – The Star (All Ages)
Saturday 9th March – Concert Hall QPAC (All Ages)
From: Tulsa, Oklahoma, USA
Band members: Isaac – Guitar, Bass, Piano, Vocals, Taylor – Piano, Guitar, Drums, Vocals, Zac – Drums, Piano, Guitar, Vocals
Latest release: String Theory (Out Now)