Photo: Jonathan Weiner
Why Hanson Decided To Go Solo For 'Red Green Blue' — And How They Found Togetherness Because Of It
The Hanson brothers — Taylor, Isaac and Zac — give GRAMMY.com an inside look at the challenging, but rewarding process behind their new album, 'RED GREEN BLUE.'
After 30 years as a band, Hanson created an album in a way they've never done before: going solo.
The sibling trio's latest release, RED GREEN BLUE, is an amalgamation of a 5-song mini album created by each individual brother: RED for Taylor, GREEN for Isaac and BLUE for Zac. Each brother wrote and produced their third of the album entirely on their own (with the help of GRAMMY Award-winning producers Jim Scott and David Garza), which was new territory for the familial group. But that doesn't mean it's any less Hanson — in fact, it may be their most Hanson record to date.
"You really hear the creative voice of each guy in a different way," Taylor suggests during a recent Zoom interview with his brothers. "Fans that have followed us for years have understood this idea of, 'that's sort of an Isaac song' or 'that's sort of a Taylor song, or Zac [song]' — or at least that's subliminally been in the sound of our work. It's us working together in a different capacity."
RED GREEN BLUE provides Hanson fans a chance to get lost in the uniqueness of each brother's voice and musical talent — after all, they each sing, songwrite, and play instruments. But their unmistakable bond and chemistry is as vibrant as ever thanks to their signature harmonies, which appear in varied ways across every track.
GRAMMY.com spoke to the Hanson brothers about taking this new creative direction, their continued growth as artists, and the importance of creating connections with fans for 30 years and counting.
The album combines three separate solo projects into one album. What led you to that decision? Why did it make sense to combine them into one album?
Zac: You're trying to deepen the connection you have with people, go deeper down the rabbit hole of why we do what we do, how we do what we do — what it is that makes Hanson an entity, and why we've been together for 30 years. A little bit of deconstruction, taking the parts and seeing them as individuals, seemed like a cool and interesting — and also challenging — way to tell our story as a band at this sort of critical moment in our history.
We produce almost all of our music, just the three of us. That's a very full room full of ideas and lots of opinions. In a normal environment, it's hard to get a fourth or a fifth person and their ideas into the music. It provided the opportunity to have Jim Scott, who's a great producer/engineer, and a good friend, David Garza, who's also a great artist and producer, to play a more full role..
Taylor: We've always really been passionate about writing songs as much as performing. On this record, you hear the creative voice of each guy in a different way. There's not many bands that have every member contribute creatively as singers, players and writers.
Fans that have followed us for years have understood this idea of, “that's sort of an Isaac song” or “that's sort of a Taylor song, or Zac [song]” — or at least that’s subliminally been in the sound of our work. It’s a project that highlights those things differently.
In the end, it's still presented as Hanson because it is Hanson. It's us playing on each other's work. It's us working together in a different capacity. Finding a way to balance the differences, while also putting them on a platform of what we've made together, was a unique challenge. I think we found a balance on how to do it.
The new album is called RED GREEN BLUE. What is the significance of those colors?
Isaac: It goes back, frankly, as long as I can remember, to our childhood in some way or another, because as we were growing up, my childhood favorite color was green, Taylor's was red, and Zac's was blue. And that was the kind of thing that we would use those colors to differentiate things like, "Oh, that's my stuff." It goes back that far in our personal history.
It's also indicative of certain parts of our personalities. I think it's a kind of an appropriate metaphor for who we are. Taylor's a very kind of driven, a very passionate kind of guy, you see that in red. I am a little bit [of an] organic-leaning guy. And Zac is an adventurer — he sees the blue sky kind of possibilities. We joked around with calling it... What was it? Red Blood?
Taylor: Red Blood was where I was going to go.
Isaac: Yeah, Red Blood. And then Greener Pastures and Blue Yonder. We thought about different names, but in the end RED GREEN BLUE gave the message of [being] together and also the difference of separate voices at the same time.
This isn't the first time the band's released music in an untraditional way. For the band's last album, Against the World, you released a single at a time throughout the year. What do you like about shaking things up like that?
Taylor: It just challenges us. The best thing about this project, for me, was getting to collaborate with other people we respect. Jim Scott — who's just a real legend and a gentleman — Jim has produced, engineered or mixed many of our favorite records from Tom Petty to [Red Hot] Chili Peppers, and many more in between.
And David Garza, he's been a longtime friend and somebody we admire greatly as a musician. The silver lining of the whole project was their contribution and being able to share a project. We've known both of them in different capacities for years, and never actually created something from the very beginning until the end. Both of those gifted people are a part of the Hanson story and can sort of share in whatever we get to do from here.
Zac: I think the way you release an album can have a big effect on the way people hear that music. And we recognize that. In this case, releasing a three-part album — three individual solo projects released together — that's a story. But to tell that story, it seemed best to release one single from each first, so that people are already on that journey. They're already in a head space that's helping them hear it as true to what it was created to be.
It's a huge benefit to have an opportunity to put the spotlight on more songs. Also, at this point in our career, there's more songs than we will ever play in one concert. There's more than we'll ever play in a week of concerts! In that environment, every song matters more.
The band strives to create story-driven songs that challenge the listener to grow. You're also looking to give fans new reasons to listen. Why are those important goals?
Isaac: Sometimes you're concerned, "Oh, will the audience evolve with me?" And you feel like you have to give the audience what you think they need.
Taylor: That pathway happens to a lot of artists, because frankly, they get tired. They're like, "Hey, I'm never going to play these songs. Let's play the songs people want." But half of what you do as an artist is for yourself — for your own creative fire, and that sense of excitement and energy.
We've always felt like the fans respond to what they see in you. They respond to the earnestness and to the story. We had a great producer we worked with on our fourth record, Danny Kortchmar, who is a legend as a guitar player and a producer. One of the things he said was that part of the job of an artist is to keep your antenna up — communicate through songs what a lot of people are feeling, but may not have an outlet for.
One theme of our whole career — and it comes from who we are as a unit and how we've all grown up — is there is an aspirational quality.t Trying to find a silver lining, trying to be optimistic through challenges — not to ignore the challenges, but to look for answers and look for solutions. All that stuff comes together and that paints a picture for themes. You hear in the music we make.
Isaac: You can hear those themes as early as in songs like "MMMBop," you can hear them in "Where's The Love" and "This Time Around" and "Save Me." As well as a song like "Child at Heart," for example, which is talking about not losing the innocence — if you keep a little bit of that child in you alive, you've always got hope for tomorrow. And hope is really, really important.
As a core principle, you tend to write your ethos into your music. And what you hear in our music over and over again is that desire to overcome the temporary hardship, that desire to overcome the place you're in and look over the horizon. In a way, I think we give therapy to ourselves by writing these songs. People need to be able to hear that message.
"Write You A Song" is about realizing what's really important in one's life. That theme feels pretty relevant these last few years. What inspired that song?
Isaac: We're all feeling a lot of stress from the isolation and the uncertainty that COVID injected into all of our lives. It probably, in some way, brought about the Red Green Blue record, because we also realized that by spending more time than we normally would on our own, we all recognized the value of looking at the world in my own voice.
A few days before "Write You A Song" was written, my daughter said to me — in a very emotional way — "Daddy, I don't have a song. You've never written me a song. Why don't I have a song?" And I tried to assure her, "Well, there's this song and there's that song." And she looked at me and she said, "No, daddy, those are not my songs."
It was a good challenge. A few days later, a friend of ours was coming through town, and we ended up writing that song. What's cool about it for me is I will never forget the significance of writing the song. In a way, it's like every single time you're living out the story of the song itself. And that's a really special, unique thing.
I hope when people listen to it, it inspires them to dive deep into their relationships, and to make memories that will last a lifetime. It's important to hold on to the people around you love and care about, and to capture them in your heart and in your head, so that you'll never be lonely — as the song says.
What was the biggest surprise making the album?
Isaac: It was as hard, if not harder, than I thought it would be, in certain ways. You're used to being able to lean on each other — "Zac will have some cool, clever lyric to throw in there." or, "I can't wait to hear that drumbeat" — and maybe that will drive the inspiration of the song.
We didn't really have those things in the same way. I said, "This is a songwriter exercise for me. It's a deep dive into my heart and head because I'm not going to play a guitar riff and have Zac just jamming it out."
Zac: I was very pleasantly surprised with how well the songs seemed to work together despite how separately the songs were made and recorded. I didn't know what songs you guys were choosing and you didn't know what songs I was choosing. Though it is not one contiguous thought, it does have a certain arc to it. And it does have a certain kinship to the messages and the lyrics and the way they talk about the world.
I think though it's a very different Hanson record, in the end — even though it's three solo projects — it fits into one Hanson story.
In your 30 years as a band, you've had a very tight-knit connection with fans. What does it mean to have that kind of connection?
Isaac: The best thing about playing shows night after night for an audience that has been with you that long is, strangely enough, it feels very fresh. It feels very honest and real. And I think this tour will probably feel even more that way, because when you're singing old songs and new songs right next to each other, they're kind of like the RED GREEN BLUE album — they feel very connected in all the right ways. I want people to hear these songs and find who they are, and then chase the best version of that for the rest of their lives every day.
Zac: When you start a band — in our case, at least — your goal is not to become famous or to have people adore you. You are hoping to have an impact on people — and the kind of longevity to where a grandma can listen with her granddaughter.
When you are able to look at fans and know that people have been sharing experiences with you for decades, It means that you did it. It means that you were able to touch people in a personal way. You don't know them personally, but you've impacted them in a way that has caused them to continue to enjoy those stories year after year — and now multiple decades later.
It's a deep combination of gratifying and rejuvenating. It makes you want to do it again. It makes you feel that the efforts, all those little challenges and big struggles along the way, were worthy of that effort.
Taylor: I feel just a great amount of gratitude, because we understand what it is to be a fan and to love something. Music hits people, and it does become personal. To be able to be on the side not of the creator that has been able to connect with others and become a part of their lives, it's a real honor.
It just blows my mind that we've gotten to be one of the artists that have continued to do that sort of past our expiration date. The community side is something we've seen a huge amount in our time as a band, and we've tried to embrace that. The music community is as important as just what you're making — connecting people to each other.
Why Is It Important To Vote For The 64th GRAMMY Awards? Here's What Leon Bridges, Monica, Kany Garcia, Taylor Hanson, Kah-Lo & Other Recording Academy Members Have To Say
The Recording Academy made good on its promise of transparency, instituting major changes surrounding the GRAMMY Awards voting process. That's why it's more important than ever to vote this season, these artists say.
Editor's Note: The 2022 GRAMMYs Awards show, officially known as the 64th GRAMMY Awards, <a href="https://www.grammy.com/grammys/news/2022-grammys-awards-64th-new-air-show-date-location-las-vegas-april-3-announcement "https://www.grammy.com/grammys/news/2022-grammys-awards-64th-new-air-show-date-location-las-vegas-april-3-announcement"">has been rescheduled to Sunday, April 3, at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. The below article was updated on Tuesday, Jan. 18, to reflect the new show date and location.
Recording Academy CEO Harvey Mason jr. stresses a few company values in particular, but one feels especially timely right now: transparency. Hence, GRAMMY nominations will now be determined by a majority, peer-to-peer vote of Recording Academy voting members.
It's now more crucial than ever for voting members to get involved this year to make this system work and lend their support to fellow musicians and creators.
To cap off the window of First Round GRAMMY Voting, which determines the nominees for the annual GRAMMY Awards and this year runs from Friday, Oct. 22, to Friday, Nov. 5, Recording Academy voting members are taking to social media to express all the reasons why it's important to get out and vote for the upcoming 64th GRAMMY Awards.
If you're a Recording Academy voting member and need an extra burst of motivation to get involved in the process, check the #Vote4GRAMMYs hashtag on Instagram and Twitter and listen to firsthand testimonies from fellow Recording Academy members about the importance of GRAMMY Voting below.
Learn More: The 64th GRAMMY Awards: Everything You Need To Know About The 2022 GRAMMYs Awards Show & Nominations
In her message, GRAMMY-winning R&B singer/songwriter Monica expresses that the value of GRAMMY voting is twofold to her.
"Voting for the GRAMMY Awards is not just important to me because I'm an artist; it's important to me because I'm a writer and composer," she says. "That means the most to you — to be acknowledged at the greatest height the music has to offer."
Taylor Hanson of "MMMBop" stars Hanson made a heartfelt video on the subject.
"The GRAMMYs is all about artists and music makers voting for projects they believe in," the three-time GRAMMY nominee says. "To me, it's a great way to highlight projects that should be recognized."
Heavy music is represented by way of Troy Sanders, a five-time GRAMMY nominee and the leader of GRAMMY-winning metal heroes Mastodon. "There's no one more qualified to recognize music's best than you," he says in an Instagram clip. "So, I encourage each of you to set some time aside and become as knowledgeable as you can."
A representative from the classical world has spoken up, too. As Deborah Pae, the cellist in the Formosa Quartet and a Governor of the Recording Academy's Chicago Chapter, puts it, "Voting allows us to make our voices heard, so this is our chance to advocate for artists that we feel are doing incredible work and are bringing something unique and important to the table."
Country singer/songwriter Lainey Wilson echoes Pae's sentiments, noting "the hours, the blood, the sweat, and the tears" that musical creatives pour into their art.
"Collaboration in music does not stop on the day it was created," Wilson stresses. "It truly is a nonstop collaborative effort in supporting each other, and one of the best ways to support other creators is through GRAMMY voting."
GRAMMY-winning soul singer/songwriter Leon Bridges contributed his own video to Instagram: "This is our opportunity to give back to some of the artists that shape our lives with their music," he says. "It's a moment to celebrate the producers and studio musicians and songwriters that really help bring these albums and songs to life."
Four-time GRAMMY-nominated salsa singer Víctor Manuelle also offers a passionate message about the importance of voting.
"Why is it important for me to vote for the GRAMMYs?" he asks in Spanish. "Because it gives me an opportunity to have a voice and to demand recognition of the music that represents us Latinos. We have a very big opportunity in our hands to decide which music we want to be awarded and nominated … So for me, it is very important to have a voice and a vote in the GRAMMYs."
And three-time GRAMMY-nominated Puerto Rican singer/songwriter Kany Garcia agrees.
"The artist sees the spotlight and is the center of attention, but there are all of those people behind the scenes that for years have been working to create a perfect, or almost perfect, sound in each of those songs," she says, also in Spanish. "That is why voting is important."
Last but certainly not least, GRAMMY-nominated Nigerian singer/songwriter Kah-Lo is right there with them.
"Make sure that who you feel should be recognized for their incredible work over the past year is honored the way they should be," she says. "Now, more than ever, everyone's voice counts because it's completely down to us. We have to do our part and make sure that after all this change, everything is worth it."
Keep checking back on GRAMMY.com and on the Recording Academy's social media channels for more important info and updates about GRAMMY voting and the upcoming 64th GRAMMY Awards!
64th GRAMMY Awards: Everything You Need To Know About First Round GRAMMY Voting
Photo: Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images
Hanson Celebrate 25th Anniversary, Perform NPR Tiny Desk Concert
The trio of brothers celebrated their 25th anniversary together with an intimate three-track performance
"MMMBop" turned 20 this year, and if that doesn't make you feel old, then perhaps knowing the Hanson brothers behind the song have been in the music business for 25 years already will.
Joking aside, Hanson stopped by NPR for an episode of their Tiny Desk concert series to celebrate their anniversary as a band. Taylor played the keys, Isaac guitar and Zac cajón while they gave an intimate performance of three tracks from their recently released hits album, Middle Of Everywhere: "Thinkin' Bout Somethin'," "This Time Around" and "I Was Born."
As far as what's next for Hanson, they always have their eye on the future, which this year includes a holiday album, Finally It's Christmas, set to be released Oct. 27.
"This is our 25-year anniversary, but we can't do anything without thinking about the future," said Zac. "People ask us how we stayed together as a band, and that's really the whole source of it. The future, the next thing, the next song, the next project — that's our game. That's what we're in it for."
Photo: Brandon Williams/WireImage.com
Lindsey Stirling, Sia, Hanson, Fantasia: New Holiday Music
Find out which artists are dropping new holiday-themed albums in 2017
Can you believe it? Christmas is just 76 days away. Even though we're just weeks away from Halloween, it's never too early to prepare the shopping lists, get excited for Eggnog Lattes and grab tickets for Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
Speaking of the holidays, a variety of artists will be releasing new holiday-themed albums to pepper in alongside those tried-and-true holiday music classics. Multitalented violinist Lindsey Stirling will drop Warmer In The Winter on Oct. 20, pairing holiday favorites with original songs and collaborations with the likes Trombone Shorty and All Time Low's Alex Gaskarth.
Veteran rockers Cheap Trick will rock it up with Christmas Christmas on Oct. 20, an LP featuring holiday covers of songs by the Ramones and Chuck Berry and three original songs.
The brothers Hanson will release their first holiday LP in 20 years, Snowed In, on Oct. 27. 98 Degrees will bring holiday cheer with Let It Snow on Oct. 20. Meanwhile, GRAMMY winner Sia has teamed with collaborator Greg Kurstin for an as-yet-untitled holiday collection, due in the fourth quarter.
This round of new releases follows a handful of albums already released in time for the holidays: Fantasia, Christmas After Midnight, Elvis Presley and Gwen Stefani and Blake Shelton's You Make It Feel Like Christmas.
Photo: Tibrina Hobson/Getty Images
Siblings Day revelry: Hanson celebrate 20 years of "MMMBop"
On National Siblings Day, GRAMMY-nominated trio dissect their brotherly bond and reflect on the benefits of youthful exuberance and the success of the song that rocket-launched their careers
If you were alive and conscious in the summer of 1997, Hanson were everywhere. It was physically impossible to miss the explosive hit that was "MMMBop" as it seeped relentlessly into Sony Discmans and seemingly every crevasse of open airplay on radio and television. Anywhere a song could conceivably be heard, there it was. And Hanson, the group behind the hit, were as magnetic as the song's melody: three brothers, ages 11 (Zac), 13 (Taylor) and 16 (Isaac), from Tulsa, Okla.
Two decades years later, after surviving the cosmic spread of international stardom and the inescapable trials that go along with coming of age underneath that spotlight, the trio is still thriving. But how did the musically adroit brothers find their way from a smash single in the Middle Of Nowhere to an Anthem of triumph, all in the name of brotherly love?
"I think that's the beauty of being young when you start searching for your passion," says Zac Hanson. "You don't think of things in a 'maybe I’ll get part way there' kind of way. As a child, you're going, 'I'm gonna go to the moon.'"
Released April 15, 1997, "MMMBop" skyrocketed to No. 1 and earned Hanson two GRAMMY nominations for Record Of The Year and Best Pop Performance By A Duo Or Group, plus a third nod for Best New Artist based on the strength and promise of their debut album, Middle Of Nowhere.
"The contrast of what we were doing, I think, was one of the reasons why it resonated," Taylor Hanson says. "It was contrasted to a lot of the grunge and the sort of dark, moody tone of a lot of the biggest artists [at the time]. It really did come out of nowhere for a lot of people."
As the millennium turned, Hanson harnessed the success of their blockbuster debut single and album to build a career and steadily grow a worldwide fan base. Through the clamor of screaming fans and skeptical critics, the brothers maintained a devotion to solid musicianship and literate songcraft that propelled them to eventually transcend "MMMBop," even if the industry was a little slow to catch up. In 2004, after recording more than 80 songs for their third studio album and finding themselves at odds with their record label, Hanson self-released the critically acclaimed Underneath on their own imprint, 3CG Records.
Hanson have never looked back. Six studio albums into their still-growing legacy, Isaac, Taylor and Zac Hanson have garnered a well-earned reputation for tight vocal harmonies, soulful rock grooves and a strong work ethic. However, their lasting success raises an interesting question: Is their longevity as a band because they are related or in spite of it?
"There's a huge heritage with siblings in bands and making music," says Taylor Hanson. "The question about siblings is always interesting. [For] some people it creates conflict, for some people it quells conflict. To survive over time as a sibling group, it really has to be more than that. It has to be built on a shared goal just like any band would be."