Q&A with Taylor Hanson of Hanson, part 2

photo courtesy of Hanson

In the midst of their US “Musical Ride” tour, Hanson‘s lead singer/keyboardist Taylor Hanson took some time to talk with WLDC’s Alexia Kauffman. You can read the first half of the interview here. In the second half of the interview Taylor talks about being in Katy Perry’s video for “Last Friday Night,” playing music with Adam Schlesinger (songwriter and bassist for Fountains of Wayne and Ivy) and how that led to forming the supergroup Tinted Windows, as well as Hanson’s charitable work and more.

Alexia Kauffman: You all appeared in Katy Perry’s video for “Last Friday Night“- how did that come about? What was that experience like?

Taylor Hanson: I wish there was some crazy, ecclectic story behind it! I mean essentially the timing worked out really well, because we were running around doing promotion for this record and so there were not a lot of times where we were gonna be in LA doing stuff ’cause we were all over the country doing radio promotion, and they (Katy Perry’s people) called us and basically said “Hey- we’re shooting this video” and said that she had asked about us being in the video. It was a no brainer. They weren’t asking us to do something extreme, they were asking us to play ourselves in her video. It seemed like fun, and obviously she’s doing really well, so it’s a great thing to be asked. The one thing we did do, I wanted to talk to her before we actually did the video, ’cause I just kinda wanted it to be coming from her, versus it just being like “Hey, ‘X band’, please come do our video.” So it was cool, I talked to her a little bit before the video shoot, and she told us about the idea, and we were on. I will say it was pretty complicated to get into character as ourselves[laughs]. The set was fun, it was a big production, and a lot of people just doing a great job, and we just had fun! Set up the band on the lawn, and rocked out for a little while, you know, no complaints. I think it was much like what you see onscreen- everybody was having a good time!

AK: So I have a question about Tinted Windows– how did that project come together?

TH: The way it started was Adam Schlesinger and I had met years ago- right after he’d written the song “That Thing You Do”- he wrote that song and he’d also written a bunch of other songs for other bands- he got put with us to try and write for our first record, and he was about twenty-five/twenty-six, and I was about fourteen I guess. So we all got together then and we tried to write, and you know nothing ended up happening on that first record- it didn’t produce a song.  We just over the years had stayed in touch, and had a lot of mutual friends in bands, and really just one day Adam called me and we started talking about the idea of actually doing a band, instead of just writing something or you know jamming around. I was pretty reluctant at first, just because it takes so much time, and being very much in-house with everything Hanson does it’s hard to leave that- you know physically leave that, and creatively leave it. But the timing worked out really well. Over the period of about three years whenever I got a little window I would go fly to New York or Adam came to our songwriting retreat that we do, and we wrote a song for Tinted Windows during that thing, in fact that was really the first song we wrote together for it, I guess in 2006. Eventually, after a couple years of little sessions here and there we finally had a record. In fact, originally our first drummer was Jason Schwartzman. 

photo credit Damien Neva

AK: Oh wow!

TH: He was the original drummer. I knew Jason from Phantom Planet, and I guess the other guys were various friend-of-friendships. We finished a lot of the record, you know- demoed it- with Jason, and when he wasn’t able to continue doing it we all said well, you know the drummer we were always talking about, or sort of thinking of in style and attitude was Bun E. Carlos [drummer for Cheap Trick], the power-pop drumming of him. So Adam just gave him a call, we called [his] management and said “Hey- this is a long-shot, but is there any way that Bun E. would want to join a side-project that we’re doing?” It was kind of an inside joke, you know, we didn’t expect that Bun E. was going to want to do the band, but he heard the stuff that we’d already written, and he loved it. So he said “I’m in!” So that was the formation of the whole thing, and of course I didn’t mention James [Iha]. James is a friend of Adam’s, they’ve been partners for a while so he was always into it, and he’s an amazing guitarist and great musician, and there you go, that’s the band!

AK: Are you all still playing/have plans to record/play more live shows?

TH: The jury’s out a little bit on it, but the response around it was really, really positive, and I would imagine there will be another project at some point. I have a stack of songs that are sort of like, you put them over on the side…to think about at the next project. But it doesn’t have the same pressure as a full-time deal, I think. Everybody really enjoyed doing it, and so I would imagine something else will happen, but we’ll just have to wait and see.

AK: I read that you live in New York now?

TH: We did live in New York, we’re actually back in Tulsa. We’ve never really left- we’ve always had houses in Tulsa. We have lived in New York, and love New York, but don’t live there full-time. We’ve just always worked out of there with the label a lot.

AK: So, in Tulsa- do you feel like you’re a part of any kind of scene there? I mean I know you all are larger-than-life there probably, but do you feel like there’s any kind of music or artistic scene there that you’re a part of?

TH: You know there’ve been waves of scenes there, there have been bands and groups of bands, and in fact Tulsa does have a creative class of people, and there’s definitely bands that have come out of Tulsa. I don’t know if it’s in its most thriving moment right now, but there’s definitely the ability to have a scene there, and great artists have come from there. I think our dream over time is definitely to, anywhere that you are you want to help cultivate good music, and stories and people having a vibrant, creative community. We have a lot of friends who are musicians, and quite a few that are there.

photo courtesy of Hanson

AK: How do you find new music that you listen to, and do you have any favorite artists right now?

TH: Oh gosh, I’m a little bit out of touch creatively as far as a bunch of new music. There are great bands out there- probably the first few things that come to mind are the people that are with us on the road, because we’ve brought both of them out because we’re fans of them. Meiko, who’s a solo female artist, she’s just great, she’s got her second sort of album coming out, she’s made an EP. She’s a singer/songwriter, and she’s just got, I don’t know, her own style, her own sort of quirky character. So she’s somebody that should definitely be checked out. And then Charlie Mars– a solo guy, he’s coming out with us on the second half of the tour. He’s a little bit more established, but one of those guys again that’s just hard to describe, it’s sort of like somewhere between Jack Johnson and Jason Mraz and you know, something else a little bit hipper. [laughs] So he’s really great. Those are the two things that come to my mind at first. I guest mostly the way I hear music is…is everywhere. I mean sometimes you’ll hear…rarely you’ll hear stuff on the radio, you know, because it’s very rare to hear something new on the radio, but through references that people give you, music you hear through other channels- commercials, movies, people recommending it. It’s just like anything, you kind of keep your ears open, and it’s always exciting when you find a new artist or band where you just get really into it.

AK: You all have done some charity work- specifically focusing on HIV/AIDS awareness and poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa. Can you tell me a little about that, and how you became involved in that cause, what you all have done, and are you still continuing your work with that?

TH: Yeah, we’re in a little bit of a crossroads at the moment trying to continue to create some new tools for people that have supported our effort, and it has been an amazing thing. We are continuing to be a part of that for sure. Essentially there was a certain kind of crossing of events that happened, six or seven years ago, and we just had sort of a desire to make a trip to Africa, and we went there with a few different friends that had been a part of donating some technology they had to a research hospital. They were donating it- they developed a new sort of platform that doctors could use to communicate with patients, and we were just inspired to go. We went during the making of “The Walk” album, and what we saw was, well what particularly resonated with me was, you know, you’ve got HIV, and you’ve got extreme poverty in this part of the world, and people talked about it for a long time.

There was a myriad of issues, but in so many cases the issues come down to…you know we’re not talking about curing cancer, where people don’t know the answer, and there are doctors that are working on cures. We’re talking about clean water; people having access to educate themselves; having access to shoes so they don’t get infections just from walking from point A to point B; HIV and AIDS are something that in many cases are preventable and at least treatable for people to maintain a lifestyle. And so with all those things we walked away and went- you know there are real things that can be done, and there are real things that can be done by regular people. And that became our mission- not to preach to people about having to change the world on their own, but to realize there really genuinely are people just like us, especially young people that you as an individual can actually touch.

That inspired a lot of different ideas, the main idea being these one-mile barefoot walks that we started doing in 2007. Since we started off we’ve partnered with different great people, like Toms shoes. We started working with them really early on in their process. At the time we met them they had sold about 10,000 shoes, and we helped them reach their next goal of 50,000 shoes, and now they’ve sold millions. And for each one [pair] of their shoes [sold] they donate a pair of shoes to a child that has none. Anyway, our mission is essentially to not only raise money for those causes, whether it’s clean water, or shoes, or HIV antiretroviral drugs, but to really engage as many people on this side as possible. Part of the way we judge our ability to have done something, not only how much money we raised to support the cause, but how many actual individuals decided to do something, and how many people we touched on this side, and inspired hopefully to put themselves in the middle of a situation, and do something.

AK: So if someone wants to get involved with this, they can go to your website?

TH: Yeah, go to takethewalk.net, and you can do several things. There’s not currently a bunch of official walks announced, but you can organize your own walk event, you can organize it anywhere, and what we do is we sort of sponsor you on your first walk- the campaign will give a dollar for everybody that shows up at your walk that you register. You can also directly donate to any of the causes that you’re supporting- there are several different avenues to support the different causes, whether it’s through purchasing the “Take the Walk” book, or t-shirts, or you know, traditional things you can do to help raise money, and then spread the word about the story.

AK: Thank you so much for your time! I really appreciate it, and I can’t wait to see your show at the State Theater in Falls Church!

TH: I’m looking forward to it! Thank you for your time, and good conversation!

You can see Hanson perform live tonight, Wednesday, October 19th, at the State Theater in Falls Church, VA, or catch one of their upcoming shows on the rest of their “Musical Ride” tour!


w/Charlie Mars

doors 7pm/show 8pm

Wednesday, October 19th

18+, $35

State Theater

Alexia Kauffman

Alexia was born and raised in Arlington, VA. She has been a cellist since age four, and a lover of rock & roll soon after. The first tape she owned was “Make It Big” by Wham, and the first tape she bought was Nirvana’s “Nevermind,” and she still loves both. She was a member of local synth-rock outfit Soft Complex for several years, and has recorded with bands including Engine Down and Two if By Sea. By day she works for a non-profit distributing royalties to musicians and labels. She currently plays cello, lap-steel guitar and tambourine in the DC post-folk/Americana band The Torches.

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