interview for Lewis University
08 December 2007
[clip of Taylor jamming on the piano at the Rialto]
EMILY, HOST: I’m sitting here with Hanson, and we’re stoked. I’m with Zac, Isaac, and Taylor and we’re so excited to be talking to you guys today. We want you guys to talk to Lewis University about what you guys have been up to. And you just released an album July 24th called The Walk and you went to Africa to record with a children’s choir. Can you talk a little bit more about that? I’ll just hold the microphone out.
TAYLOR: Considering how much we talk, it’s probably better to just give us the mic. *laughs* Just kidding.
ZAC: I guess there’s kind of a couple elements. One was, when we were making this record we were impacted by some guys from our hometown, which is Tulsa, Oklahoma, and they were giving away a piece of technology they had developed that was medical technology, and they were giving it away to a hospital in South Africa. And the hospital’s focus was mother to child transmission of AIDS and how to stop that and we just felt really impacted by what they were doing so we decided to stop our record, we were in the middle of it, and we stopped and we went to South Africa, and while we were there just kept learning about the issues with poverty and AIDS and HIV and all the things that they’re facing, particularly in Africa, and we decided to record. We’re like, “Okay, let’s bring part of this into the music” and we recorded in both Mokuto in Mozambique and in Soweto in South Africa and it was just a really incredible experience. We ended up releasing the song “Great Divide” off our album as a charity single, so whenever someone goes and buys that off iTunes all the proceeds are going to this hospital, the research unit at this hospital that we visited, and I don’t know, we’ve just been through that, been trying to find other ways to encourage people to take simple, but tangible action, things you can do in your everyday life that I guess aren’t always simple but things you can do, whether it’s a song or a t-shirt or a pair of shoes. There’s this company called Toms shoes that we’ve been working with, and just doing different things like that.
EMILY: Great, so you left with a bigger mission, and that’s with the walk that you’re doing today, is to expose people to, you know, different things, little things, little changes that they can make in their life to go on and change someone else’s life.
ZAC: Yeah, the walk is something we’ve been doing on this tour and basically after we released that song “Great Divide” and we were looking for more ways that we could encourage, “Here’s something you can do, here’s something you can be a part of,” we came across this company called Toms. And basically what they do is every time you buy a pair of shoes they give away a pair of shoes to a child in poverty. They were working towards a goal of selling 50,000 pairs of shoes, so we said, “We want to help you guys.” And it was just this strange coincidence that our album was called The Walk and we found the shoe company, so we just said, “That’s crazy! Let’s just do walks!” So, we’ve been doing 1 mile walks barefoot up until there was snow and it was so cold that it doesn’t really make any more sense to walk barefoot unless you want to get frostbite, which we don’t want it to be like, “Everyone who takes the walk doesn’t have toes!” Not a good thing. But after 37 miles we actually reached the goal of 50,000 pairs of shoes, so about two weeks ago we just came back from Africa delivering all those shoes with Toms, going to orphanages and schools in different areas, and that was all focused on South Africa and now they’re moving on to… the next shoe drop I believe is in Ethiopia. And so continuing to work with Toms, continuing to talk about the shoes now that we’ve been back in the States for a little while, and we do the walk every day before the shows and it’s 1 mile and we just try to talk about moving away from the idea of awareness and moving more towards, “What are simple actions that we can take that will impact people?”
EMILY: That is really amazing. So, what was it like to go to Africa and actually put shoes on children that don’t have shoes?
ZAC: Yeah, it’s a crazy experience to think about something as simple, or seemingly basic as a pair of shoes. Doing the walks, every once in a while you’ll get somebody who’s a critic who goes, “Oh, why not food?” Okay, great idea. You go do that. But shoes is such a simple thing in your life that is such a symbol of kind of the basic needs of people, and I think by doing things like giving shoes, what you’re trying to do is to help give people tools so they can help themselves. Facing problems by giving these people over here the tools to face their own problems while you’re on the other side doing the same, and I think, you know, it’s obviously something that is somewhat bittersweet. It’s incredible to go in and put a pair of shoes on a little kid’s foot that’s never had a pair of shoes, definitely never had a new pair of shoes. You feel like you’re actually able to do something and make an impact. But you also go, “There’s so many needs.” There’s so many things that are needed over there, so you just keep taking it one step at a time.
EMILY: So, what’s next for you guys after this tour? What are you going to do? Are you going to get back in the recording studio, go to sleep…?
ISAAC: Ahh, going to sleep, that does sound like a good idea in some ways.
TAYLOR: Well, one thing is Isaac has—he had a huge health scare, he had a blood clot in his lungs that was really caused by playing guitar for years and years pinching the vein in his arm, so he’s going to actually go under the knife pretty soon to have a surgery done to his ribs to hopefully prevent it long-term. So, we’re going to have to pause for a little bit.
ZAC: The holidays.
TAYLOR: Yeah, we’re going to do the holiday thing. But really, we’re continuing our campaign with the walks and trying to encourage people to just to begin to take action. I mean, the walk to us is more of a symbol than it is just about, “Yeah, we’ve got a record called The Walk” or even Toms shoes specifically, I think that’s just one way people can take action. And we’re, I think, just hoping to continue to encourage people to kind of embrace that message. And we’re going to be doing a spring tour, probably starting in March next year and, you know, we’ll be out and about doing more shows, talking about these things.
ISAAC: Yeah, and hopefully part of that will take the walks to university campuses as well. That’s a big part of our goal. We spent a lot of time talking to college students when we did our tour in 2005 called the Live & Electric Tour and we brought our documentary Strong Enough To Break to schools across the US, about 37, 40 schools, somewhere in there.
ZAC: 40 schools.
ISAAC: 40 schools about. And we hope to continue that connection with college-aged kids and spread the word.
ZAC: Then we were talking about our decision to start our own label and go independent and kind of the state of the music business. We were talking mostly to music business students and business students who were going to go into working for record companies or starting their own companies or kind of in that field and saying, “You’re going to decide how we evolve the music industry. Look at it, look at the flaws of it, look at the things that have worked,” and hopefully the process that that film shows, that Strong Enough To Break shows will no longer be the norm. And now I think the hope is to talk about something slightly bigger, but also kind of, in a way, has a lot of the same parallels of kind of taking things into your own hands and saying, “We’re a generation unlike any other generation before us where we have so many more tools and so much more ability as individuals to impact the things around us with our choices, with the way we spend our money, with the job we take, or the company we start.” So, we need to use that power.
TAYLOR: One of the things that we talked about when we did the lectures with the documentary was with technology and with the changing music business, we’re presented with an option, which is we could create the greatest era of intellectual property and music ever. This could be the dawning of an incredible period and it’s the same way with issues with humanitarian things that are out there, issues with HIV and AIDS, which are rampant. Poverty, which is there’s still a billion people living on less than $1 a day in the world. There’s those things, that this could be the greatest opportunity ever. But the emphasis on COULD. We have to decide as a generation that we want to be the group of people that looked at taking action and making a difference in the world as a part of our life in a way that is bigger than, “Oh, it’s trendy this season so I’m going to go and buy a Red shirt from the Gap”—which is an awesome thing, but it’s more about changing I think the way we’re looking at making a difference and looking at the way we’re giving and moving away from feeling like we can’t do anything just cos we can’t organize a huge amount of people and raise millions of dollars. We can, probably more than any other group of people, make an impact one for one. If we can get on Wikipedia and go and search for random stuff on Google, go on MySpace and spend money and time doing things, being connected with one another around the world, there’s no reason why we can’t apply that same kind of daily activity to making a difference in the world around us and especially with what’s going on in Africa. So, it has to start somewhere. Everyone can do simple things.
EMILY: Right, it’s important with what you say. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed with what’s going on and thinking that there’s nothing that you can personally do, but there’s always something that you can do to help someone.
ZAC: It’s surprising how little it takes to actually impact someone’s life.
EMILY: Right. Exactly. So, we had a few questions we were thinking about when we were waiting for you. We were wondering, is that your piano up there? Did you travel with that piano?
TAYLOR: We actually travel very light. We rent pianos in every city, so we don’t carry a piano with us but we have the specs where we try to get the certain kind of piano in every city. And then we bring all the other stuff we bring, pianos are kind of a pain to haul around.
ISAAC: The Rialto Theater here in Joliet is really beautiful and that is a very nice piano.
EMILY: That was one of our burning questions that we were wondering, it would be kind of hard to travel a grand piano with you.
ZAC: I think a few hundred more pounds than we want to carry. And I think the thing about pianos is it requires to stay in tune it requires a couple days sitting and getting used to the environments. Temperatures changing can really screw up pianos, so…
ISAAC: They don’t travel well.
ZAC: They don’t travel well. There you go.
EMILY: Our last question was, I know you always get the question, “What’s the craziest fan story?” but what is the biggest mishap you’ve had touring, what is the craziest thing that’s gone wrong?
ISAAC: Wow, well actually one of the bigger mishaps recently, which you can actually see on our blog on our website is Taylor actually had a pretty severe—
ZAC: Speaking of ruining pianos.
ISAAC: …an incident in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. You did a little glissando across the keys…
TAYLOR: It seemed worse than it was, I cut my hand open on the keyboard…
ISAAC: He bled pretty good.
TAYLOR: We were about to finish the show and basically was bleeding all over the pace and had a few songs to finish so we just played through it and of course it just started getting more and more gory until I started slipping on the keys cos there was so much blood on the keys.
ISAAC: We have pictures on the website. Not for the faint of heart.
TAYLOR: But you have accidents.
ZAC: Where all the power on stage goes off, we’ve had that happen, so it just becomes a drum solo cos that’s the—the amps don’t work without power.
TAYLOR: We’ve had Latin American shows too, especially in places—in other places outside of the States where power isn’t consistent or…
ZAC: You get shocked while trying to sing on the microphone.
ISAAC: Being a guitar player, I’ve had a couple issues where I’m holding the guitar, the guitar is conducting an electric current to amplify the electric guitar, so that current is going through my fingers and then I go into the mic and…
ZAC: Burns your lips.
ISAAC: It grounds to my lips. Painful. There have actually been a couple—there have actually been a few very severe cases of electrocution of guitar players. Yeah. Over the years of rock & roll.
ZAC: In general, we try to keep it relatively safe and kosher. That way we can play another show tomorrow.
EMILY: Good. Well, I just want to encourage everyone to go out and buy this, The Walk, it came out in July and it’s an amazing album. I let Pat listen to it and he was mesmerized and so he cannot wait for the show tonight. So, I just want to wish you guys good luck. I know it’s going to be an amazing show, and I can’t wait to go on this walk very shortly.
TAYLOR: It will be a cold walk here in Joliet.
EMILY: Yes, well, I’m from this area so I know about this cold weather.
ZAC: You’re wearing Toms, aren’t you?
EMLY: I am wearing Toms, I thought I would sport the Toms today. So. Yes. Alright, well thank you guys.
typed up by THD