So the other day I rediscovered Hanson. You know, Hanson, the three brothers whose song MmmBop was the biggest song of 1997. Flash in the pan, right? One hit wonder, right?
I had been aware that Hanson had grown up and was still making music in college because Taylor Hanson (the middle one) bears a striking resemblance to my freshman college roommate and best friend. But that was back in 2002. I honestly hadn't given it another thought.
Until the other day, when I listened to a podcast that told their story after their searing moment of fame, and I found out just what had happened. It wasn't drugs and a dramatic breakup and their lives falling apart and no longer making music. Oh no.
Turns out, they started their own independent label after their second and third albums failed to get the support of their former producers, who stopped promoting them six weeks after release. They are still making music, together, they are married and have kids, they still tour and play sold out concerts to screaming fans.
And their music is better than it was. That to me is the crazy thing, that we are all ignoring, that these brothers, who somehow bucked the tide of fame and fortune to retain their humility and genuineness, are better songwriters now than they were back at the tender ages of 16, 13 and 11.
Why am I writing about Hanson?
Because I find their story inspiring. They found a way to play by their own rules, with total control, and to keep doing what they loved doing without needing anyone's permission. They are an example of what talent pushed forward over twenty years looks like.
I have written maybe a year ago about how our culture values flash in the pan genius, but has less reverence for mastery earned over time. Hanson's story covers both, with the early contribution that for many would have been the end of the line, the best they did. But what I love so much about them, and what I find inspiring, is that they put their head down and just kept going, year after year, in a smart, businesslike way, and now they have a body of songs that eclipses that one hit wonder they started with. They have mastered their instruments, and they have a deep and technical sense of songwriting. Without losing sight of what is catchy and hooky and fun, they have a calm assurance now that their early work just could never have.
These are all things I want in my life. I want to make that is catchy and hooky and fun, and also calm and masterful. Thankfully, I know what I need to do to get there. As Zac, the youngest brother said in an interview I watched on YouTube (I have been very deep down this rabbithole), the secret, such as it is, is to "do what you love. And then do it a lot."
p.s. If this podcast has enticed you to listen to any Hanson at all, I would recommend Get the Girl Back, I've Been Thinkin Bout Something, and I Was Born. Happy listening!
My blog has evolved into a series of short essays on the nature of entrepreneurship, craftsmanship, and their overlap. If either of these topics is something you think about, you will probably like this.
One idea is as worthless as another until you actually do something about it, and then it is the action, not the word that matters. --Orson Scott Card