Hanson have been striving to integrate the smooth music they grew up on — Billy Joel, Steve Winwood and classic Stax and Motown records — into their pop-rock sound, and on their upcoming fifth album Shout It Out (due June 1st) the trio of brothers push their love of soul and R&B to the next level. Michael Jackson's horn arranger Jerry Hey and funk brother Bob Babbitt guest on the record, which they laid down in El Paso, Texas, last April and finished up in studios in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Hollywood.
"The album title stood out early on in the record process as a phrase that helped put all those elements into one simple statement," Taylor Hanson tells Rolling Stone. "The record is built like a lot of records from '60s and '70s. From the beginning of the writing process, it felt like the kind of record we could have old school horn parts on." Working with Hey was a reunion of sorts since he'd also arranged horns on their 2004 release Underneath. But when it came time to team with Babbitt, Hanson says the band benefited from a few "lucky calls" made by industry vet/drummer Steve Jordan and former Michael Jackson music director Michael Beardon to hook them up.
Hanson says Babbitt helped the band add movement to the record, which reflected their larger goals for Shout. "I want to be able to talk about changing the world through your actions and being a generation that is aware and a force to be reckoned with — and at the same time be dancing," Hanson says, adding that the band's last LP — 2007's The Walk — was tied to the band's experiences in South Africa and its fight to raise money for AIDS awareness. "This record is more buoyant."
To kick off Shout It Out, Hanson are performing each of their albums in chronological order over a five-night stand in New York City at the end of April. The sold-out shows will be streamed online, and Hanson says the band has locked in guest appearances from musicians who have played on previous Hanson records — a pool that includes blues guitarist Jonny Lang, Sly & the Family Stone member Rose Stone and singer-songwriter Matthew Sweet.
"By going back for a second, it creates a platform that allows you to hear the new record in perspective. In the end, you'll hear how the songwriting and who we are has never changed," Hanson explains. "With the new record, we've set forth the path we're on and we're really comfortable with it. We're not trying to add anything new. For better or for worse, this is a written, performed, composed by Hanson album."