An Interview With The Youngest HANSON Brother Turned Classic Rocker MAC HANSON On His Breakout Single and Upcoming EP!
Posted On 02 Nov 2018
He may be the youngest brother of the 90’s pop group Hanson, but the voice and vibe of Joshua Hanson aka Mac Hanson are worlds apart from his “Mmm-Bop” brothers.
The LA-based singer plays 6 instruments, writes his own music, and belts like a classic rock king. Now his band, Joshua & The Holy Rollers, are taking modern-rock to a new level with the release of their fiery, soulful debut single, “Hey Hey.” It can be found on his debut EP “Tribulations” which will be released on November 9th.
Connect With Joshua & The Holy Rollers Here:
Learn more about Mac Hanson in the following All Access interview:
Thanks for your time today! Where does this interview find you now? Is there music playing in the background?
Hey there! Thank you for having me.
It finds me in my most peaceful space: 5:30 on my couch, watching the sun fall through the century old windows of my apartment in LA. This time of day is magic, sun-soaked hardwood and a gentle breeze. In the background I’m actually playing some demos of unfinished tunes; preparing to record again in January, so I’m dusting off my writing shoes.
Now that we are on the back end of the year, how do you think 2018 has treated you and your career? What has been one goal that you have had this year and how close are you to reaching it? Or did you already reach it?
Well, the year began with a pretty audacious thought in “I want to make a record” and in some ways I don’t think that energy has really left me. I made the EP which is coming out in November – “Tribulations” – that I am wholly proud of. That was definitely the one ultimate goal, and luckily we finished that in a week in April. Though looking back on having made the record, and having the opportunity to listen to it and love what we made has made every valley of this year completely palatable.
Life is filled with those: peaks and valleys. So naturally this year has had its fair share. Loves found and lost; destitution and buying everyone a round; long nights and hard mornings – But now as we’re starting to release the music, and I’m getting to see and hear and communicate with the people experiencing these tunes for the first time… I’m pretty sure this year couldn’t have treated me better. Or at least, it treated me exactly the way it should have. This year is so easy, like many others, to just sum up in bullet points: I made a record, premiered a music video on billboard, released a record… But it’s so much more than that. This year has been about re-birth and self actualization and at times painfully so.
My goal, in a broad sense, was to take what I heard and saw and felt inside of me, and make it real. Put it into the world. Even if it meant nothing to anyone else, I just wanted it to exist so I could listen to it. In that way: I’ve already gotten there.
Growing up, music was of course very important to you and your brothers. Could you have ever predicted that you would still be doing it all these years later? Does it still have the same value in your life today?
Well, growing up watching my brothers play is a pretty inspiring thing, especially as a precocious kid with an artist streak. If you would’ve asked me 4 years ago if I thought I’d be a musician by 2018, I would’ve flat out told you no. I have played music for a long time, but that was never a conscious professional consideration until recently. That being said: I was still writing music while I actively railed against my musical tendencies, so I might’ve had some internal conflict. Thinking about that and then looking at how now that the first of (hopefully) many records is about to release… I’m just sitting here in a state of bewilderment, honestly. Would I have predicted it? No. Does it have the same value? No… It has more. I’ve never felt stronger in my love and connection to music than I do now.
What has been the biggest surprise so far about making music your career? What has been an unexpected or welcome challenge to it all?
At the risk of sounding haughty – which I may be – I think the biggest shock is how natural it has been. How easily accepted it is by everyone else in my life, as if they’ve been waiting for me to “come out of the closet” so to speak, and reveal myself a musician. I’ve also been surprised at how comfortable I feel doing this, and the ease with which it has been going.
Obviously, a lot of hard work has gone into making this a reality, both by myself and the whole host of people invested in helping make it succeed, but even when the nights have been long, it has been such an invigorating experience. The biggest challenge might be truly just an internal challenge: embracing oneself in a new way. I’m welcoming it.
How do you think you and your music have been influenced by your hometown and where you live today?
Well, I grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma, but I left pretty early; I was about 16 when I dipped out for LA. Part of the allure of this place for me has always been the anonymity. In your hometown, you’re always the brother of somebody who knew someone at the place with the thing. Here, I’m just me. Not defined by anything other than myself. However, in this place of anonymity and reinvention, it becomes really easy to lose sight of who you want to be; who you are. So in that way my hometown and my family has served as an anchor; Making sure I don’t drift too far afield. In that same breath, I think every southern, folky twang that exists in my music is probably a continuation of that; an attachment to where I came from, being held onto in melody and timbre.
There is something about this town, LA, that forces you to make a decision: to either completely reinvent yourself for this society of self-involved assholes on a desperate journey to be discovered, or to double down on who you are. Now, to some that may seem like semantics, but the latter is much different.
How did you go about assembling this band? And why the name “Joshua & the Holy Rollers”?
The band has been an interesting rotating cast of characters. I’ve spent a lot of years collecting my LA family, and it turns out I know a lot of really great musicians. In local shows, there is something really fun in having the band be flexible and change, because it allows the songs to have a different life with every gig. With that being said, the touring band is different and has been one of the coolest parts of this process. My approach to bringing people into the fold is really simple, I only truly consider a few things: Enthusiasm, Hang, and Grit. That is to say: Do you want to do it, can we have a good time doing it, and do you have the gumption to make it happen? I’m not here to find the best musicians in the world to play with, in fact… It’s the opposite. I’m here to find the best PEOPLE in the world to play with. I feel like a lot of people in these fields (music, art, entertainment) have a tendency to lean on superficial things – e.g. “He’s an agent at CAA” or “He plays in The Barblesnarfs” – but here’s the thing: you can always get a job at CAA. You can always get better at your instrument. You can always learn… But you can’t become less of an asshole. In short: Pick good people. That’s been my approach.
“Joshua & The Holy Rollers” came about slowly over the course of a few years, actually. “Joshua” was originally the band name, informed by the fact that most of the early songs that I was playing started to take shape on a trip out to Joshua Tree. I thought a single name would be a cool moniker for a band, so I ran with it. In the years that followed, my buddies and bandmates at the time started talking about how they felt like “Joshua” wasn’t enough. That it needed more. It wasn’t until one rehearsal a few years back, when I started mock-preaching during the set that one of the guys came up with “The Holy Rollers”. Both a nod to our evangelical past and our protestant hearts, as well as being a super badass name. Plus, a couple of us are ordained, so it’s pretty appropriate.
What was the inspiration for your newest single, “Hey, Hey” with your band The Holy Rollers? Can you talk about how it is one of the most autobiographical songs that you have written? Why is that?
As is so often the case, you start writing a song thinking you’re just writing a story, only to realize much later that you’ve been talking to yourself, working through your life. Because of that, I think there are a lot of stories within each song; different experiences in life cross and intersect in every story we tell about ourselves. I try to distance myself when I write, but as anyone who knows me I’m sure can attest, there’s autobiography, or self-reflection, in everything I make. “Hey Hey” is just one of those songs that got an extra dose of reality. It started off as a song of yearning and luring and chemistry, but, things changed and so, too, did the narrative. I was in a relationship that I knew very early on I shouldn’t have been in, but I’d brushed off a lot of red flags along the way. When it came down to it, I found out I’d been deceived and lied to in pretty dramatic ways, and in that final verse of the song, I say “when I found out the truth in her hips… told her burn everything and forget that I lived”. That happened to me, and I literally did, in reaction to this deception, end a relationship with those words. I feel bad for having said it that way, but I also felt terrible being lied to. There’s a quote about fairness in love and war or something, there.
How do you think “Hey, Hey” prepares listeners for the rest of your EP, “Tribulations”? What was it like putting this collection together? I understand that it took about 6 years to make. Why is that? What finally got you back in the studio to finish it?
“Hey Hey” is simple, aggressive, straightforward rock tune, and I think/hope it captures some of the playful vulnerablity I intended it to. So to that end, I hope it prepares them for the shifts in tone that Tribulations has to offer. As i’ve had more of an opportunity to analyze my own writing during this year, from recording to releasing and playing, it seems I really enjoy transposing the fickle nature of emotions, and their dramatic shifts, into musical reality. Some of these songs have pretty drastic shifts and changes, both in literal time signature as well as in vibe and story. I also write songs that have a tendency to start low and slow, and build to something much larger… and that’s “Hey Hey” certainly.
This collection of tunes was difficult to pick, going into the studio. My original short-list of demos was 20 songs long. Eventually I’d parsed it down to songs that I felt had the strongest sense of themselves, both in my vision of production, and in that ephemeral… impossible to describe way. They were just ready. Some of the songs on the EP, such as “Furlough” and “Right In Front Of Me”, I had been playing both solo and with a band for years, so they were natural choices that felt very special to me. Then you have others like “Doorman”, a jazzy, almost calypso tune, was written just a couple months prior to going into the studio, or “Hey Hey”, which was the first song we’d recorded, but was a song I’d had on my b-sides; I had always thought it would be hard to capture the vitality of that song. I think we did alright.
Well, I’m not quite sure I was consciously preparing to make this record for 6 years. 6 years ago, I hardly had a thought that I might be a musician. I’d moved to LA to make movies. To act and write. To tell stories. But the beginnings of what became Joshua & The Holy Rollers (JTHR) were certainly found in an 18 year old Mac trying to find his place in the world. In the end I think the why in “why did it take you this long to do music” is pretty easy to understand. I never wanted to be accused of riding coat tails, or nepotism, or not being my own person. I’ve spent a lot of life, not to anyone’s fault, being determined and judged by the actions and history of other people, and so I tried to distance myself from that. I think though all of that distancing and time and human experience was necessary to get me to here. To feel comfortable with myself and knowing that this is my decision and something I needed to do with my life.
But what got me into the studio to record? What made me do this? Complete and utter desperation. I’d been laid off. I was broke. I was bored. I was unsuccessful. I’d been pushing up against a door that wouldn’t budge for years, and I felt like I was about to quit; I was going to leave LA, drop the dream, get a decent job and eventually die. But I thought I’d reach once more: do the thing I was afraid of embracing. Be a musician. Make the f***ing record and see what happens. And now… I’m very thankful I felt so desperate.
We are currently living through a very trying and politically charged time right now so I am curious to know how your own music is reflecting this time period or is your music more of an escape from all that?
If anything, this music would be an escape. A hopeful melancholy that might deliver someone a reprieve from the bullshit that is happening around us. My goal with creating has always been about making what I want to see in the world, so if I’m allowed to wax poetic and proselytize, I’d hope that anyone reading this would take that sentiment to heart. Stop waiting for other people to make something happen for you… Make it happen yourself.
As an aside from that, I had a few people say to me “hey man, I’m worried about you releasing Hey Hey”, because it’s a very sexually-oriented song, with a very playful tongue-in-cheek chorus. The chorus sings “hey hey, don’t judge me girl, hey hey, I’m just a boy”, and with everything that’s happening these days, friends and family were afraid strangers might read into that thinking something terrible about my intent, when nothing could be further from the the truth. In the end, some people decide to see the worst in things, but you just have to trust that if you’re specific enough and deliberate enough in who you are people will understand you.
Who are some of your favorite artists or rather, what musicians have continued to inspire you and your music? Who would you absolutely still love to work with in the future?
Well, outside of the obvious ones: Led Zeppelin, Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Band, Paul Simon, Queen, Stevie Wonder, Dr. John, The Beatles and so many others, there is so much fantastic music being made today. My musical loves currently are the work of Bahamas, Andy Shauf, My Morning Jacket (Carl Broemel’s solo records rock), Temples, and the late, but truly fantastic Richard Swift. I’m sure I’ve missed a lot of loves here.
If you were going to be stranded on a deserted island forever, what musical item would you take with you and why?
Easily my Guild D-20. An acoustic guitar can adapt to every vibe, and every situation. Quiet and peaceful, mean and sultry… it can be anything you need.
Do you have any tour dates you would like to tell our readers about? What has been a favorite performance of yours? What do you think makes an idea show for you? What’s next on your musical agenda?
Up next we’re releasing Tribulations on November 2nd! I’m really proud of these songs, and I hope they’ll find a place in other people’s lives the way they have in mine. In regards to shows, I think my favorite of all time would’ve been our last one at one of my favorite bars in LA, Harvard and Stone. It’s a place I’ve been going to for years, so it holds a special place in my heart, and the show was electric. By the end of that set, I felt like I could do anything; I want to do that every night of my life. I guess the ideal show is pretty simple: to play with a band of sentient apes on Alpha Centuri, with lazer guitars on a boat in a bio-luminescent ocean… Or melt the faces off of everyone at the Forum.
At the end of the day, what do you hope your fans take away from your music? I’d like to know more about how you want your music to be timeless?
When I’m writing, my only real concern in as far as meaning is making sure it means something to me. I just want to create the thing that is in my head. To be able to listen to what has been playing in my mind. So if I had to then place a takeaway on my music, I would just hope that through the specificity, people could hear their own stories in the tunes. I think through being specificity, you can reach universal, and so I hope that I’ve managed that in some way; that someone else can take my song and know it – truly know it – because they’ve felt the same way.