While Ken Block
initially did the majority of the Sister Hazel's songwriting, this role has gradually shifted and become more evenly distributed over the years. On more recent releases, all members contribute original compositions. This is notable on their 2009 album, Release
, wherein each band member wrote at least two songs.
The band's name is drawn from Sister Hazel Williams, manager of a homeless shelter in Ken Block's hometown. The singer remembers being impressed with the woman's tireless selflessness and generosity even when he was very young. Williams, who appeared on public access television, was extremely kind and helpful to anybody in need, regardless of who they were. Block named the band Sister Hazel in an effort to reflect his admiration of this unconditional regard for fellow human beings. The band has visited the original Sister Hazel Williams, and sends her a monthly contribution to help with her ongoing charitable efforts.
While in his early twenties, Ken Block was profoundly affected by his brother's passing after a battle with cancer. The tragedy spurred Block to begin writing more sophisticated, personal songs, an endeavor ultimately reflected in the complexity that inhabits much of Sister Hazel's work. In recent years, Block has started a charity, Lyrics for Life, which donates to cancer research foundations and as well as families with cancer-afflicted children. Block says the charity managed to raise nearly a million dollars over its first few years.
Surfing is one of Ken Block's favorite ways of unwinding. He self-professedly spent his teenage summers as a beach bum and, while admitting he's not in as good surfing shape as he used to be, feels relaxed simply being near the ocean.
While the Sister Hazel is known for their sunny, upbeat sound, Ken Block says they try to write songs with depth and insight. If a person is drawn to listen a song because of its catchy tune, then there's a better chance that they'll listen to what you have to say. The band's lyrics reflect this, covering a broad range of topics, from relationships to philosophy to politics to religion.
The band created and hosts an annual musical event known as The Rockboat, which as the name suggests, is a music festival that is hosted on a boat. Each year, Sister Hazel handpicks a number of bands to play on a cruise ship that travel from port to port, performing for fans. The festival debuted in 2001, and has happened annually ever since.
While campaigning for President in year 2000, Al Gore answered the questions "What was the last CD you bought" and "What's in your CD player right now" with Sister Hazel.