January 03, 2010 byCindy Wright
Jeff Timmons is the founding member of 98 Degrees, a Grammy- nominated boy band that formed and became very popular in the late 90's. The group is on a hiatus and Jeff Timmons is now going it solo. In August of 2004 his first solo album titled Whisper That Way was released, the title track Whisper That Way managed to reach #20 on the adult contemporary chart.
Jeff Timmons is working on a new collection of songs and is offering them to his fans for free. He plans to start releasing songs in the next few days. I had the opportunity to speak to Jeff via phone for a few minutes and we discussed many things from the early days of 98 Degrees to going independent and much more. I hope you enjoy gaining some insight into Jeff Timmons and be sure to check him out at Jeff Timmons.com.
As the founder of 98 Degrees, I am sure there are many other aspiring musicians who would love to know how you put 98 Degrees together. Can you explain the thought process behind putting the group together and how you went about accomplishing the task?
Jeff - That's a good question. It's actually kind of funny. I had sung in choir and stuff like that growing up but I was never really very serious about any of that. I was in college with some buddies of mine that I actually went to high school with and played some high school football with. Strangely enough we were at a party and we were trying to be cool and impress some girls. That's how it all got started. So we sang a song called "My Girl" and we sang at this party and we thought we were cool. It was fun but we certainly weren't cool, I'll tell you that. But we got a good response from the crowd and it was at this party that we decided maybe we should start a singing a group and that is how it got started. We went to California to pursue the dream that summer.
The original other three guys that I started the group with ended up kind of getting scared and homesick so they left and went home. I continued to pursue it and was put in touch with a guy who went to school with Nick and we talked Nick into coming out from Ohio, then eventually Nick brought Justin out. The guy who introduced me to Nick he quit the group and then we put Drew in the group. So that is a roundabout way on how the group got started.
How did you finally get discovered?
Jeff - We got discovered singing backstage at a Boyz II Men concert.
There is a lot of talent that comes out of Ohio. Some think it is not going to happen for you if you are from a place like Ohio verses some place like California. But there is a ton of talent that has came out of Ohio.
Jeff - There is tons of talent from Ohio especially actors and actresses. There are tons of talented individuals in Ohio. I think there is nothing else to do. I mean you watch TV all the time and you listen to the radio; you go drinking with your friends. That's about all there is to do in Ohio. You don't have the beach and you don't have all these clubs, all this crazy stuff to do like there is out the east coast or the west coast. So I think people just kind of dream about being famous and living the dream as a singer or an actor.
What were you feeling and/or thinking when you first heard a 98 Degrees song on the radio and then all the success that followed?
Jeff - Oh I remember the first time I heard it on the radio. I was in Los Angeles. We were doing some publicity there and stuff to set up the record for the album release and we were driving and we heard the song come on KISS FM and it was like a dream come true. We got out of the car in front of the hotel and blasted it, turned it up as loud as we could. It was a great feeling, one of the best feelings ever.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of being a solo artist now verses being in a group?
Jeff - Some of the disadvantages are as a solo artist is you don't have the other guys to fall back on onstage. All eyes are on you so you can't kind of blend into the mix with the other guys and as far as the material goes you don't have their brain and their creativity.
However there are also advantages, creatively you can do your own thing and you don't have to get it voted on by committee and stuff like that. I like being a solo artist just as much as I enjoy being in a group because now I am more into the creation process and the production and the studio, engineering the record and all that stuff so I love it.
What was the reason you decided to create your own label and go independent instead of going with a major record label?
Jeff- Well I think the record labels are kind of in a quandary right now. Their having trouble selling records right now for multiple reasons. Not just because of downloading, But because there is not as many retail stores selling records any more. They don't have the budgets anymore they use to have to promote the music and they try to control you and they try to control your music and it is hard to make money off your own music. So I thought why not do it by myself give the music away this first time and hopefully in the next few days here I'll be starting to put some of the songs out. Because look I'm getting older, I sort of have a grasp of the business side of it. It's more about getting my own music out there for the fans to share and enjoy and building my own fan base and being able to create this music for a living and continue that process. So I don't feel a necessity to be with a major label anymore.
Does doing it this way create obstacles you were not expecting?
Jeff - Well with a major label they have the resources and the funds to promote you in a big way with, with television and radio, aside from that you can do almost anything else yourself. You can get distribution yourself, sometimes even more than with a major label; you can utilize the social networks more than the major labels do. You can also create awareness and viral marketing and build your fan base and be up close and personal with your fans. You don't have someone from the label telling you what you can and can't do and stopping you from doing what your gut says. I think it's a trade off but to me I would rather be able to creatively control my stuff and get it out when I want and also to who I want to get it out to. I'll save radio for another time maybe.
Can you describe the music on the CD?
Jeff - I call it Hip-Pop. It definitely has Hip-Hop elements but never leaves the Pop realm. It's definitely mainstream music. It is stuff that could be on the radio if I had the opportunity to have the right team behind me. It is Top-40 music that crosses all boundaries and genres and hopefully everybody will like it of all ages.
Why do you think it's so hard to get music on the radio?
Jeff - Well we could get into that but I don't want to get myself in trouble. There are certain types of business practices and there is a business model with radio and how you get on radio. It's expensive and you have to have promotional teams that are well connected with radio. Long gone are the days when you could call up a radio and request a song. Even the songs that are requested if you pay close attention those songs are ones that are pretty much on the playlist anyway. Radio is tough to get, I have tons of friends at radio they're great, but getting it promoted, paying the promoters to get it on the radio, those guys are very expensive.
Fans are going to buy it anyway and they will be loyal and they are going to go to the shows. This music and this comeback album is just so I can reenergize the fan base that we had in 98 Degrees and hopefully gather some new fans and get people excited about me as a solo artist.
What about a tour?
Jeff - I'm starting to set up all that tour stuff now. I have a pretty good agent that is going to be starting to work with me on the 4th and we are going to start putting together a road map for a cool tour.
Can you tell me about your multi-media distribution company called iamMedia?
Jeff - iamMedia is a company that is going to place CDs at point of sale locations at tens of thousands of stores. Hopefully that will launch sometime in February or March. We were going to launch in January but we had some internal problems as far as like getting certain investors and things like that. With the economy and stuff like that it's been difficult to get the proper base to get the stuff going. But hopefully we will be launching that in February or March. It will be with stores that don't traditionally sell CDS, like convenience stores, grocery stores places like that. You're going to see CDs right at the checkout line.
Hold up a mirror to your career up to this point; tell me what it is that you see?
Jeff- I've seen a lot of growth. It's been quite a roller coaster ride and I have been very fortunate to have had top hits on the radio and also travel all over the world and have fans singing the songs. But also I see how the music business is very difficult and you have to learn the business side of things you can't just be an artist, it is very important to learn the business side. Otherwise you may get taken advantage of. Of course music changes so you have to figure out a way to reinvent yourself and get yourself back out there. It has definitely made me grow on the business side of things but more importantly it has made me grow as a person. I have gotten to go and see things all over the world and meet people in different cultures and understand how people live. I've been really fortunate. So I see a lot of growth as far as a producer, as far as a person and as far as a businessman.
What motivates you day to day?
Jeff - I just have a burning desire to reach goals and to be a success, not only for myself but most importantly for my children. They drive me to want to be better all the time and it's a gift I've been given and to me I have to live every moment and just seize the day and do the best that I can at all times.
Can you tell me of a time in your early career when you were literally scared to death? What caused it and how did you deal with it?
Jeff - Well early and late, I'm nervous onstage. Probably up until the last couple years I was always extremely nervous to go up on stage especially television. I had such a phobia about it and was so worried about making a mistake I was so nervous about it that I went to a hypnotist to try and get hypnotized to not be so nervous and afraid to go on television. I got over that the hypnotist didn't help me but I started going out and doing shows on my own and got very comfortable. I feel really very comfortable now on television and on stage now.
If we switched places and I was the artist and you were asking the questions, what is one question you would ask me?
Jeff - I would ask you what inspires your music.
Ok so what is your answer?
Jeff - I think life experience and just the fact that I hear the music even before I start creating it in the studio with the sounds and the equipment. I'm just inspired by life experience good stuff and bad stuff and passion and I try to put my heart and soul into everything.
Have you met a musician who you admired, who really left a great impression on you? If so who and why?
Jeff - Stevie Wonder was one of my favorite ones. He was probably one of the most down to earth celebrities that I have ever met and he is probably the most accomplished of all of them. I was inspired by his humility and how polite he was and music just flows through him at all times. He was always playing music, when we met him he had a keyboard at all times, he had a harmonica and he just vibes his music always and I was quite inspired by Stevie Wonder.
How do you strive to make impressions like that on those who admire you?
Jeff - I've been trying to do that my whole career even before we were famous. The way I was raised I think it is very important to be humble and appreciate the things you are given in life. And too treat everyone you meet as you would want to be treated and I try to pay special attention to everybody that I come across and too learn a little bit more about each person that I meet. I want people to leave feeling a lit bit better than they did when they came in. Meaning hopefully some excitement and joy will rub off on them after we have interacted and they will leave with a good impression.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to get their big break?
Jeff - Sing for everyone and anyone that will listen. Always be ready to perform even in the most uncomfortable of situations. Believe in yourself and ignore all the doubters. Most importantly, stay humble. Humility will keep you grounded and thankful for the opportunity to do music for a living.
Do you have anything else you want to say that I haven't covered?
Jeff - No, I just appreciate you giving me the opportunity. Your questions are just fantastic. I thank you for taking the time to do this. I just appreciate all the fans out there for all the support over the years. They have been fantastic. Please check out the website and follow me on twitter.