By Fred Topel
HollywoodNews.com: Nick Lachey has two second chances coming up. He’s engaged again to Vanessa Minnillo, and he’s back as host of “The Sing-Off” on NBC. Lachey hosts the a cappella singing competition which runs for an entire week in December. Celebrity judges Ben Folds, Shawn Stockman and Nicole Scherzinger will lend their music experience to the contestants. Lachey discussed the second season of The Sing-Off in a conference call with the media, but couldn’t quite dodge engagement questions.
Q: First off, what is your reaction to Jessica Simpson’s engagement?
NL: Same thing I’ve always said. I wish her the very best.
Q: What took you so long to get engaged to Vanessa?
NL: All things have their appropriate time. Thank you.
Q: Have you set a date?
NL: No, no, we’re still basking in the glow of our very recent engagement, enjoying that. I’m sure we’ll get on to the planning and what not shortly but right now we’re just enjoying this experience.
Q: Is Vanessa a fan of the show?
NL: Definitely she’s a fan of the show and had a chance to come and witness firsthand the talent of these groups. I’ve never met anyone in my life who loves music as much as she does. Having worked at MTV as a VJ she was exposed to music constantly.
Q: Does she sing?
NL: She does sing but she’ll be the first to admit not so well. She is a huge fan of the show.
Q: How does it feel to be engaged again?
NL: It’s very exciting. We’re extremely happy and looking forward to everything the future brings. I’m very excited and enjoying the moment.
Q: How do you have time for your fiancé when you’re working on the show and so much other work?
NL: I think anyone who balances their professional and personal life knows you have to make time for both. No matter what your profession or personal life, it’s always a balance and fine line we all get to walk.
Q: When o you find time to work out?
NL: Honestly, for me, that’s the one thing that more than anything helps me clear my head. I tend to do my best thinking, which isn’t saying much, when I’m running. Yeah, it’s something I always find a way to work in.
Q: Do you ever want to get back on stage yourself?
NL: Well, it is a bit of a throwback for me to see these groups harmonizing on stage. It does take my back tow here I got my start with 98 Degrees and some of the a cappella work we did. If you’re a musician at all, hearing the exceptional performances does make you itch to perform. If you’re a musician, that’s human nature but it’s exciting. It’s exciting to be around music done so well.
Q: What turned you on to show last year?
NL: Obviously, my start was in music, still actively in the music business. Specifically with 98 Degrees, we took pride in doing a cappella and doing it well. Frankly that’s how we got signed, the ability to do a cappella in a room live for Motown records. For me, it was something I was passionate about.
Q: How did you end up singing a cappella for Motown? Did you plan that or did they put you on the spot?
NL: It was 100% intentional. It was nerve wracking to say the least to step into the president of Motown’s office and say go, have to perform and know what’s at stake. That’s also the very reason we did a cappella and do it well. It’s the one kind of music there’s nowhere to hide. One single member drops the ball and the whole thing comes unrailed. Boys II Men did a similar thing when they sang for Michael Bivins. There’s nowhere to hide with a cappella. You either have the talent and chops to pull it off well, and all the groups on the show down, or you don’t and it’s apparent quickly.
Q: Are you a harsh critic?
NL: Well, I’m blessed that as far as The Sing Off goes, I’m the unbiased and objective host so I don’t do any judging. You certainly know what to listen for and know when it’s done well and not done as well. Thankfully, the majority of time on The Sing Off they’ve done extraordinarily well so it’s not painful on the ears.
Q: How do you help them backstage deal with the emotions and nerves?
NL: I think it’s just encouragement. I don’t think you need to try and emphasize the importance of performing on national television. All the groups understand that. I’ve been blown away how composed and poised they are given the stakes. You’ve got to trust what got you there. You’ve got to trust your rehearsal. Trust what you did in rehearsal you’re going to do on live television. The beauty of my role is I get to support all the groups and be an encouraging voice backstage. I think as a performer, the biggest thing I try to remind them of and biggest thing I try to remind myself of when I step on stage is to have a good time. Obviously the voices matter, the music matters, the notes matter. You’ve got to trust in your preparation as far as that goes but when you step on stage, you have to remind yourself to have a good time because you want the audience to have a good time. The only way they can is if they see that joy in you.
Q: How important was the School for Creative and Performing Arts to your success?
NL: It was incredible for anyone who enjoys singing and performing, the Performing Arts school was a great opportunity to nurture those talents. It’s especially exciting for me because it seems like a cappella music has blown up. It’s not just the barbershop or classic forms of a cappella anymore. We’re seeing a cappella done in exciting ways. For me the school was a great way to get to know a cappella music, practice it and ultimately perform it.
Q: Do you wish there were more arts emphasis in schools?
NL: It was phenomenal. It’s those other tangents that make us well rounded and excited to go to school. For me it was singing and acting. For others, it was football or basketball. I don’t know if I’d be in this business had I not been exposed to that at an early age.
Q: Will you perform on The Sing Off?
NL: You’ll have to tune in and see. We had a small chance to perform a little bit last year which was fun. It wouldn’t surprise me if we see something similar to that but can’t give too much away. We want people to tune in.
Q: Do you hope this kind of melodic harmonized music comes back, since we hear so much rhythm emphasis these days?
NL: I think it is. That’s why for me it’s great to do a show with Shawn Stockman. Boys II Men were a huge influence on my group. All the groups, whether ours or Backstreet Boys or Nsync, we all took pride in doing a cappella and do it well. It’s nice to see it celebrated. There’s music for everybody. The more rhythmic music that’s become more mainstream is great but it’s also great to see melody and harmony celebrated like it is on The Sing Off. That’s why we’re back for season two.
Q: Why did you want to come back to host?
NL: I love the idea of the show, the premise of the show. A cappella was always a real passion for myself and my group. I always appreciated the art form. It’s great to see it celebrated on national television. I was passionate about it. Shawn and Ben, our judges are equally passionate about it. It’s great to be a part of something that celebrates real musicians out there, a part of a difficult style of singing. I think for me, I remember that moment when we got discovered when we got our opportunity. There are talented people across the country. It’s exciting to see people who love a cappella music get that opportunity to step out and make their dreams come true so to speak, to have the opportunity to win a competition like this and make it a career. There’s just a genuine excitement that’s contagious.
Q: Will you release any more albums?
NL: Yeah, music will always be my passion and kind of my home base. I’m actually getting back into the studio right here to start a new record. I’m now independent. Jive Records and I have decided to part ways. It’s exciting because the music business has changed so much there are a lot of new opportunities. It’s exciting for me to find a different angle and take a new perspective. I can’t imagine ever not doing this in some capacity. I’m very excited to get some new stuff together and put out a new album for everyone to hear.
Q: Are there any actual plans for a 98 Degrees reunion tour?
NL: Yeah, we remain in contact with each other constantly. We throw that idea out there every now and then. I don’t think there are any imminent plans to get back together but given the right time and opportunity I can certainly see that happening.
Q: What are your favorite romantic songs?
NL: There are obviously countless songs that fall into that category. Obviously all 98 Degree songs make the perfect weddings songs. Sade is my favorite romantic artist out there. There’s no better concert I’ve been to in terms of romance and vibe than Sade. Anything she sings, especially live, would fall into that category.
Q: Would you pick one of the a cappella groups to perform at your wedding?
NL: I haven’t gotten so far as even getting to the planning stages but yeah, I’d be honored. They’re all incredibly talented. It’s a great suggestion. They’ve all done such great work. Not a bad suggestion. I might take that one.