Boy band 98 Degrees soared to fame in 1997, selling millions of albums in the process. Now back together and touring with New Kids on the Block and Boyz II Men, Joe Leary spent 24 Seconds with Nick and Drew Lachey, Jeff Timmons and Justin Jeffre.
24: I never thought I’d be interviewing 98 Degrees in Vancouver in 2013. Who saw this coming?
DL: Whoever it was, they were very prophetic. I think it was just the right time and the chance to get on the road with NKOTB and Boyz II Men. The last several years it was just a matter of when we would get back together. Everybody was able to carve out the time in their schedule and commit to it. We took a year and a half to make a record and book the tour; it was just the perfect storm that happened. If you had asked us 10 years ago if we would be out here on the road now, I don’t know who would have seen a sold-out arena tour. We count our blessings that we’re here.
24: When you took your hiatus did the bond remain strong or were you just kind of tired of it all?
JT: We had toured for five years straight, there was a lot of promotional stuff going on, and we didn’t make money until the very end of our career really so we definitely needed a break. I had two kids and wanted to get off the road and everybody else had things that they wanted to do but I think 9/11 was the catalyst for us taking a break. We were in New York City on Sept. 10 and of course, the next day’s developments made us take a break. We thought we’d just go home, regroup and do our own thing. It was a much-needed break.
24: Was there initial anxiety because it had been some time since you had performed or was it like old hat?
NL: It was probably a little of both. We were all a little anxious as to how it was going to translate to today from back in 2001, but once we got in the studio and started working together again – last summer we did a Mixtape festival in Pennsylvania; that was kind of our first chance to get back onstage again in front of fans – once we started putting that all together it really is like riding a bike or putting on an old pair of jeans. It just felt right and normal again which is why we’re here this summer.
24: When you stand onstage in 2013, what does the audience look like today compared to the last time you were on the road?
JJ: They’re a little bit older, typically they’re from 20 to 40, but we still have some really young fans. That’s been one of the biggest surprises to us; just how young the fans are. With some of our older fans, their kids grew up listening to our music because their parents were fans so we have all ages really.
24: And from what I understand you still have the ‘swoon’ factor.
DL: It’s a lot of fun out there. Boyz II Men comes out first and does an amazing job with hit after hit after hit. We come on and do the same thing. It really is a great experience for the fans to hear a lot of the music that they love. As for the swoon factor, we just have fun with it trying to entertain the crowd.
NL: It’s not difficult to perform every night in front of 16,000 women, basically screaming.
JT: 15,950 actually, there are probably 50 guys out there.
NL: It is a fun stage to take so to speak. It’s a great audience to perform in front of.
24: Has the technology changed a lot in how you stage your show?
JT: Well a lot of its wireless so you have the ability to listen to things when your performing onstage. With regards to lighting you’ve got much higher resolution now, and of course you have the ability to do things through a computer. That didn’t exist back in our day. You literally had guys putting lights up and it wasn’t so programmed — not to age us but it’s a lot different.
24: Being of the boy-band genre, how crazy did it get?
DL: Looking back, especially now after so many years have passed, you have a really good perspective on what it was that we were able to accomplish and what we went through. We obviously are very blessed but we worked hard and did our best to try and always sound good and focus on our vocals. When you’re in it you can never really grasp what you’re a part of but hindsight is 20/20. When you look back and you’re able to see it for what it was, we’re all very proud of what it was we were able to accomplish and what we’re still accomplishing today.
24: When you’re on a big tour as you are, does it get so fast paced that you lose track of what day it is and the city you’re in?
NL: Sometimes a tour can kind of blend together when you get this kind of routine and you get on and off the bus and you wake up in a new town. I’m a little bit of a travel nerd and I actually like to know where we’re going and like to plan ahead. I enjoy that aspect of the touring scene hitting different parts of the world. We have a little rally cry before we go onstage and shout out the name of the city we’re in that particular night. That way it’s fresh in our minds. Vancouver in particular is a real special place. We recorded a lot of our early stuff here. Our first single, Invisible Man, was written by two guys from here, so early on in our career we spent a lot of time here and developed a real love affair with this city. It’s always been a special place to us.
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