By RITA SHERROW
The host of NBC's "The Sing-Off" says its a way to give back to the genre that gave to him.
Nick Lachey has a passion for a cappella — singing without instrumental music — and so, too, it seems, does America.
Lachey is a member of the boy band 98 Degrees that got signed to its first recording contract after singing an a cappella medley in the office of the president of Motown Records.
Pentatonix, a group of five vocalists, won the third season of NBC's "The Sing-Off" and walked away with $200,000 and a recording contract with Sony. Its debut EP, "PTX Vol. 1," charted at No. 14 on the Billboard 200 albums chart and has garnered millions of hits on YouTube with its covers. The group is touring, including a stop in Tulsa on Feb. 5 at Cain's Ballroom, and recently released the album "PTX Vol. 2."
And "Pitch Perfect," a film about a college a cappella competition, earned more than $113 million at the box office worldwide.
The season four debut of "The Sing-Off," NBC's a cappella singing competition, airs at 8 p.m. Monday on channel 2, cable 9, with Lachey as host.
"You know it's given a lot to me, and in some kind of way this is my way of giving back to the genre of a cappella," he said in a recent teleconference. The show's season finale is set for Dec. 23 with Pentatonix performing.
In this series, there will be no lip-synching, no backup bands and no safety net for the 10 groups competing for the top prize of cash and a recording contract.
"I think it takes incredible talent to pull it off," said Lachey, who reunited with 98 Degrees to produce a new album and toured last summer with New Kids on the Block and Boyz II Men. "Oftentimes, people, I think, take it for granted and don't realize how hard it is to do, which is why I feel 'The Sing-Off' is so special. ...
"I think there's such a passion right now out there for a cappella music."
Lachey said at first he didn't know if the series would return for another season, that it had been placed "on the back burner" for a moment.
"I really have to give a lot of credit to the very passionate fans of the show out there for really petitioning and clamoring for it to come back," he said. "So obviously when we got the call that it was coming back on air, we were ecstatic. We all love the genre of a cappella and love the show and really believe in it."
New this season will be a production team headed by Mark Burnett, and there will be more interaction between Lachey and the judges and the groups, he said. Recording artist Jewel joins the judges table alongside Ben Folds (Ben Folds Five) and Shawn Stockman (Boyz II Men), who are both returning.
"You'll see as the season progresses all of us kind of taking a turn and mentoring and trying to give some guidance to the groups as they go through this journey. ...
"It was a really cool opportunity for us. We've all learned the hard way a lot of the time in this business some valuable lessons. And for us to be able to pass those along to these groups was really cool."
There is also an actual sing-off with the two lowest-scoring groups dueling head-to-head performing the same song. At the end, one stays and one group is sent home.
Lachey had words of advice for those in the competition and any potential singer, for that matter.
"Work ethic and your desire to go the extra mile can really set you apart and give you an advantage," he said. "On our show, there's a lot of singing in a very condensed amount of time with a lot of pressure.
"I mean, you're on a national television stage and you're singing against some of the most talented singers in the country, and you really have to be on your game.
"And you have to work hard. And if you're not willing to work hard, you're not going to do well on the show. That's just a fact.
"And I think that's true for any walk of life but especially in the music business.
"It's a cutthroat business now more than ever, and you have to do something to set yourself apart from the competition."
For Lachey, the pressure is off when he leaves the stage or the recording studio, but music is always a constant in his life, he said. It's something he and his family share every day.
He is married to Vanessa Minnillo Lachey, who plays Camilla on the TV show "Dads," and they have a son Camden, born September 2012.
"Music, in general, is big in our home," he said. "Obviously, I'm a musician, and my wife is a passionate lover of music. And so there's constantly music in our house and, yes, we sing to Camden every time we put him down for a nap or put him down for the night. So technically, there's a little a cappella happening in our house every day.
"It's usually in lullaby form, but it is happening every day."
Lachey said he recorded a lullaby record for Camden, released this year. It's called "Father's Lullaby" and contains a song called "Sleepy Eyes."
"That one I kind of wrote while he was still in the womb," he said. "So that's the one I sing to him every day before he goes down. So whether he likes it or not, that's really the only one he gets served up, so he has to like it."