Nick Lachey has been television host, a reality television star, a dance contest competitor, an actor, a teen pop star (with 98 Degrees) and a music solo artist.
Wearing many hats suits him well.
“I’d like to think I’m kind of hard to label. I enjoy being diversified,” Lachey said during a recent phone interview. “I’ve always approached my career as not trying to put any kind of label on it or define it. As long as the projects are interesting and something I enjoy doing, just keep on working.”
But now, 23 years after he first came to fame as frontman of 98 Degrees, that group might be taking a central role in Lachey’s career once again.
98 Degrees will perform June 14 at Meadows Racetrack & Casino in Washington County.
Four Ohio natives
The group came together in 1996 in Los Angeles as a vocal quartet featuring four Ohio natives — lead singer Lachey, his brother Drew, Justin Jeffre and Jeff Timmons. Initially 98 Degrees was marketed as a teen pop group, riding what was then a major trend in pop music.
98 Degrees never achieved the mega-stardom of peers like the Backstreet Boys, NSYNC or Britney Spears, but the group did very well. After notching a gold album with their self-titled debut, the group’s 1998 second album, “98 Degrees and Rising,” topped 4 million copies sold. The 2000 album, “Revelation,” was a double-platinum hit.
In all, the group has sold 10 million albums, which includes a first holiday album, “This Christmas,” released in 1999.
Then in 2001, the group went on a hiatus that lasted more than a decade. Each group member took on his own projects during the hiatus, making 98 Degrees seem like it might stay in the rearview mirror.
In music, Nick Lachey has released four solo albums (including the gold-certified 2006 release “What’s Left of Me”). But his biggest impact came through television.
Following his October 2002 marriage to singer Jessica Simpson, the couple starred in the popular MTV reality television series, “Newlyweds: Nick and Jessica.” The series had a three-year run – just like their marriage, which ended in December 2005.
To this day, some people still associate Lachey with “Newlyweds,” even though he has since married former MTV VJ Vanessa Minnillo, with whom he has three children. It’s a situation that he finds odd.
“I guess it’s a weird thing, because it’s obviously centered around a chapter in my life which is closed and has been for a decade, really,” Lachey said. “But it’s always interesting how much people still remember that show. So on that level, it’s flattering to have been part of something people enjoyed and was a success.
“I’ve been lucky enough, thankfully, to go on and do quite a few things since then and host a lot of things,” he added. “So luckily for me my career has continued to evolve.”
Those later pursuits included hosting several television shows, including the a cappella singing competition show, “The Sing Off,” guest-starring in a few television series and competing in the 2017 season of “Dancing With the Stars.”
By then, things were gearing back up with 98 Degrees, which Lachey said — despite appearances — never broke up. The group reunited in 2012 and returned to action with the 2013 album “2.0” and a slot on that summer’s “The Package” tour with New Kids On The Block and Boyz II Men.
A headlining tour followed in 2016. Then in 2017, with the group’s 20th anniversary happening, the group decided to celebrate by making its second Christmas album, “Let It Snow,” and embarking on a holiday tour.
The tour was a success, leading to a second holiday tour last fall. At this point, Lachey said, the four members now consider 98 Degrees an active, full-time endeavor.
“We kind of view this as a year-round thing,” Lachey said. “I think as long as we continue to enjoy performing together and the fans still come out and support it, we’re going to keep doing it. We enjoy each other’s company and enjoy performing together, so I really don’t see any reason to stop.”
The future could include more Christmas albums sometime down the road, and regular albums could also be in play — if it seems like the market has a place for new 98 Degrees music.
“That’s a tricky one, because we love making music together. So, the immediate answer would be, yeah, we’d love to be in the studio and make more music together,” Lachey said. “But the music business has changed so much in the way people consume music, and where do we kind of fit into the landscape of new music coming out and so on and so forth.
“It’s definitely something we’ve talked about and we would love to do,” he said. “I just think we have to get a better idea of what that would look like.”
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