Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Fast times and 'High School Musical' *Nick Lachey*

By John Kiesewetter • • July 20, 2008

He helped a Cincinnati chorus win NBC's "Clash of the Choirs" contest in December.


Now, Nick Lachey is returning to TV to help aspiring young singers in ABC's "High School Musical: Get In The Picture," which debuts today. And he's trying to get MTV to produce a series showcasing students at his alma mater, Cincinnati's School for Creative & Performing Arts.

And he's preparing to promote a new single later this month from his new album, due out this fall.

"It's been pretty hectic this year," says Lachey, 34, the singer, songwriter, reality TV star, producer and recently installed spokesman for Cincinnati Bell's Fusion WiFi service.

"I'm having a great time. This is all good stuff, and it started with 'Clash of the Choirs.' "

Lachey enjoys assisting talented young performers, something he says he appreciated from knowledgable people while attending SCPA.

"I wouldn't be in the position I'm in now if it wasn't for that school. If I can give any kids an opportunity, I'm happy to do it," says the former 98° band member.

Lachey took a few minutes to talk about his projects from Salt Lake City, where ABC is producing his reality show and "High School Musical: Senior Year."

With "High School Musical: Get In The Picture," Lachey hosts ABC's answer to "American Idol" this summer, a talent search for performers ages 16-24, inspired by Disney's blockbuster teen movies.

Hoping it could be as popular as "Idol," ABC executives have scheduled two episodes a week, at 8-9 p.m. today and Monday (Channels 9, 22). Like "Idol," the show starts with thousands attending open auditions in Orlando, Fla., and near Los Angeles.

Eventually six judges ("the faculty") select a dozen finalists who advance to a summer music training program in Salt Lake City. Lachey, who is not a judge, says he provides "a support system" for participants.

In a new twist on reality competition shows, the eliminated finalists aren't sent home. They remain on the show by moving to the chorus, "so they continue to develop their talents and learn more things each week," he says.

"I see a lot of myself in these kids. The passion they have for performing reminds me of the days of old, (when I was) trying to get a recording contract," says Lachey, who dropped out of Miami University in the early 1990s and moved to Los Angeles to start his professional singing career.

ABC's winner will star in a music video in the end credits for "HSM: Senior Year" in theaters this fall, and receive a Walt Disney Records recording contract.

MTV's SCPA show

No decision has been made by MTV on Lachey's proposal to film a "Fame"-style reality series about SCPA students, says Lachey, a 1992 SCPA graduate.

MTV completed shooting a pilot in March featuring 12-14 seniors and juniors. But casting directors returned this summer looking for more SCPA students to star in the show, "because a lot of the cast we had in place graduated. We need to cast it again to make a presentation (for MTV)," he says.

"MTV remains committed to doing it, but it's not a definite go," says Lachey, who starred in MTV's "Newlyweds" reality series (2003-05) with Jessica Simpson, his wife at the time. (MTV's spokesman says "the show is still in development.")

If the network approves the project, filming could start at the school in fall for shows that likely would air "after the first of the year," Lachey says. Ten to 12 episodes could be shot here, he says.

The show would blend performances by the students with the narrative about SCPA school life. Teachers also would be part of the show, Lachey says. He is an executive producer with Marc Platt (from the "Legally Blonde" movies), Russell Heldt ("Real World") and Colton Gramm, Lachey's manager.

Lachey pitched the series to MTV a year ago. "It's been a longer process than I or anyone could have envisioned," he says.

No title yet for CD

After his TV show debuts, Lachey will launch a media blitz for a new single, to be released at the end of July.

For now, he's not saying much about the song ("it could be one of two") or album ("it's not yet titled").

This we know: It includes Team Cincinnati, which Lachey led to victory on "Clash of the Choirs," singing background on one song, as he had promised the singers in December.

They sing "Til The World Stands Still," co-written by Lachey and arranged by Steve Zegree, the Western Michigan University jazz professor who arranged Team Cincinnati songs for the NBC show. The 20 singers and Zegree recorded the song here June 14 without Lachey.

The CD should be released in late September or early October, Lachey says.