Jeff Timmons began what was originally a low-key solo career after a phenomenal run with the “boy band” 98 Degrees. He was the founding member of the group, and they produced multi-platinum records (11 Million sold), 8 top ten singles, and a Grammy nomination. He then released his first solo album, Whisper That Way; the album that gave him Top 20 hits on both the Billboard and Radio & Records charts, while having the lead-off single with the same title as the most added single at radio every week leading up to its peak position. The album also produced 3 more chart-topping singles worldwide.
While writing and producing his much awaited second Album, Jeff is also set to launch a new, massive multi-media distribution company called iamMedia. iamMedia will utilize traditional ways of promotion and distribution, and various non-traditional methods to bring brand awareness not only to his album, but a myriad of other artists, genres of music and other mediums of entertainment. Jeff is set to release his new album to everyone completely free between Christmas and New Year’s Eve.
Anyone who registers at www.jefftimmons.com can receive the entire album!
CD: When I think “boy band” I think of ‘O-Town’, or manufactured groups created by MTV. You guys actually formed, struggled and broke out on your own. How did 98 Degrees start?
JT: I started the group in college at Kent State University in Ohio. My friends and I were trying to impress some girls at a party, so we started singing the song “My Girl” in four part harmony. We thought it sounded better than we expected. I felt that we might have had something special, so I quit school the next day to focus on it full-time. We left for California later that summer to pursue the dream. After about 6 months the other three members became homesick, quit and went back to Ohio. I struggled to find other members, but eventually was introduced to Nick through a high school friend of his in Los Angeles. I convinced Nick to come out and join the group in Cali. Drew and Justin eventually followed, and that group became 98 Degrees.
CD: How did you guys finally manage to break out? Is there a cool story behind it?
JT: We were singing everywhere we could for food and money. We eventually sang our way backstage at a Boyz II Men concert and got discovered there by our future manager.
CD: What’s great about ‘98 Degrees’ is that you, Nick & Drew Lachey and Justin Jeffre actually co-wrote a lot of your own tracks. Was there any track in particular that you had a larger role in?
JT: We had a lot to do with the vocal production on most of our tunes. Many times we arranged our vocals ourselves. I co-wrote a song called “Yesterday’s Letter” with Drew. I’m pretty proud of that song.
CD: You hear the stories about how when you sign with a major label you sign your life away. Was this the case with Universal Records?
JT: I definitely think we could’ve had better deals. No question about that. At one point we had sold over 5 Million records with both Motown and Universal and hadn’t recouped. We still weren’t making money. We were like “How does that happen?’ I think when you’re young you just want to make it and live the dream, so you depend on your management, agents, and lawyers to have your best interests in mind. That doesn’t always happen. All in all, I wouldn’t trade anything because the knowledge I’ve gained from the experiences from a business standpoint is invaluable.
CD: Within 2 years of forming you experienced sudden fame and fortune, going from struggle to success, selling multi-platinum albums and performing for President Clinton at the White House. Was the experience what you expected it to be?
JT: It was a dream come true. We did everything imaginable. Things were crazier than I had ever envisioned it. We sang with legends like Stevie Wonder, James Brown, Little Richard, and Mariah Carey. We got to tour the world. It was a real blessing. Sometimes I think maybe we were so busy and grinding, that we maybe didn’t take a deep breath and enjoy it while it was happening as much as we should have.
CD: Are you still in contact with Nick, Drew, and Justin and are there any potential projects or reunions in the near future?
JT: I am still in contact with the guys, although not as much as I would like to be. I’m sure we will do something at some point, but I don’t see it happening anytime soon.
CD: After the breakup all of you continued on as solo artists; did being a member of ‘98 Degrees’ help with those later projects?
JT: Absolutely. We had the opportunity to learned from not only incredible artists, but top-end producers as well. I would sit in the studio and watch these geniuses craft songs from nothing. I loved watching how they worked, and implement many of their techniques in the music I create today. On the other side of things, I learned the radio, retail and marketing, and promotion sides of the business. I saw what worked, and what didn’t. Great experiences. Great lessons.
CD: In 2006 you participated in Vh1’s reality show ‘Man Band’ where you were grouped with 3 other former boy band members from NSYNC, LFO, and Color Me Badd, to form a new band called ‘Sureshot’. What became of ‘Sureshot’?
JT: Not much. We all sort of did the show for our own selfish reasons. We all have our own projects, and I don’t think any of us ever intended on being a group. The songs we did together were pretty kick-ass, though.
CD: You have a new album, “Emotional High” slated to release in Dec/Jan 2010; tell us a little about this album and the single entitled “Emotional High”?
JT: Yes. When 98 Degrees was first signed to Motown we lived in NY. I had a girlfriend that I was head-over-heels in love with. We broke up just before the group hit, and I never saw her again. 10 years later, I got to see her again in NY. We both have our own lives now, kids, careers, etc, but the feelings will always be there. The experience inspired the song. We are good friends now, but after reuniting we were always talking on the phone to each other. She said “My God, You’re like a drug!” I told her I was going to write a song about that, and did. She’s a good friend to have, and while there may never be anything more, I still have strong feelings for her.
CD: Being a solo artist and having full creative control, what have you done differently in producing and promoting this album versus what you learned in the past?
JT: Well, I know more about the business for one. More importantly, I’m comfortable creating all of the music from the ground up if I have to. I engineer, write, produce, and sing everything myself. I know what I want to sound like now as a solo artist. When I first went solo, I was trying to be 98 Degrees by myself. Now, my buddies and I get in the studio and just jam. Up-tempo, ballads, club joints, whatever. We just do whatever we feel… and that’s what music is about.
CD: Your entire album will be available to fans as a free download, all they have to do is register on your website; why free?
JT: I think it is the way of the future. Artists will have to use their music as a commercial for themselves, and figure out how to monetize it through sponsorships, touring, merchandise, whatever. I haven’t had a song out with 98 Degrees in 8 or 9 years. People are not familiar with me as a solo artist. I can’t expect folks to shell out 10 or 15 dollars for a CD. My goal is to get 1 million people signed up at my website for the free album. I’m about halfway there. I hope to re-energize the existing fanbase and excite people and gain new fans along the way.
CD: For others with the same passion for music and dreams of being signed by a major label, what’s the best way to get noticed?
JT: Be confident and believe in yourself. There will be a million people that will tell you you can't do it, but it only takes one yes to make your dream come true. Sing or play for anyone and everyone you can. Always have your music ready. Most importantly, stay humble and thank God or the universe in advance for your success. Always work hard and treat everyone you meet with tremendous respect no matter who they are.
CD: And now for my one useless question, the “98 Degrees Board Game”, do you have one?
JT: My mother has one in the box with the wrapper still on it. When my daughter was two, she played mine and threw all of the pieces all over the place. It was a silly game anyway. Kind of like the music business.
Off-stage and outside the studio, Jeff is an advocate for a variety of charities and foundations, especially those benefiting children. He works closely with organizations like the St. Jude Children's Hospital and the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatrics Aids Foundation. Jeff, thank you for taking time to talk to us.