Saturday, June 1, 2013

Jeff Timmons and 98 Degrees return


By Dan Kane
98 degrees group.jpg

Stark County had a direct link to the ’90s boy-band scene in Jeff Timmons, a 1991 Washington High School grad.
Timmons was part of 98 Degrees, a pop-R&B foursome known for creamy vocal harmonies and dreamy All-American looks. The guys scored hits with “Because of You,” “The Hardest Thing,” “I Do (Cherish You),” “Thank God I Found You” and “Give Me Just One Night (Una Noche),” and sold more than 10 million albums in the U.S.
After the group unceremoniously broke apart in late 2001, Timmons released a solo album titled “Whisper This Way,” toured with Jim Brickman, appeared in a VH1 reality series “Mission: Man Band,” hosted the Miss USA 2011 pageant and did a guest-star stint with Chippendales in Las Vegas.
Timmons’ bandmates, all Cincinnati natives, have stayed in the spotlight. Nick Lachey starred in a high-profile VH1 reality series, “Newlyweds,” with his then-wife Jessica Simpson, released a hit solo album, “What’s Left of Me,” and hosted an NBC singing-competition series “The Sing-Off.” Drew Lachey, Nick’s brother, won season two of TV’s “Dancing With the Stars” and appeared on Broadway in “Monty Python’s Spamalot.” And Justin Jeffre ran for mayor of Cincinnati.
Now reunited and with a new album titled “2.0,” 98 Degrees will appear in concert with New Kids on the Block and Boyz II Men on June 9 at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland. Here, Timmons talks about being 40 and back on the boy-band scene.

Q. This is the first 98 Degrees tour since 2001, how are rehearsals going?
“We’re a little older, of course. But I think the fact that we’ve been doing stuff on our own has made the group better vocally and in the performing aspects as well. We had to hone our craft. Before it was always the other guys onstage, and you didn’t have to be ‘on’ at all times. I think we’re way better than before. We’re more relaxed, more seasoned, we’re all bringing our own flavors. It’s not so structured.”

Q. I bet you’re glad to not be one of those super choreographed groups. That might really make you feel old.
 “We’re actually dancing a little more than in the past. We’ve stepped up that part of our game. But we’ve all kept in pretty good shape. I think a couple of us are in the best shape of our lives.”

Q. What’s it like touring with New Kids and Boyz II Men? Did you know these guys already?
 “I know Jordan (Knight from NKOTB) fairly well, and Drew’s great friends with Joey (McIntyre, also from NKOTB) from when they were on ‘Dancing With the Stars’ together. Nick knows Boyz II Men from ‘The Sing-Off.’  We had this real cool press junket with the groups. Having Boyz II Men next to me was incredible. They’re the reason we formed a group in the first place.”

Q. And you’ve just released a new 98 Degrees album. What’s it like?
 “After we decided to get back together, we thought we should do some new music. We knocked it out fairly quickly. We didn’t write anything this time. We had a couple hundred songs to pick from. We’re blessed to have a song by Bruno Mars called ‘Long Way Home.’ We’ve got a song by Ne-Yo called ‘Lonely.’ We’ve got a whole diverse array of things. There’s some throwback stuff; one kinda sounds like Michael Jackson. There’s some contemporary dance vibe. It’s more well-rounded than our albums in the past.”

Q. Have you kept in close touch with Nick, Drew and Justin all these years?
“We did but not as much as we should’ve. Three of us have kids. Nick was doing stuff with Jessica, then hosting ‘The Sing-Off.’ Drew did ‘Dancing with the Stars.’ Justin was doing politics. I did my solo record, and I went and stripped in Chippendales — that was a blast. But now we’re closer than ever. We were working so hard the first time, it was difficult to take a breath and take it all in.”

Q. You did Chippendales and a reality series (“Mission: Man Band”). Were you just trying to hang in there?
“I had some rough times. I had a really difficult first marriage. My ex-wife was extraordinarily difficult, and I had a custody battle that took me a good 10 years. I was doing work when I could, just hanging in there to pay the bills. My new wife is amazing.”

Q. Do you have more than one child?
 “I’ve got four kids now. I have one with my previous wife, two stepkids from my new wife, and we just had a kid.”

Q. And you live in Vegas. What’s that like for a family?
. “We live 20 minutes from the Vegas strip. It’s pretty normal suburban life. It could be anywhere except it’s hot.”
Q. Congratulations about the reunion and the album and the tour. You sound like a happy man.
 “I’m sitting here in this arena and it’s huge. It’s really hitting me. We’re really lucky to be able to have a second chance at this, on this big tour with our idols. Our last show was on 9/11 (2001), and the band never had any closure.”
Q. When were you last in the Massillon area?
 “I was there two or three years ago to visit my buddies. It’s always nice to go back and get a welcoming response. I’d like to do a gig performing there with 98 Degrees. I would love for us to play my hometown one time.”  

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