by Jerry Nunn, Windy City Times
|Vocal group 98 Degrees is made up of brothers Nick and Drew Lachey, Justin Jeffre and Jeff Timmons.Formed in California and were later picked up later by a record label, the quartet went on to major success. They sold more than 10 million records and have had eight top-40 singles.|
In 1999, 98 Degrees released a Christmas album titled This Christmas and a second holiday album, Let It Snow, in 2017. The "At Christmas Tour" lands them in Illinois this month and next. Band member Jeffre called in from Modesto, California, to talk about the group's lengthy career, LGBT rights and more.
Windy City Times: Where is the group 98 Degrees located these days?
Justin Jeffre: Drew and I both live in Cincinnati. Nick lives in LA and Jeff lives in Las Vegas.
WCT: You are currently in the middle of the tour?
JJ: Yes. This is our ninth show. We started up in Canada and are making our way down the West Coast.
WCT: Is it weird to perform Christmas songs early in the year?
JJ: In the past we have done two different Christmas albums. We typically record those songs in July. We get used to having everything ready for the actual season. Normally, I wouldn't be listening or singing to Christmas songs this early.
WCT: Does a set list have your regular catalogue mixed with holiday music?
JJ: Yes. There are the classic 98 Degrees hits. We do songs from both our Christmas albums, then we also have things we have not performed before. we try to keep it fresh for our fans and for us as well.
WCT: How has it been going so far on the tour?
JJ: It has been great. The audiences have been amazing. We are having a good time. I think we get along and have more fun than we ever did in the past. We did what did back in the day and have had a break for everything. We all came back together. I think we appreciate things a bit more and have more experience. We know what to expect and how to deal with little hiccups along the way.
WCT: You originally started the band with Nick?
JJ: Yes. Nick, Drew and I all went to school together. Drew was younger than us. Nick and I sang in a barbershop quartet, then doo-wop at an amusement park and through a mutual friend we wound up meeting Jeff. Jeff was a founder of the group, but Nick and I had some history. Drew was the final piece of the puzzle, as Nick's brother.
WCT: Did you ever think you would be performing this long?
JJ: We always hoped to have longevity. In this business you never know. When we got back together we weren't really sure if the fans would be there or still care. Fortunately they showed up and continue to come.
WCT: How were the fans during the New Kids tour that you went on together?
JJ: It was a lot of fun. It was cool to be on The Package Tour with our idols Boys II Men and New Kids on the Block is one of the biggest groups of all time. We got to jump back into the swing of things on a major tour. It pretty much sold out and we were in good company.
WCT: How did Joey Fatone from NSYNC get involved in the video for "Seasons of Love?"
JJ: We have been friends with those guys since before they even broke in the United States. We met them in Germany when we were on tour together.
We thought it would be fun to have a silly video with him and asked him to do it.
WCT: It's an original song?
JJ: Yes. We all helped put it together. We did a lot of classic covers so we wanted to have something original on the album. We wanted something new and fresh.
WCT: Do you have a favorite holiday song?
JJ: It is hard to pick one, but our version of "Silent Night" is from The Temptations arrangement. It has always been my favorite Christmas song. It is a part of the show that I very much enjoy doing.
WCT: There were ugly Christmas sweaters in that video. Do you have some at home?
JJ: We do. In the show last year we wore some ugly Christmas sweaters. Nowadays ugly Christmas sweater parties are such a thing that you need to have them in your wardrobe.
WCT: What do you like or dislike about the holidays?
JJ: It is the time of year where people are generally a little nicer. You get together with people that matter the most to you like your friends and family.
Usually it is cold and snowy, which is nice in theory—but being in Cincinnati, it is not my favorite time of year.
WCT: What led you to get involved in politics?
JJ: We all felt like we had been given so much that we wanted to be involved in our communities. Over the past six years, I have worked for the Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition. I recently stepped away from that. I was trying to make some policy changes for those [who] were less fortunate.
WCT: What is your stance on LGBT rights?
JJ: We have always been very clear that we support LGBT rights. We went to a performing arts school where it was very much a part of the culture. Our school was founded because of a civil rights lawsuit and we have always fought for social justice in general. LGBT rights are included in all of that.
WCT: Usually a boy band has one gay member…
JJ: No we don't have any gay members in the band, but have lots of gay friends.
WCT: What are you plans after the tour?
JJ: We have been focused on making this show as good as we can. I don't know if we will make new music right away, but it is something we love to do. A new album is unlikely but we would like to record some new stuff because we are very passionate about that.
We have been getting busier and busier this year. That is why I had to step away from the coalition because I was being spread too thin trying to do both.
I am focusing on my first love and passion with this group. The guys seem to be having a great time. The fans have been there for us, so we want to continue to build on our brand, go out there and do what we love to do!
Feel the heat of 98 Degrees at the Virginia Theatre, 203 W. Park Ave., Champaign, Illinois, on Nov. 28 and Rialto Square Theatre, 102 N. Chicago St., Joliet, Illinois, on Dec. 20. Ticket information can be found at 98Degrees.com .