Jeff Timmons on 98 Degrees Reunion Tour & Advice For One Direction (EXCLUSIVE)
Today, the creator and founder of the popular boy band — who is incidentally celebrating his 39th birthday — is giving Celebuzz more of an in-depth look at what life was like as a member of the group, his thoughts on when they disbanded after the terrorist attacks, on Sept. 11, 2011, and the advice he has for the new wave of boy bands like One Direction.
What really went on behind the scenes? Read our exclusive interview with Jeff Timmons to find out! Also be sure to follow Jeff on Twitter @jefftimmons98!
What exactly happened to the 98 Degrees reunion tour?
I think this might be our second or third year in a row we were thinking about getting back together and really, seriously considering everything. We got together last September, and the September before, and hung out. All of us are in all different places in our lives and careers right now. Getting us together doesn’t happen very often. So we got together, hung out, hit it off great, thought, “Look, let’s get back on the road, do some stuff, see how our fan base reacts. Give something back to the fans.” Our last time together was in New York, on Sept. 10, 2001. It was a very abrupt ending with Sept. 11 the next [day] and all of that drama and the tragedies that happened in new York. We all just kind of split off and went with our families and cut the last two days of our tour short. So we never really broke up as a group, officially, or had a falling out or any sort of thing of that nature. We thought, “Okay, let’s get back together, at least do this right, see if we can still vibe together, see if we can give something cool back to our fans.”
Are you still considering doing a reunion tour in the future?
We had gotten serious about it — so much so that a 15-city tour was being put together for us, [but] not everybody wanted to do it for various reasons. We make decisions collectively as a group; not one person makes decisions. Not all four of us were on the same page, [so] we decided not to do it. I know it came out that it was due possibly to Nick having a baby. I’m sure that played a small part into it, but I don’t think that was the main reason we didn’t get back together. We had talked about it after that, and had a discussion, saying, “All right, well, we’re not gonna do this tour now, but we’ll leave it open.” I honestly don’t think it’s gonna happen at all now. If it wasn’t gonna happen now, it wasn’t gonna happen last year … Maybe it’ll never happen.
Do you have any advice for, say, One Direction, based on your experience in 98 Degrees?
It’s gonna be such a whirlwind for those guys; they’re gonna be working non-stop, with interviews, recordings, performing and staying in shape so they can endure the vigorous lifestyle that they’re embarking on. The business thing is usually the last thing you think of. I would say to try to find some quiet time and kind of just go through everything and try to decipher everything that’s going on. Keep a hold of yourself throughout the process. It sort of snowballs. The more success these guys will have, the more people are gonna be poking at them and trying to grab them and take them in different directions. They have to stay focused and true to what the overall goal of the group is.
Do you wish that you had recorded more with 98 Degrees at the time you were still together?
I’m a big recording guy. I think that, like any group, different guys have different vibes, and different personalities and different desires on what they want in the business. I’ve always been a big studio guy. I produce, write and engineer records; I’m a studio nerd. So, yes. For me, I wish that we had kept recording forever. We had a good sound together. So, for me, yes. Some of the other guys, no. I think some of the other guys like touring better, I think some of the other guys like being celebrities better. When you’re creating music, you need to have all four guys on the same page.
98 Degrees became popular around the time of Backstreet Boys and ‘NSync; was there ever a rivalry between your group and theirs?
I hate to give a pretty vanilla answer, but for our group, it was no. And I think those guys — you’re all so busy; you’re traveling; it’s just a non-stop grind that you don’t have time for that kind of stuff. We crossed paths with ‘NSync, did some stuff with them in Europe, toured with them. They were great guys. I remember seeing those guys, going, “Please don’t let these guys cone on the stage, because they are just unbelievable.”
But there’s plenty of room for everybody. There are billions of people on the planet, everybody’s got different tastes, and there’s plenty of room for success for everybody. I think our mentality was just, we just wan’t to keep getting songs on the radio; we just need to convince our label to keep putting songs out. We don’t have time to say, “Well, we’re cooler, we’re hotter, we’re better looking than Backstreet and ‘NSync.” We just want what they’ve got: Song, after song after song, hit, after hit after hit.
Do you ever go back and watch some of the old 98 Degrees videos?
[Laughs] I sort of have a complex about watching myself on anything. Even when you hear your own music, you can always find things that are wrong. So, I don’t watch them too much. As of late, I have been watching them, though. My wife wasn’t really into 98 Degrees, so she’s been trying to catch up since we started talking about this tour and watching the videos, and I’ll sneak back and look at them. Some of the stuff is cheesy, but it sort of fit the time. It’s also something that I’m proud of. But, again, there are some strange clothing choices in a lot of that stuff. [Laughs]
There were a few tank tops, I remember.
[Laughs] There were a few tank tops. Because we were all athletic guys, they would encourage us to sometimes take our shirts off or have our shirts open. I know we were always very apprehensive about that. It wasn’t until we got out on the road and people were going crazy that we thought, “Okay, well this isn’t so bad after all.” We were just out here to have a good time. We never claimed to be fashion gurus or anything of that sort.
Did Nick’s relationship with Jessica Simpson ever have an impact on the group?
At that time, it was just brand new. It wasn’t like anything was distracting from the group. Jessica was on the road with us, touring with us. That was never a problem … I had a baby and, before I got married for the first time, I was trying to make sure that I could see my child and all of that stuff. I had more of a personal thing that was taxing on the group than [Nick and Jessica’s relationship].
Do you still keep in touch with the group?
Not really. We’ve all gone in our different directions. Nick, obviously, has got that celebrity thing going on with what he does. I’m probably closer to Justin [Jeffre] than any of the other guys in the group, because he and I were always rooming together; the brothers were always rooming together. So I talk to Justin on occasion. And then, Drew [Lachey] I don’t really talk to all that much at all. I saw him a little bit last year in Vegas when I was out there. But other than that, no, not really.
Given the non-stop lifestyle you led at the time, were you at all relieved when 98 Degrees disbanded?
I think we were. We had been on the road for five years straight. There were two years in which we had a total of seven days off. It was non-stop for us. We did have some success, some financial success and, obviously, some celebrity and public success; it was very rewarding once-in-a-lifetime chance. But it takes a toll on you, mentally, physically and spiritually, because you get into this mode where you’re always working and you’re always “on.” Not everybody is always “on,” and so you want to make sure you’re “on” and giving everybody the attention they deserve, meaning the fans and the media. You sort of start to neglect things that are most important to you — your family, even the dynamic within the group. We were all so on the go, it was almost like we weren’t close anymore as friends. We had done all of these wonderful things within the industry, but we were all kind of in our own worlds and just trying to get peace of mind for 30 seconds. It was like, Wow, now we can go home. We can go sit in our house for a couple of days, a couple of weeks — whatever — and be with our families and pick up the phone and talk to our friends and just be normal. It’s in no way a sob story. When you’re in the grind like that, you sort of lose focus on that stuff.
Backstreet Boys and New Kids on the Block reunited for a tour and a CD. What were your thoughts on that, and would you ever consider doing something similarly with 98 Degrees?
I think there was initially some talk about us doing that. But I didn’t feel that we should go in that direction. I know that it’s been a very successful thing for them … Those two bands sold a lot more records than we did, contrary to what people think. We sold a lot of records. I think someone was saying the chance of selling 15 million records is a 1 in 45 million chance. Well, those guys have sold way more than that. They had a different kind of fan base than us. They had different kind of music than us. We were more of balladeers and mid-tempo guys, more of a vocal group — not to say that those guys aren’t great singers; they are all. But I thought, for us, it would really kind of burn us out really quick if we went out on a tour with New Kids and Backstreet. Their tour is a good formula with those two together. Putting us out there, we’re a little bit different than that.
Are you still recording solo projects? I know you recently released a CD for free on your website.
I gave an album away for free, because I was trying to do something new and capitalize on the technology and viral sharing. [I also wanted to] check to see if I had a fan base out there. I gave an album away for free on my website to anybody that would enter their email so I could create a database of fans, and collected over a million email addresses. That was with really no marketing, no press; that was all viral. So I’m pretty confident that there are fans out there. I’m still recording and writing music and doing all of that stuff. I never stoppedf.
Would you like to one day record with 98 Degrees?
I would love to get back in the studio with 98 degrees, but I just don’t think it’s gonna happen. Some of us want to do music, and some of us don’t. We all gotta want to do it; we can’t be forced into that. It’ll come through in the music. So, I don’t think it’s gonna happen. I would love the opportunity, but right now it doesn’t seem like it’s gonna go down.