“If we have to be away from our families we might as well make it count, so it’s a collection of our best stuff,” says Jeff Timmons of 98 Degrees as he discussed their current 98° at Christmas Tour, as well as the group’s reunion and their 2017 album Let It Snow. They will perform at the Mayo Performing Arts Center in Morristown, Dec. 7 at 8 p.m., and Borgata Hotel Casino and Spa in Atlantic City, Dec. 15 at 9 p.m.
Formed in 1996 by Timmons along with Justin Jeffre and brothers Nick and Drew Lachey, these four lads from Ohio broke the typical boy band mold and went on to become one of the best-selling acts of the late ’90s until they stopped performing and recording circa 2002.
Unlike others of their ilk, 98° were not formed by a label but were signed by one after they formed on their own. With sales of more than 10 million records, eight Top 40 hits and a trail of broken hearts, they were a force to be reckoned with until they took a break that became much longer than they expected.
“We really didn’t know what to expect,” said Timmons. “Nick had the television show (‘Newlyweds: Nick and Jessica,’ a reality show with Jessica Simpson) and Drew was on ‘Dancing With the Stars,’ and things just kind of went on from there. We never lost touch with one another and we didn’t have some huge feud. We just went about our own lives.”
The break was more than a decade long, and as they grew from young men into more mature artists, ironically enough it was a band from their past that helped get them back into performing.
“Yeah, wow, an 11-year hiatus,” Timmons said, with a tone of disbelief. “We weren’t sure what would happen when we got back together at the Mixtape Festival in Hershey, Pa., back in 2012. We figured we’d try it and if it works, we’d see where it went. And it went well. I don’t know if it’s because we’re all from the Midwest, but we are all pretty grounded. There’s no egos involved, and I think that’s because we all had gone in different directions and grew as artists and people, so we were very happy with the reunion, and we realized that we still had an appetite for it and wanted to do it. Then our friends in Boyz II Men were on a summer tour and asked us to sign on along with New Kids on the Block, and it all came back full circle.”
The group has seamlessly picked up where they left off, and the hiatus is in the rear view mirror. But was getting back into the swing of things, especially with such complex harmonies, as easy as they make it sound?
“As I said, we didn’t know what to expect. Has the music evolved, or would the harmonies be hard to find? It was pretty easy for us once we got acclimation with our tones. It was just trying to find out where our voices fit in the vocal stack. Once we figured that out, it was pretty easy to move forward.”
The tour kicked off on Nov. 1 and will come to a close on Dec. 21. Timmons says they are excited to be in our area, in December.
“It’s going to be great to be back in the Northeast. When we were first signed, we spent a lot of time in the Tristate area and we really enjoy performing there. New York City, northern New Jersey, Connecticut and then around Philly have all been really good to us, so we very much look forward to coming back.”
What’s next after this tour concludes?
“I guess we will take it day by day. I know that we really enjoy performing in the summer, so maybe we’ll do a tour then. Who knows?”
For more about 98°, visit 98degrees.com.