Daily Record: “98 Degrees to Perform at MPAC on Dec. 7”

December 6 2018

Read the Daily Record’s feature story on 98 Degrees and their unique rise to fame, as well as their performance at MPAC Friday, December 7th!

 

Daily Record: “98 Degrees to Perform at MPAC on Dec. 7”

By Bill Nutt

They were young. They were photogenic males. They had hit records.

But the four members of the vocal group 98 Degrees take polite exception to being called a “boy band,” with its connotations of being assembled by marketers.

“We rejected that label,” said Justin Jeffre, one-fourth of 98 Degrees. “We weren’t put together by a record company. We came together organically.”

Jeffre pointed out that he, siblings Drew and Nick Lachey, and Jeff Timmons are Ohio natives who had moved west in the 1990s to pursue music careers. “We were out in LA, struggling,” he said. “There was something old school about it.”

Still, Jeffre acknowledged that timing for 98 Degrees was fortuitous. He and his bandmates came together at a time when other all-male vocal groups were emerging.

After a decade apart, 98 Degrees reformed in 2012. The “boy band” label seems even less appropriate to men now in their mid-40s. But Jeffre said that he and the other singers are enjoying their current careers on a deeper level than when they were younger.

“We’re having more fun this time around,” he said. “We know each other so well. We have a new appreciation for what we do.”

Now in the midst of its “98 Degrees for Christmas” tour, the group will appear at the Mayo Performing Arts Center on Friday, Dec. 7.

The program will consist of songs from the late 1990s, such as “The Hardest Thing,” “Thank God I Found You,” and “Just Give Me One Night (Una Noche).” They will also perform material from “2.0,” their 2013 reunion CD.

The set list will also feature holiday tunes, some of which were included on its 2017 Christmas album “Let It Snow.”

“We’re doing classic 98 Degrees songs, but we’re also doing some things that we’ve never done live before,” said Jeffre. “We had fun with our first Christmas tour last year, and we want to keep it fun for our fans and ourselves.”

Though LA-based, the roots of 98 Degrees were in Ohio. Jeffre and the Lacheys had attended the same performing arts school when they were growing up in Cincinnati. In Los Angeles, they connected with Timmons, another transplanted Buckeye.

“Our model was Boyz II Men,” said Jeffre. “They were our inspiration, and we were thrilled to meet them.”

Even more exciting was the fact that 98 Degrees secured a record contract with the legendary Motown label.

The next five years were a whirlwind for the band, with albums, tours and collaborations. Jeffre said he and the others valued the opportunity to connect with such talents as Stevie Wonder, Mariah Carey and Michael Jackson.

By 2002, however, the world for the band had changed. Part of the reason was the attacks of September 11, 2001. (The group had performed only the night before at Madison Square Garden, singing “Man in the Mirror” at a tribute concert for Jackson.)

On a personal level, however, the four singers agreed it was time for a hiatus.

“We had a meteoric rise,” Jeffre said. “We were getting burned out, living on the road. It was like being married to three other guys. We wanted to do our own things.”

Those “things” involved solo music careers and appearances on reality shows. Drew Lachey won the second season of “Dancing with the Stars.” (“Dancing was always our weakness, except for Drew,” joked Jeffre.)

For his part, Jeffre has used his profile for activism.

His 2005 run for Cincinnati mayor was unsuccessful, but he takes pride in his work with groups like the Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition.

“I wanted to be able to give back to the community,” he said.

The decision to reunite in 2012 was not taken lightly, according to Jeffre.

“The big question was whether or not the fans would show up,” he said. “Fortunately for us, the answer was yes.”

Jeffre said that the members of 98 Degrees are still learning to navigate the music business of the late 2010s. notably the use of social media.

“It makes me glad that we grew up in the era we did,” he said.

“We doing what we love,” Jeffre said. “It’s great being together with the guys again, and we’re grateful that people still want to hear us sing. That’s all we wanted, to sing together and make people happy.”

 

98 Degrees at Christmas

When: 8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 7

Where: Mayo Performing Arts Center, 100 South St., Morristown

Tickets: $39.50 to $89.50

Info:  973-539-8008 or mayoarts

Our Mission

Mayo Performing Arts Center, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, presents a wide range of programs that entertain, enrich, and educate the diverse population of the region and enhance the economic vitality of Northern New Jersey.

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