“It’s cool to be older,” 98 Degrees’ founding member, Jeff Timmons says holding a tube of Icy Hot. The backstage area at Webster Hall is filled with the menthol fragrance. Suffering from sciatic pain, Jeff is, as usual, still in good spirits. “Now I have an excuse why I can’t dance,” he muses. 98 Degrees was somewhat known as the non-dancing boy band, though they occasionally tried.
All kidding aside, the age comment is a serious one. While 98 Degrees rose to stardom in the late ‘90s, signed to the now defunct, but still so important Motown label, Jeff enjoys the pace and control that comes along over the years.
It’s just him – no label telling him what he can and can’t do. No other group members to share leads with, though he enjoyed his reunion tour with bandmates, Justin Jeffre, Nick and Drew Lachey, along with New Kids On The Block and his idols, Boyz II Men in 2013. “We had been gone thirteen plus years and to come back and have that kind of a sold-out tour and play all over the place, and create a new fan base, and reinvigorate our old fan base. I don’t know if 98 Degrees can top that,” Jeff concludes, but then rethinks one way to top it. “Maybe if we did something for our era; if we did something with ‘N Sync and Backstreet Boys, but other than that, I don’t know.”
While Nick Lachey hosts VH1’s Big Morning Buzz, Jeff also has his own projects, most notably Men Of The Strip, which is basically the real deal Magic Mike, that even had their own E! reality special last year. “That wasn’t portrayed like I wanted,” revealed Jeff. “That was very vanilla compared to how crazy it is. The things that girls really want to see from these guys didn’t really get exploited. Not that I want it to be a raunchy show or over the top. It’s not like these guys are doing 50 Shades of Grey, but it’s more about the girls and what they do to meet these guys and their response to the guys. Although we were fortunate enough to be part of E!, we weren’t fortunate enough to get our vision out and why I was involved in the first place. This was kind of like a peeping Tom kind of view on these guys’ personal lives.” Jeff is now working on a bunch of television productions, one being a new series for Men Of The Strip.
Being a big family man and proud papa to four, I had to ask how he explains the strip-factor of his career to them. “When I was asked to host Chippendale’s, I was very reluctant. ‘They’re going to think I’m a stripper, I don’t want to do that, it’s going to be embarrassing’. I went to see the show and the guys danced, of course they took their shirts off and did their Magic Mike stuff, but my part was, introduce the show, host the show, perform new material, and move it along,” he explained. “When I was in Vegas doing it that summer, my kids were there, so they got to watch the show. They saw what their Dad did and saw what the show was all about with the exception of when the guys had their asses out. Then I would see my kids turn around and they know this is the part they don’t watch.”
While Jeff is a business man with various ventures, including a distribution company, music is never far from his heart. He never stops creating in his home studio and calls his first two solo albums, Whisper That Way along with a free album, experiments.
“I’ve been working on a real solo album for a long time. I experimented with Whisper That Way and was learning how to be a producer. I watched all of these amazing producers help 98 Degrees have success. To watch them and learn and then start to apply that, I thought okay, I’ll do this out of my house. I got myself a small studio and created Whisper That Way, put it out there. I definitely didn’t know what I was doing at the time and I’m not embarrassed to say that, but it was worth a try.”
While no commercial success came from Whisper That Way, it was a personal album about love and family. Lyrically, I found it to be very real and insightful to Jeff’s feelings as a busy father and husband. “When you do write [your own stuff], you want somebody to feel one tenth of what you’re feeling as you’re expressing it,” he told me.
With the new album, Jeff is now confident in all he’s learned over the years in the studio. “I’m super excited about this record. It’s definitely a testament of my time in the studio, but also what I like to do. I like to do sexy music, up tempo stuff, R&B stuff—the influences that influenced 98 Degrees that might have gotten lost in the shuffle.”
He then reflects back on the boy band stigma. “Look, 98 Degrees was a very, very packaged situation. We were of course great singers, but they wanted to make sure everything was well thought out. All the plans with regards to the single and how we looked and all that stuff—we still played a large part in that, but for us to sit down and go to Motown Records and say, ‘listen, we’re going to write this whole album about our experiences with our families and our lives, and not be sure of a pop hit’. They would have said, ‘no way, you can’t do that’.”
Now Jeff is the boss and not only is he the boss, he’s not some big headed man child who thinks he is above everything and everyone.
Jeff is the most genuine, big-hearted, down to earth person you will ever encounter. While he says he still acts like he’s seventeen, (and still looks young too!), Jeff’s mature and grounded in all the right ways while maintaining a young at heart, do what you love mentality. In other words, he has the #HalfFullAttitude down pat! (Click here for an exclusive video of Jeff Timmons)
At Webster Hall that night, the small, but devoted crowd melted in the palm of Jeff’s hand–literally! Jeff danced with us, caressed our cheeks, sang to us while staring directly into our eyes. That is what being a performer is about, folks. Connecting your craft with your audience and taking them away from all other burdens for just a few hours.
Related: See Photos + Video of Jeff Timmons at Webster Hall
While I sang along to my teenage favorites like “I Do (Cherish You)”, “Because Of You” and “The Hardest Thing”, all other thoughts turned off. All I could think about was how lucky I am to be in that moment, hearing some of my favorite songs live, and being upclose and personal with one of my favorite all time artists.
Don’t even get me started on the fact that I can actually call Jeff Timmons my friend.
By the way, the feelings I just described are mild compared to what the girls (and even some guys) standing around me felt. To them, Jeff was their Magic Mike–with clothes on.
So it baffles me with all of that adoration thrown at you for almost two decades, how does his head still fit through the door?
“Life has a way of humbling you. I mean you have to have a certain amount of ego to do this in the first place,” Jeff admits. “Despite your self-depreciation it’s sort of a back and forth kind of thing. You’re your worst critic and you’re also your biggest supporter.”
Jeff even admitted to feeling nervous performing in front of that intimate crowd. “I don’t want to mess up. I’m my worst critic, but I’m also cocky enough to get up there. What you need to do is find the balance in between those two dynamics and keep focus on that. That’s not to say you can’t enjoy this part while learning from the bad part. Everyone comes from the same place whether you’re not on stage, whether you’re on stage, whether you’re backstage, whether you’re hustling, everyone’s made up of the same stuff. When you go through the roller coaster of it, you start to realize that this is not real and that is not real and everything in between, that’s the real and try to stay there. But like I said, enjoy that, learn from that…”
Half Full will be keeping an eye out for new music from Jeff Timmons for you guys. We got a taste of a new song at the show and we can’t wait to hear what other tracks he has up his sleeve.
What is Jeff’s #HalfFullAttitude?
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Check out “That Girl” by Traxstarz featuring Jeff Timmons