The men of 98 Degrees have a holiday present for fans that has taken nearly two decades to deliver – a new Christmas album.
Released in conjunction with a holiday tour (which stops at Grand Falls Casino in Larchwood, Iowa, Nov. 10), the CD includes songs not part of “This Christmas,” their first.
“That was our favorite CD,” says Justin Jeffre. “This past summer, when we started thinking about what we could do to celebrate our 20th anniversary, we decided on another Christmas CD” and a holiday tour “which we’ve never done before.”
Because there’s so much music from which to choose, the four decided to each offer suggestions and figure out how it could take the fans on a journey.
“No one really disagreed,” Jeffre says. “But our producers weighed in on a lot of the arranging. It was a very collaborative thing.” And, yes, it was done during the summer. “It’s the nature of the beast. In order to get it out on time for the season, you’ve got to do it then. Singing Christmas songs in the summer? It’s just part of (what a singer does)."
To make that 31-city tour special, Jeffre, Nick and Drew Lachey and Jeff Timmons have been rehearsing. The only snag? Nick Lachey has been on “Dancing with the Stars” competing against (among others) his wife, Vanessa.
“It’s hard for Nick to do double-duty,” Jeffre says. “But we knew we wanted to do the tour.” Thankfully, his run ended last week when he was eliminated from the ABC competition.
Brother Drew won the mirror-ball trophy during the show’s second season and, like Jeffre, has been in the audience cheering on Nick and partner Peta Murgatroyd.
“I don’t think you’ll ever see me on ‘Dancing’,” Jeffre says. But Nick Lachey vowed the same thing and wound up on the show. Timmons – who produces a male dance review in Las Vegas called “Men of the Strip” – might be a more likely choice.
While the “98 Degrees at Christmas” show will feature some dancing, it won’t be the group’s answer to “Dancing with the Stars.”
“We’re doing stuff the fans love,”Jeffre says. “We’re going to do hits and some of those songs we’ve never really performed before.”
Expected to be a big holiday draw, the tour goes right up to Christmas and allows the four to interact with their fans. In the early days, “there was a lot of pressure. Now, we’re older and we’ve each got different things we’re into. We can really enjoy this.”
In addition to the Lachey brothers’ television work, Timmons has the Las Vegas gig and Jeffre has been active in politics, running for mayor of Cincinnati in 2005. While he didn’t win, the 44-year-old is still active in the city’s political scene. “I work for the homeless coalition with 98 Degrees,” he says. “I would never say never about running again, but my first priority is making music and performing for our fans. That’s the best job in the world.”
Now, more than ever, Jeffre says, it’s important for everyone to become involved in matters that affect their lives. “Part of the reason why things are messy (in politics) is because too many people don’t get engaged. They think showing up at meetings can be boring. I think history has shown us if you don’t turn on the politics, the politicians will turn on you. The biggest change we can make is at the local level.”
Meanwhile, 98 Degrees is ready to rekindle a little of the group’s 1990s magic and give fans what they enjoyed as teenagers.
“We all hold a place in our hearts for the music from our youth,” Jeffre says. “Music is the soundtrack of our lives. When fans come out, the songs help take them back to where they were at that point in their lives.”