Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2018 | 2 a.m.
The ’90s-era pop group — OK, call them a boy band — 98 Degrees has a local stop coming up on its Christmas tour, November 17 at Green Valley Ranch Resort. But Jeff Timmons, one-fourth of the vocal group known for ballad hits “I Do (Cherish You)” and “The Hardest Thing” with Justin Jeffre and brothers Nick and Drew Lachey, has lived in Las Vegas for almost seven years.
Timmons came to town for a guest-hosting gig with Chippendales and the rest is history. “I fell in love with this place,” he says. “I came kind of reluctantly to [do Chippendales] and didn’t know what was going to happen, but ended up having the time of my life. That was the catalyst for a lot of good things.”
His Vegas gig created a bit of buzz that helped bring the group back together after a long break, and the reunion spawned “Let It Snow,” 98 Degrees’ second album of Christmas music released last year. This year’s holiday tour is a continuation of a successful Christmastime run last year in support of the record.
Here’s the rest of my conversation with Timmons:
The last time I saw you, you were doing several local shows with “Men of the Strip,” the male revue you created after Chippendales.
We had some success with that and took it on the road. We were never really trying to get a residency in Vegas but it was doing so well we started touring it. With those kind of troupes, it’s hard to keep your cast together. Putting together that show kind of has to consume everything you’re doing. I had a great run with it but our group got back together and I started producing some TV and working on other projects.
You and the guys in 98 Degrees all have different, busy lives. When you get back together to record or perform, do you have to shake the rust off a bit or is it easy and natural?
It’s a lot different than it used to be. Originally, we put ourselves together and got signed very quickly, and we were thrown into the fire. We had to develop as a group while we doing national and international tours. Looking back, we weren’t as polished as we are now, and our time away from each other allowed us to figure out how to perform and grow as singers and musicians. And we’re all very active individually, so when we come back together, the fact that we’re more stylized as individuals leads to a better presentation as a group. We’re more versatile. And we’re having more fun, without a doubt. I think we’re much better than we used to be.
Why was 2017 the right time to get together and record the second album of holiday music?
We had tremendous success with our first Christmas record [1999’s platinum “This Christmas”] and we wanted to record music again, but the way music is sold now is so different. None of us have any time for that [longer] process anymore. We all have families and different careers and we can’t commit that much time to working on an album. We thought, how can we get in the studio and do something and be out there every year? Let’s do holiday music. We had a blast doing something different from pop or dance music and it was classic stuff everyone can relate to. And then we had gone on tour in 2013 with New Kids on the Block and then on our own summer tour, but we thought it would be great to spend our summers with our kids and families, so doing [a tour] during Christmas made a lot of sense, too, and made it more of an intimate thing.
Are you a big Christmas guy?
I always have been. My family always had such great holidays together but I understand it’s not that way for everybody. I’ve been fortunate but I recognize it can be a stressful time for folks. I think we all want to attach great memories to the holidays.
So 98 Degrees has two full albums of holiday music to pull from for this tour, but are you guys going to work on more new music, perhaps non-Christmas stuff?
I think so. We each have our own individual styles and the group has a signature sound with those harmonies and ballads. I think we’ve grown back into the mainstream because of these tours, and we’ve definitely grown our fan base. It’s getting younger and older. There’s also been some talk of doing stuff overseas because in different places, it’s been easier for some artists to be accepted with new music no matter how old you are or how long you’ve been around. I would love to utilize any momentum that’s there and I think we have it in us.
The 98 Degrees at Christmas tour touches down at the Green Valley Ranch Grand Events Center in Henderson (2300 Paseo Verde Parkway, 702-617-7777) on November 17 at 8 p.m. and more information can be found at stationcasinoslive.com.