People still recognize Jeff Timmons at the grocery store all these years later.
“A lot of people come up to me and say, 'Hey, where do I know you from?'” Timmons tells us over the phone. “I’ve got like a 98 Degree tattoo on my arm, so it’s pretty obvious.”
You might recognize Timmons from 98 Degrees, the famous boy band that broke through in the late '90s as rivals to the Backstreet Boys and NSYNC. After selling millions of records and touring for five straight years, the band took a break in 2001.
“All of us started having families and kids, and relationships are different," he says. "A year ended up being 11 years, and finally we decided we missed performing together; we missed being on the road together. That time had passed, we all had been doing our different things on our own, so let’s see if it works. Let’s see if they like us.
“Fortunately for us it turned out great. We were well received,” Timmons says.
After going back on tour, the band hasn’t stopped.
“We enjoy each other’s company; we enjoy performing together," he says. "The fans are more exuberant and excited than ever, which is not something we would expect. We enjoy those moments. What we couldn’t do before is to sit back and take a deep breath like, 'Wow, this is cool.'”
The band is touring with their hits from decades ago, as well as some Christmas classics. They'll tour 36 cities on their 98 Degrees at Christmas tour.
“We had a pretty successful Christmas album in the late '90s. We’re proud of that album,” Timmons says. “Christmas music lends itself to more intricate compositions and basically harmony stacks and arrangements, things you can’t really do with traditional pop music. And that’s how we got started — we were a four-part musical group that sang a capella everywhere.”
Timmons says while he is a fan of pop songs, they're typically pretty simple. The complexity of Christmas music compared with pop music excites him.
"It’s basically a loop and very track-driven stuff, you got a melody over it, maybe you got a couple harmonies. Well holiday music — it’s old school," he says. "It’s composed. It’s classical. There’s very interesting arrangements that allow us to sing all at the same time on a song."
Fans of 98 Degrees are older now, probably with their own kids. Those kids are now becoming fans of the band, Timmons says.
“That’s what you hope happens when you come back,” Timmons says. “It’s like, OK, we’re going to have new fans, people who think we’re corny. You’re always going to have people who say that, no matter what you do, but for us, we see a lot of familiar faces who have been there with us when we were doing small shows in corn fields in Connecticut and bookstores, to stadiums like Dodger Stadium or the Indianapolis [Motor] Speedway.”
It's been 21 years since 98 Degrees put out their first single, "Invisible Man," and all these years later, Timmons says they're still thankful to be doing it for a living.
“You sit back and you’re like, Wow, we’re still doing this,” Timmons says. “We’re still singing for a living. We still see people smile and line up for us. It’s something we don’t take for granted. It’s something that humbles us daily, and it’s something we just thoroughly enjoy.”
98 Degrees stops at the House of Blues on Dec. 1.
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