by Samantha Plotkin
He started at 98 degrees, but the temperature is rising and Jeff Timmons is hotter than ever with his new solo album Whisper that Way. Take a look at the man behind the blue eyes, as he talks to Melt about where hes been and where hes going on this new journey.
Melt: Whats the status of 98 Degrees? Are you guys still together?
Jeff: We were on the road together for five years. So, we decided to take a break, and be with our families.
Melt: Had you planned to do a solo project all along?
Jeff: I originally wasnt going to do a solo project, but I had all these songs Id written. I wanted to create it all myself, so I opted not to go with a major label.
I wanted to write everything about what I was experiencing, and I definitely wanted to do the production part of it, so I just did it myself.
I wrote most of the songs with friends. I (also) wrote a lot of the stuff with my band. 98 Degrees had a back-up band on the road, and Id usually ride in their bus, and they would just jam, and I would record it. Id take the track that they did in the jam session, and make a song out of it. It was a lot of fun.
Melt: So the songs on Whisper That Way are definitely more personal to you?
Jeff: Every one of them are about something that happened in my life. Theyre all real. These songs are dear to my heart. They all have serious meaning in them.
I have two kids, a son and a daughter. Theres a song called, Thinking of You which is about my daughter. When I was on the road, it was a very difficult thing being away from her, and that's what the song is about.
And then, Baby J is about me finding out... I was on the road again, when I found out my wife became pregnant with my son, I was in a hotel, and I kind of remembered everything that happened from that point, to the time he was born. It was a very joyful time for me.
Melt: Where did you get the idea to do a more grassroots promotional tour like the Winebego Tour?
Jeff: I got the idea from us (98 Degrees). The first time we had a record out -- thats how we promoted it. We got a Winebego and we put our pictures on the sides. We went all across the country -- to radio, cheerleading camps, malls, everyplace, and just promoted the heck out of it. We drove it ourselves. It was a cool way to do it.
Back then, it was like Wow, this is really hard. But it ended up building a strong fan base for us. I figured, why not do the same thing? It worked before. It seems to be a good formula. Im just trying to put the best music out there that I can.
Melt: Are there any specific reasons why you're doing the promotion and the CD this way?
Jeff: Im definitely doing it for a positive reason. Its really just about -- the songs that I have inside, I wanted them to come out. Being on a major label with 98 Degrees -- it was a great thing -- that gave me the chance to do what Im doing right now, I might not of gotten to put these songs, that are from my heart, on the record.
(But) to completely control the project, and have all the songs that I wanted to write -- on there -- Theres no way I could do that with a major label because theres so many creative people there -- its like too many cooks in the kitchen.
Its not a negative thing, it just wouldnt be a completely true, honest album about myself and my life -- for my fans.
Jeff Timmons Reveals Why Hes Going At It Alone
Melt: What happened with 98 Degrees and the Big Label, that makes you want to do every aspect of your solo CD -- on your own?
Jeff: When we got signed, we were the only white singing group to ever be signed (with that Record Label). We were all from the Midwest, and when we went to New York, the current President (of the Record Label) said, Youll never have to move to New York.
The next week, he said, You have to move to New York or your record will never come out.
So we get a U-haul, drive across the country and move to New York. They picked an apartment on the Upper Westside for us ($3000, a month) and we had to pay for it.
Then, they didnt like the fact that we were too white. So, he (the President of the Record Label) moved us to a bad part of Brooklyn. We lived in a bad, bad, part of Brooklyn.
The four of us had bought a big-screen TV together, and we had guys camped outside our U-haul, casing the place. The convenience store across the street, got held up at gunpoint.
All this... for a record deal.
Melt: Wasnt the Label worried about your safety?
Jeff: It sounds weird, but they didnt care. It was almost like they were f%!@king with us, in a way. Because we were the only white group there, and they wanted to give us a treatment of what it was like to be in an urban situation.
Which is kind of cool... It taught me a lot, but it was pushed hard on us. It definitely made me have an identity crisis.
I went home wearing super baggy pants, my hat on backwards, and a leather coat, and talking a certain way... My friends were like, What in the hell happened to you?
So, I was like, Wow, I am acting different, I am acting weird. You dont even catch it until later on, until someone lets you know.
Melt: Is there anything positive that came out of the experience of working with a Major Label?
Jeff: I see the blessing in it; I was blessed to have success later on (with 98 Degrees). I was blessed to be able to do music as a career.
The President at the time (who did all this to us), ended up getting fired, and we ended up getting a good President in there. He understood us a little better. We became ourselves, and we had our own identity.
Melt: How did you stay grounded throughout all of this?
Jeff: That part was always easy because my parents did a great job raising us to be respectful, of everybody we talk to, to be polite, treat others like you would want to be treated. So that was never a problem. I wasnt into a lot of the hoopla, its exciting and cool, but I really just wanted to be successful.
It was easy to stay grounded, I had my family to keep me grounded, and eventually, I had a girlfriend and a daughter (and now a son) and that kept me grounded.
To hear more of Whisper That Way visit www.jefftimmons.com
For the dates of the "Whisper That Way" tour go to:
Photos by Dominic Petruzzi
You can contact Samantha at firstname.lastname@example.org
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