By MIKE CHAIKEN
It may be December in New England. But it will be 98 Degrees inside the Ridgefield Playhouse on Dec. 12 as the vocal group takes the stage to promote its latest Christmas album, “Let It Snow.”
“Let It Snow,” which came out in time for the group’s Christmas 2017 tour, is 98 Degrees’ second holiday release, following 1999’s “This Christmas.”
For Drew Lachey— who is joined in the four man group by his brother Nick, Jeff Timmons, and Justin Jeffre— a good Christmas song is one that has a melody that elicits a certain emotion.
A good Christmas song also is one with a fond memory attached to it, said Drew. For instance, he remembers his mother playing her old records on the turntable or popping them into an 8-track player.
Drew said his earliest memories of Christmas music were compositions that sounded more like a hymn or something you heard in church.
It wasn’t until he heard the album, “A Very Special Christmas,” which included rock stars such as U2 performing holiday music with a contemporary flare— that his mind was opened up to how cool Christmas music could be. “This is awesome,” he said when he heard album.
To select the tracks that would become “Let It Snow,” Drew said each member came in with a wish list of songs.
“I was a big advocate of ‘Little St. Nick’ by the Beach Boys,” said Drew because The Beach Boys were so influential in how they used harmony in pop music.
Each member pled the case for their wish list, said Drew. The songs were then narrowed down by traits such as how they may move people and how they may hold special memories for people. They also kept in mind if the song could be made into 98 Degrees tune.
“We definitely wanted to have it within our niche,” said Drew. But, he added, they were willing to experiment and grow with the selections.
The primary focus for “Let It Snow” was on other people’s compositions and not 98 Degrees originals, said Drew. The one exception was the original “Season of Love.” The group wanted to record that song, said Drew, because it had a great message. He said it’s about the importance of holding onto that feeling of generosity you experience at Christmas and tapping into it all year long.
Both of 98 Degrees’ Christmas albums have been hits with fans… and that’s by design, said Drew.
“You don’t want to put out a record that only means something to you,” said Drew. “You want it to mean something to a broader base.”
However, Drew said 98 Degrees also knew that they had to be true to who they were.
They knew, said Drew, if they managed to be true to themselves, “Our fans will respond.”
And if you listen to either Christmas album, he said, you can tell it’s a 98 Degrees album.
The tour is called 98 Degrees at Christmas 2018. But Drew said the evening is not all about holiday music.
Some groups when they are on a Christmas tour, they will divide the show. One half of the show will be dedicated to holiday music. The second half will be their hits.
But, Drew said 98 Degrees have set up their set list in a way that works in terms of flow. So, the Christmas music and the hits will be heard throughout the evening. The idea is to take audiences on a musical journey, he said.
“We want to make sure the audience is given the best show possible,” said Drew.
As for new 98 Degrees music aside from the Christmas recordings, Drew said, “We’re always working on music. We all write. Music is a big part of our life.”
However, Drew said, there will be no new 98 Degrees music in 2019.
Drew said the group will do a couple of one-off performances throughout the year. But all the members have other projects they are working on outside 98 Degrees.
The longevity of the group has been accomplished because of the outside interests of each member, Drew explained.
“We’re all really good friends,” said Drew. “We all try to accommodate and be flexible.”
“I feel very fortunate and blessed we’re still able to do this 20 years after starting,” said Drew. The friendship between the four has only gotten stronger over time, said Drew.”I have newfound respect and appreciation for the group as individuals and as performers.”
98 Degrees will perform at the Ridgefield Playhouse, 80 East Ridge, Ridgefield on Wednesday, Dec. 12 at 8 p.m.