Between his successful ’90s boy-band comeback tour with New Kids on the Block and Boyz II Men, a new album of lullabies written for his 10-month-old son, Camden, and various TV hosting gigs, 98 Degrees frontman Nick Lachey is one busy man. But the 39-year-old ex-heartthrob found a few minutes to talk with TIME…
TIME: So where do you find any free time these days, with the Package Tour and all the other projects you have going on?
NICK LACHEY: It’s been a busy summer, but, obviously, that’s a good thing in our business. We did a concert last night in San Francisco. I flew the red-eye in, and I’m here [in New York] today, and then we have a concert tomorrow in Seattle. But it’s all stuff I love; you pick things that you enjoy doing. I’m having a lot of fun here [doing a stint for Wendy's], and I’m having a great time with the tour.
What’s been the best thing about being on tour with your ex-bandmates for the first time in 12 years?
The opportunity to go on stage every night and sing in front of 16,000 screaming women. It’s not a hard sell when you’re in a boy band to be a part of something like this. Boyz II Men was a group we idolized as we were coming up and trying to get discovered, so now, to be able to share the stage with them, it’s a surreal honor. They do an incredible, incredible job. They still got it, you know?
Is there a lot of male bonding backstage?
Everyone’s really, really busy. We see each other every day, but we don’t really get to spend a ton of time, to be honest with you. Sometimes we’ll have after-parties though, and we’ll hang out. But I will say this: Tours aren’t always the sweetest situations, but in this one, there is absolutely no ego involved. All the groups get along great, and we really enjoy each other, so I’m very thankful that this is one of those tours that doesn’t feel like work.
What’s it like to have your wife and very young son join you on tour?
Vanessa and Camden came out for the first three weeks of tour, and right now [his bandmate and brother, Drew Lachey's] wife and two kids are out with us. We’re kind of staggering the families. I think Vanessa and Camden will come out again towards the end of the tour. It was definitely fun to have them out there. It was a different kind of tour, one we were able to share with our families. But, in a lot of ways, I think it makes it even more special to be able to do it this way, and to go through all these experiences with your family, so it’s very, very cool.
What are some of your pre-show rituals?
We do a rally cry. We had an incident at the beginning of the tour where someone forgot the name of the city, and called Ottawa, Montreal. It didn’t go over so well. So now, before each show, we all come together and put our hands together, like a team, and go, “1, 2, 3, Milwaukee!” or “1, 2, 3, whatever-city-we’re-in!” Now, we all remind ourselves before we go on stage where we’re at.
Speaking of forgetting things, I heard that you sometimes forget your own lyrics.
This is true, this is true. I’ve been known to do that.
Any funny stories to share about that?
It’s never really a funny story when that happens!
But you laugh at yourself, right?
Yeah, yeah. I’ve definitely done that before, but I’ve always managed to somehow maneuver my way into getting it out, one way or the other. I switch a verse here, I do a little improv. But that’s what makes it live, you know what I mean? That’s the beauty of doing things live. You never know what’s going to happen.
Back to your family: I’m curious where your son’s name, Camden, comes from.
We actually thought we were going to name him Colin. That was always a name I had in my head. But Vanessa decided—I guess she never really liked the name, she just didn’t have the heart to tell me—one day she said, “I really don’t want to name him Colin.” But I liked “C.J.,” and we wanted his middle name to be John, after my dad, so I said we have to find another “C” name. And every time we would go to the obstetrician’s office, we would pass Camden Drive, in Beverly Hills, so we said, “What about Camden?” I thought, Oh, that’s cool, I’ve never heard of anybody named Camden.
You’re doing this campaign right now where you’re singing love songs for pretzel cheeseburgers. How’d you decide to get involved in that?
Well, I’m a huge fan of pretzels. Plus, Wendy’s is an Ohio company, and I’m from Cincinnati. So this whole project felt very, very organic to me. We’re actually putting together a series of videos on Wendy’s Facebook page where I’ll be improvising songs based off peoples’ tweets.
So you’ll be playing a bit of a comedian role, since you’re improvising songs, right?
Well, I think I’m a funny guy regardless!