Revisited: Nick Lachey

In May 2000, the legendary Michael Musto spoke to Nick Lachey, then solely of 98 Degrees fame, for Interview.  Musto referred to the band as “puppy-love songsters,” which is largely how they’re remembered. And sure, 98 Degrees definitely rode the boy-band wave, but do you remember that they were signed to Motown and collaborated with the likes of Stevie Wonder? It was for the movie Mulan, but still—they had chops!

Lachey is also well known for a reality TV career that began with Newlyweds (everyone always talks about the chicken/tuna thing, but the Miller Lite-shaped birthday cake was truly iconic). He’s currently competing on ABC’s Dancing with the Stars alongside wife Vanessa Lachey (neé Minnillo), and gearing up for a 31-city tour to support 98 Degrees’ new Christmas album, Let it Snow. He called us up to talk about reality TV, misperceptions of boy-bands, and Space Puppies.


MICHAEL MUSTO: Do you feel that your group is moving beyond a teen audience?

NICK LACHEY: Yeah. When we put the group together in 1995, we thought of ourselves as similar to Boyz II Men. Then along the way we got pigeonholed into the boy-band phenomenon. But the motivation of the group was bigger than that.

MUSTO: Do you think the Backstreet Boys are out of line by saying N*SYNC has been copying them?

LACHEY: I think that N*SYNC had opportunities laid out in front of them because of their connections with people whom Backstreet were affiliated with, and to not utilize those connections would be stupid. That’s just life. They’re both very talented groups.

MUSTO: Is there anything weird about working with your girlfriend, Jessica Simpson [with whom Lachey did a duet on “Where You Are“]?

LACHEY: No. At least when we’re working together we know we’ll be around each other.

MUSTO: We photographed you with Space Puppies. Do you have real pets?

LACHEY: My little brother, who’s eight, has a dog that’s my pet when I’m around. Definitely, when I have a place and I’m going to be there for any significant amount of time, I want to have dogs. I like a pet you can have some fun with and who does everything you do. It’s kind of hard with a hermit crab, but dogs are definitely cool.


JOCELYN SILVER: Do you remember your original photoshoot or interview with Interview? It involves futuristic puppets.

NICK LACHEY: I actually do remember that one. We did pretty crazy photoshoots back in the day. It was one of the more interesting photoshoots we’ve ever done. [laughs] Honestly, you get excited about any of them that aren’t the same old thing. It’s good if they stand out!

SILVER: You starred on Newlyweds, an essential program from early reality TV. You’ve been in the industry for a long time now. What changes have you noticed?

LACHEY: When we did reality back in those days, it was very much a fly-on-the-wall kind of thing. It was like, go about your life and we’ll keep everything and then edit it together in a very entertaining way. My brother and I did an A&E show [Lachey’s: Raising the Bar] a couple years ago, and stepping into reality again years later, you find that—I don’t want to say it’s contrived, because that gives the illusion that it’s not necessarily reality. It’s still reality, but it’s very much like, hey, here’s a scenario, let’s see how this plays out. It’s much more soft-scripted, if you will. It’s kind of set up, where back in the days it was different.

So I think in the early days it probably was more authentic, but it was also more expensive and probably more painful for everyone involved, et cetera et cetera, so you can understand why it’s changed over the years.

SILVER: I was recently reading that 98 Degrees had been signed to Motown, and I had no idea. Do you think there are general misconceptions or misunderstandings about the band, especially in its first iteration?

LACHEY: There’s nothing that jumps out at me. But like you mentioned, we were signed to Motown and we never set out to really be a boy band. We were inspired by groups like Boyz II Men and Color Me Badd, and we kind of wanted to be this soulful, R&B vocal harmony group. And then when the boy band thing kind of erupted all over again we got swept up in that—which, let’s be honest, was a fine place to be, and we weren’t complaining about it at all.

But it was never really our intention to be a boy band. We started out on a different path. We put ourselves together and moved to LA and sang on street corners. We weren’t auditioned by anyone, so we had a slightly different path than an N*SYNC or a Backstreet.

SILVER: Obviously there are amazing aspects to being part of the boy band era—money, fame, success. But what are some of the challenges?

LACHEY: People do tend to write you off as being some fabricated group. But at the end of the day, even those groups who were auditioned and put together are super, super talented. So I think it’s just people being haters. We never liked being called an act, because we took a lot of pride in our vocals. But ironically, because I’m on Dancing with the Stars and Drew won Dancing with the Stars, we were never really big on dancing. We just wanted to stand there and sing, and when you’re a quote-unquote boy band, it was expected to have choreographed routines, which I’m not sure we ever really embraced. But we definitely had to try.