Nick Lachey has been television host, a reality television star, a dance contest competitor, an actor, a teen pop star (with 98 Degrees) and a music solo artist.
Wearing many hats suits him well.
“I’d like to think I’m kind of hard to label,” Lachey said during a late-October phone interview. “I enjoy being diversified and I certainly enjoy hosting and I enjoy music, obviously, both in a solo capacity and I still perform as a solo artist, and I clearly love what I do with the guys (in 98 Degrees). So I’ve always approached my career as not trying to put any kind of label on it or define it. As long as the projects are interesting and something I enjoy doing, just keep on working.”
But now, 22 years after he first came to notoriety as frontman of 98 Degrees, that group might be taking a central role in Lachey’s career once again. The group will play Cache Creek Casino on Friday night.
The group came together in 1996 in Los Angeles as a vocal quartet featuring four Ohio natives — lead singer Lachey, his brother, Drew, Justin Jeffre and Jeff Timmons. Initially 98 Degrees was marketed as a teen pop group, riding what was then a major trend in pop music.
98 Degrees never achieved the mega-stardom of peers like the Backstreet Boys, NSYNC or Britney Spears, but the group did very well. After notching a gold album with the self-titled debut, the 1998 second album, “98 Degrees and Rising,” topped 4 million copies sold, while the 2000 album, “Revelation,” was a double-platinum hit. In all the group has sold 10 million albums, which includes a first holiday album, “This Christmas,” released in 1999.
Then in 2001, the group went on a hiatus that lasted more than a decade. Each of the group members took on their own projects during the hiatus, with the Lachey brothers getting considerable attention for their ventures and enough success that 98 Degrees seemed like it might stay in the rearview mirror.
In music, Nick Lachey released has released four solo albums (including the gold-certified 2006 release “What’s Left of Me”). But his biggest impact came through television.
Following his October 2002 marriage to singer Jessica Simpson, the couple starred in the popular MTV reality television series “Newlyweds: Nick and Jessica.” The series had a three-year run — just like their marriage, which ended in December 2005.
To this day, some people still associate Lachey, with “Newlyweds,” even though he has since married former MTV VJ Vanessa Minnillo, with whom he has three children. It’s a situation that he finds odd.
“I guess it’s a weird thing because it’s obviously centered around a chapter in my life which is closed and has been for a decade really,” Lachey said. “But it’s always interesting how much people still remember that show. So on that level, it’s flattering to have been part of something people enjoyed and was a success. Yeah, it is bizarre at the same time because it’s so not where my life is. It seems like ancient history to me and I’m sure to her (Simpson) as well.
“I’ve been lucky enough, thankfully, to go on and do quite a few things since then and host a lot of things,” he added. “So luckily for me my career has continued to evolve.”
Indeed, Lachey went on to host several television shows, including the a cappella singing competition show, “The Sing Off,” during its run from 2009 until 2014. He did another reality show in 2015, “Lachey’s: Raising The Bar,” which followed the lead singer and his brother, Drew (whose individual pursuits have included roles in Broadway productions of “Rent” and “Monty Python’s Spamalot”), through the process of opening a sports bar in their Cincinnati hometown.
Most recently, Nick Lachey competed in the 2017 season of “Dancing With The Stars.”
Drew Lachey won the second season of “Dancing with the Stars” in 2006 with partner Cheryl Burke. But Nick, who said he never considered himself much of a dancer, didn’t fare as well, finishing ninth in his season.
By then, things were gearing back up with 98 Degrees, which Lachey said, despite appearances, never broke up. The group reunited in 2012 and returned to action with the 2013 album “2.0” and a slot on that summer’s “The Package” tour with New Kids On The Block and Boyz II Men.
A headlining tour followed in 2016. Then last year, during the group’s 20th anniversary, the group decided to celebrate by making its second Christmas album, “Let It Snow,” and embarking on a holiday tour last November.
The tour was a success, leading to a second holiday tour this fall. Where at first it appeared that 98 Degrees might be only an occasional enterprise that would come together from time to time for different tours or projects, Lachey said the four members now consider 98 Degrees an active, full-time endeavor.
“We kind of view this as a year-round thing. We’re focusing on our holiday tour and this is kind of our big moment to be together for the year,” Lachey said. “But we’ve also done spot gigs throughout the year together. I think as long as we continue to enjoy performing together and the fans still come out and support it we’re going to keep doing it. We enjoy each other’s company and enjoy performing together so I really don’t see any reason to stop.”
And the group wouldn’t mind seeing Christmas music become an annual part of its activities.
“I think if that opportunity is there, we certainly would be very receptive to it. We toured last year to support the Christmas album (“Let It Snow”) and had such fun with it, why not? Why not try it for a second year and see how it goes. If we’re lucky enough to be a part of peoples’ holiday traditions and we’re lucky enough to be able do this again for years to come, that would be great.”
The future could also include new albums, including more Christmas albums sometime down the road, and regular albums could also be in play — if it seems like the market has a place for new 98 Degrees music.
“That’s a tricky one because we love making music together. So the immediate answer would be yeah, we’d love to be in the studio and make more music together,” Lachey said. “But the music business has changed so much in the way people consume music and where do we kind of fit into the landscape of new music coming out and so on and so forth. It’s definitely something we’ve talked about and we would love to do. I just think we have to get a better idea of what that would look like.”
For now, the holidays are on Lachey’s mind. This year’s Christmas show — a mix of holiday tunes and songs from the regular studio albums by 98 Degrees — will not be a re-run of the show the group presented last year.
“We didn’t want to come in and do the exact same show again,” Lachey said. “We definitely are doing some different covers. I think that’s probably the biggest difference. There’s still a lot of our own stuff on the first Christmas record and last year’s Christmas record. We’re also doing some different holiday covers in there as well this year to kind of mix it up. There’s obviously a lot of material out there to choose from so we wanted to do a different version this year. Hopefully everyone will like it as much as last year.”