Boston born and New Kids on the Block singer Donnie Wahlberg has a sunny disposition on the Red Sox’s offseason.
“In 2003, we lost game seven (of the American League Championship Series)… Grady Little and Pedro Martinez stayed in the game too long. Everyone thought it was the end of the world,” Wahlberg explained last weekend on the red carpet of Mohegan Sun’s 15th anniversary in Uncasville, CT. “We cleaned house, came back, and won the World Series. And that’s what’s going to happen next year.”
The BoSox have parted ways with their Manager and General Manager, amidst all types of reports on the activities of some players in the clubhouse during the Red Sox September slide, a slump which saw the team relinquish playoff contention. Thankfully for Wahlberg, his fall hasn’t been tumultuous whatsoever. NKOTB just announced a European tour, while the actor focuses on his CBS drama, “Blue Bloods” and newly opened restaurant, Wahlburgers, which is located near Boston.
Boston-born singer Michael Africk has been around the block a few times, and by block, I mean world. The former teen superstar opened for N’Sync, Britney Spears, and the Backstreet Boys. How in was the singer with these acts? None of them made him sign a confidentiality agreement. Africk also made a huge name for himself in Japan, playing sold out shows and becoming a sushi connoisseur of sorts in the process.
May is usually a big month for Jordan Knight – he celebrates his birthday on the 17. But in addition to turning the big 4-1, the New Kids on the Block singer will also release two albums on consecutive weeks. The NKOTBSB collaboration with the Backstreet Boys hits shelves May 24. Knight revealed on “The Ralphie Radio Show” that his solo project, Unfinished, will be released the following Tuesday.
“I had to push the release date back to May 31,” said Knight, who called in from his Boston home. “It’s very typical in this business to kind of push the dates back, but it’s still in May.”
Yunno, Knight has done this once or twice before. The original date was May 3, and the extra couple of weeks afford the artist more time to organize what will be a hectic spring and summer. In addition to the two albums and 41-date arena tour with BSB, Knight will also be holding autograph signings and performing radio promo events in support of his new album.
“Like you were saying earlier, (saying that I’m) being busy is ‘a gross understatement,’” Knight noted, referencing my introduction to our chat on “The RRS.” “I’ll probably be doing an in-store (signing) or maybe a radio show here, and then have to rush back to the arena to do the actual 2 hour show that we’re doing with the Backstreet Boys.”
The first single from Unfinished is the up-tempo track, “Let’s Go Higher,” written by “What You Got” singer and the Lady GaGa “Just Dance”-featured Colby O’Donnis. The Grammy-nominated O’Donnis had “Let’s Go Higher” in the bank for a minute. He sent it to Knight despite the fact that Jordan was looking for ideas for a track already created for the album.
“That was about a year ago,” Knight said. He flew out to O’Donnis’ house to cut the vocals. “They have an intercom system in the house. His mom would call up – ‘Colby, dinner’s ready!’ and he’d be like, ‘Yo Jordan let’s take a break, dinner’s ready.”
The New Kid spent a couple days at O’Donnis’ crib and had nothing but great things to say about the experience, and the food. Knight felt like a kid again because when his band was first starting out – it was a similar situation. The guys would rehearse in Knight’s basement, break for food upstairs, and return for more recording.
Knight did not talk with the other fellas about promoting his solo project over the summer. He insists that it will not conflict with anything that New Kids or BSB are doing on tour – if anything, the complete opposite.
“With all the people that I’m working on with my solo project, I told them all, ‘(The album) cannot get in the way of the New Kids on the Block,’” said Knight. “I don’t want there to be any kinds of conflict. I only want each thing to enhance the other.”
The New England-native believes that the NKOTB comeback will help his album, but that wasn’t the primary motivating factor in the release of his fifth solo LP.
“The resurgence of the New Kids obviously gives it a lot more exposure,” Knight admitted. “I’m happy about that.”
Above all, it seems that Knight is just happy to be in the mix again – solo or with the guys.
“It’s going to be exciting,” he said of his upcoming summer. “We’re going back on tour and it’s a huge arena tour with another ‘boy band’ and the excitement, the music, the fans… it’s just all so much fun.”
Jesse McCartney chatted in his dressing room about All My Children, touring w/ NKOTB, & Departure: Recharged.
— You know him as pop superstar Jesse McCartney, the platinum-selling, world-touring artist that sings some of your favorite songs like “Leavin’” and “Beautiful Soul.” But my Mom will always identify him as “Adam Chamdler Jr.” from the ABC soap opera All My Children.
“I was nominated in ’99 and 2000,” McCartney recalled, as he received a nod in both years for a Daytime Emmy Award. “I can’t even believe how long ago that was.”
Certainly much changed for McCartney since. While he still acts, his current full-time job is singer/songwriter/performer. McCartney’s latest LP, Departure, sold over a quarter of a million copies. This past April, Hollywood Records re-released the record as Departure: Recharged, featuring four new songs, including the remix of “How Do You Sleep?” featuring Ludacris.
“It’s part two of the album, or just an extended version,” Jesse explained. “One of the songs is actually the next single, its called ‘Body Language’ and I just got official word today that we’re releasing it in a couple weeks with T-Pain.”
First he collaborated with producer Tricky Stewart, then Ludacris, and now T-Pain. McCartney certainly aimed for and achieved a much more rhythmic sound, similar to what New Kids On The Block went for with The Block. In addition to extending the run of Departure, McCartney extended his summer schedule at the last second, accepting an invitation from NKOTB to join them on tour.
“They called literally two weeks before the tour,” he revealed. “It’s gonna be another month and a half of touring.”
McCartney maintains such a busy schedule that he didn’t even meet the entire headlining act until about 4 dates in to the trek. Jesse’s mad dashing from the stage to prior commitments even prompted tour-mate Danny Wood of NKOTB to wonder what was up. But when I spoke with McCartney last Wednesday, he noted that during the upcoming off day, he looked forward to “kicking it” with the guys.
The former Dream Street singer will finish out the “Full Service” tour, then begin work on The Gonzo Files, which begins filming at the end of this month in Brooklyn. Bryan Goluboff, who wrote The Basketball Diaries, wrote and will direct the movie.
“I’m gonna do a lot more film stuff at the end of the album, at the end of this run,” McCartney noted – although with the release of another single imminent, the end may not arrive until the end of the year.
Regardless of whether he’s on camera or on stage, McCartney will be making money doing what he loves. He might even find sometime to live like the average 22 year old. While chatting in his dress room, McCartney recalled a time he partied at my alma mater, Syracuse University.
“I did go to a frat party in Syracuse at one point, like four years ago,” McCartney admitted. “It was fun.”
— Danny Wood didn’t think it would last this long.
“We thought we’d do like 20, 30 shows at best probably, and be home,” Wood confessed. “But we’re very happy it’s gone this long and we’re happy to now be doing the ‘Full Service’ tour.”
New Kids On The Block released The Block in September 2008. The LP marked the boy band’s first studio release in 14 years. After the CD debuted atop the Billboard Pop Charts, NKOTB embarked on a North American tour – then extended the trek to dates overseas. A “fan cruise” last month took the guys with supporters from Miami to the Bahamas. Now, New Kids find themselves on the “Full Service” tour – playing outdoor amphitheaters throughout the summer with opening act Jesse McCartney.
The Boston-born singers themselves didn’t expect this reunion to last in to the summer… but now some are wondering not when will it end, but if it will cease at all?
“We have some plans for next year. I think a new record will probably come in 2011, if we all agree to do that. But, we’re pretty much all on the same page right now. I don’t see this being the last time to see us.”
Wood joked that someone in the group “acting like an asshole,” could prevent the CD release. But, according to him, everyone in the band agreed on that plan for the time being. Still, Wood noted that family situations could play a factor.
“It’s different this time around, so you never know. I mean, I know I never thought my kids would get to see me back on stage. My daughters are with me so, it’s always perfect when they’re here.”
Also with the group is McCartney, a 22-year old pop star that wasn’t alive when NKOTB released its self-titled debut LP in 1986. But apparently, that doesn’t mean the former All My Children actor is seeking out Donnie Wahlberg or anyone in the group for advice.
“You want me to be honest?” Wood asked. “I haven’t seen the dude once. I don’t know… I don’t know. He does a mad dash or he’s hiding or I don’t know.”
Wood seemed a bit bothered, perhaps even offended, in his tone and body language, but insisted that is far from the case.
“I don’t give a shit. He can do whatever he wants, I don’t care,” Wood insisted. “We’re pretty accessible… if you walked around here you’d probably run in to all five of us.”
Give the man credit – I did in fact run in to all the guys at one point or another while backstage. Donnie chatted on his phone. Joey McIntyre walked his puppy. Jordan Knight snapped a photo with me before a Boston Herald phone interview. His brother, Jonathan, attempted to chat on his cell, but of course, coverage can be spotty up on the mountain.
And as for McCartney – Jesse told me later that earlier that day he finally met all five of the guys. The singer blamed a hectic schedule – which even forced him to jet back to Los Angeles at one point – as the reason for his notable absence backstage.