Last summer, the Houston Press reported (with embarrassing yet unapologetic enthusiasm) on '80s pop sensations the New Kids on the Block. The '80s boy-band was co-headlining an arena tour with their '90s incarnates, the Backstreet Boys.
This year, however, brings less boy-band baggage -- no New Kids, no Backstreet Boys (phew); just NKOTB heartthrob Jordan Knight. The group's former lead singer is currently embarked on a national tour in support of his sophomore solo album, Unfinished.
Rocks Off chatted with Knight about Unfinished, its recording and the tourduring some downtime.
Rocks Off: I was a big New Kids on the Block fan in the '80s. I covered your concert here in Houston last summer, and had a blast.
Jordan Knight: Awesome! Thank you. I'm glad you enjoyed it.
RO: Tell me about your new album, Unfinished.
JK: Unfinished is my solo album, comprised of songs I either wrote or was really touched by. There are a few ballads, but it's a "Top 40" album. It's kind of a "pet project" of mine.
Often times, when you don't put too much pressure on yourself, then good material pops out, and that was the case here. I didn't think, "I need to make a No. 1 single," or "I need to make a statement to the world." Instead, it was just me, making fun music.
RO: What were your goals approaching the album's writing and recording?
JK: When I make music, I look for the emotion in a song. If it doesn't bring out some kind of emotion, then it's not worth doing. I was imagining fans, at home, or in their cars, listening to the songs after they drop their kids off at school, and hopefully getting enjoyment out of it. So, it was really done for the fans.
RO: How will this tour differ from last year's NKOTBSB world arena tour?
JK: When I was on the NKOTBSB tour, Unfinished was out, so fans were able to give me feedback on its songs, and they were really demanding that I bring it live to the stage. (Laughs). So, this is a block of time I have to do just that.
I'm going across the country doing these shows on the weekends, which works out well with my family and schedule--and for the fans too, because it's not too fun going to a show on a Tuesday night and having to work early the next day.
RO: Tell us a little bit about your stage show. What can we expect?
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JK: The show is really great! I've worked with a great choreographer, and used local Boston talent as my band -- they're kind of like The Roots -- like R&B/hip-hop fusion, so they fit well with my music.
There's also a part of the show where I sit down at the piano and serenade the crowd, and that's fun, because they get to relax, and it doesn't have to be such a rigid show; I can go off the cuff a bit. It's more intimate than an arena show.
RO: How does Unfinished compare to your 1999 solo self-titled debut, or to New Kids songs?
JK: This album is pretty similar, actually, but Unfinished has more upbeat songs than the '99 album. The first song (in '99, "Give It To You") was so upbeat and big, people assumed the rest of the album was like that too, but it wasn't--it had a lot of ballads. Unfinished is more upbeat.
RO: How about personally and/or artistically? How do you differ now, than where you were in 1999?
JK: As far as quality and where I am as far as "my game," I was at the top of my game, I believe, in '99, and I believe I'm at the top of my game again creatively, with Unfinished. I think it ranks even higher than my first solo album.
RO: You worked with your former NKOTB bandmate Donnie on the Unfinished track, "Stingy." What was it like to work with him again?
JK: Donnie rapped and did this cool chant part on "Stingy." Any time two New Kids are on any record, you know, there's just something magical about it! The song was great at first, but then I put Donnie on it, and he raised it to another level. Two New Kids on a great record is a great thing.
RO: So, the "Bad Boy" and the "Heartthrob" reunited?
JK (laughs): That's the beauty of Donnie and me; I have the image of a tender heartthrob, and his image is the Bad Boy with the swagger, you know what I mean? So, we compliment each other well. There's such a sweet melody to the record, but now it has such a cool vibe, as well, thanks to Donnie.
RO: Were your NKOTB nicknames fairly accurate?
JK: I think so, yeah. We do have those personas, for sure.
RO: You were so young when the New Kids formed. Did you ever want to pursue anything other than music? Could you see yourself doing anything else professionally?
JK: Yeah, I could see myself doing other things... But I don't want to do anything else, that's for sure! I have a lot of fun. Whatever level I do music at--as long as I'm doing it, and I'm doing it to the best of my ability -- I'm happy.
RO: What do you think of today's pop artists? Do you notice any similarities or differences in the modern pop world since the New Kids ruled it?
JK: I don't think much has changed. Social media has changed things, of course, but there's always going to be Justin Biebers coming out; there's always going to be the Cute Heartthrob, you know? Lady Gaga is kind of like today's Madonna, really.
Who knows if she'll stand the test of time like Madonna did? We'll see, but she's definitely talented. Lady Gaga has flipped everything; everyone is trying to do the weird shock value just like her, and she's messed with everyone's heads.
RO: Do you think these artists are producing anything innovative to music, or has it all been done before?
JK: People like Nicki Minaj and Rihanna are awesome and have wonderful voices. Adele has that amazing, soulful voice... I think as people get older, they say, "Oh, the 'good 'ol days,' when there was great art," but I think there are always great artists out there.
I think in the past, though, we had one iconic artist from each genre, because there were only so many outlets. Now, there are so many cable channels, so many websites and outlets, that you can have tons of different artists.
Back in the day, there were iconic artists like Michael Jackson, Madonna... there was one "boy band" at the time, and it was New Kids on the Block, you know? Now, we have three of four of them out there at a time.
RO: Music clearly dominates your life, but what do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
JK: I like to hang at home with the kids. I have two kids, ages four and 12 -- Eric and Dante. My son is a hockey player, so I like to go to his games. My son Eric loves Kung Fu Panda, so he loves doing Kung Fu moves around the house. We like to play video games together, board games, go to the movies, go skating, go bowling... all that fun stuff.
RO: Do they have any idea of who their dad is in pop-music history?
JK: They get it, I think. They know The New Kids were the Justin Bieber of our time--well, my 12-year-old does; my 4-year-old hears me singing around the house, and he'll be like, "Dad--really, with the singing?" (Laughs) He actually says that to me, it's so funny!
RO: Tell us three words you'd use to describe yourself at this point in your life.
JK: Let's see. Open, disciplined, and... still somewhat quiet.
JK: (Laughs) Yeah. I've always been kind of... reserved. "The strong, silent type!" But as I move forward, especially with this album and venturing out on my own, I do see myself opening up more, and that's fun and exciting, hence, "open."
RO: New Kids fans still love you to pieces. Do you have any special message for them?
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JK: To the fans... Thanks for supporting my solo efforts, and I won't let you down. Come to the show, have a great time, and let's have some fun together.
Jordan Knight performs Friday at Stereo Live.