re-Making the Band: our conversation with O-Town

Turn on your television today and there will be dozens of reality shows airing in any given timeslot, but in 2000, that wasn’t the case. When O-Town was formed during the first season of “Making the Band” on ABC, boyband guru Lou Pearlman led them to a top 10 album in the States and hit singles including the smash, “All or Nothing.”

Now, reunited as a quartet, the band has released a new album and new video. We caught up with Erik-Michael Estrada, Trevor Penick, Jacob Underwood, and Dan Miller to talk about their new music, what the time away from the band did for them and where O-Town fits into a changed pop music scene.

After ten years away from O-Town, how did the gap in time reinvigorate the band?

Jacob: The time away is what made it fun coming back. We have these new skills and things we’ve learned. When we started, it was like a frat and now, it’s like business partners. It’s a lot more fun.

Trevor: The best part was exactly that, just being back in the room with the guys and being creative again. I remembered very quickly how much I missed being around them.

Erik-Michael: Well, for me, it’s the laughing and fun we have. Our bond is unlike any that I have with anyone else in my life. It’s rare, but it works because of all the time and hard work we put in over a decade ago. We’re all natural competitors too, so when we get together, we naturally go into “MJ mode.” We know our roles and we stick to them, because in the end we all want the same thing…we want to win.

Dan: The members of O-town will always share a special bond and because of that, it’s very easy for us to have a blast hanging, singing, & performing together. So the best part is that we are having more fun than ever.

Why come together again to make music?

Jacob: Mostly, the fans asking for it. There was also the trend of bands reuniting and it’s something people want to see. It’s fun for us because we are getting to relive our college years. It’s a blast from the past but to see the fans sing the new stuff is more than nostalgic.

The pop culture landscape is different than when you started? How has that affected the way you approach making music?

Jacob: We love where pop music is at, so it was fun. Out biggest challenge was saying ‘that’s not an O Town song.’ It came down to just putting out the music that we love. We wanted to put out more fun music. We had people sending us songs for the album, mostly ballads since that’s what we did, but we wanted more and that’s when we got “Chasin’ After You.”Flag-pop

There’s not a person in my generation who didn’t belt “All or Nothing” in our cars. How does it feel singing your older hits again?

Erik-Michael: It just feels right. We’ve been gone way too long in my opinion. Luckily, we are preserving well, but an opportunity like this, this late in our career – it’s something I can’t take for granted. The fans are truly the reason this “re-banding” is happening. [I’m] tremendously grateful for them, much more this time around, that’s for sure.

Jacob: “All of Nothing” is always the highlight of the show for everyone. Everyone remembers all the words. The fan base still comes for that song. When we do “Liquid Dreams,” we do it with a smirk on our faces. Yep, this is our song. We got away with this 15 years ago.

Trevor: Being in front of the fans again has been amazing. Seeing them sing all the new songs is a great feeling because this new album really comes from us.

After such a long hiatus, it’s got to feel like you’re starting over. What does that feel like?

Jacob: When we were first together, there was so much stress. We were over seeing each other every day. Now, these are your closest friends, they have the same memories as you do – some of the biggest, most important moments of our lives – and they are the only ones who share it with me. Now, we get to do this again and it’s smiles the whole way. We know how blessed we are to get to do this again.

How have you grown as a band since first being put together on ‘Making the Band?’

Erik-Michael: I believe the band has evolved primarily because we’ve all evolved as men. During our extended hiatus, we each challenged ourselves, we wore different hats, and took on new experiences away from the band. That time really shaped us. So when we returned, we each had so much more input in every step of the process.

Trevor: We’ve grown in all aspects of this business and life. We’re all in our mid-30’s now and have experienced life. We’re definitely not kids anymore. We are way more hands-on with everything we do. That’s the biggest difference. Well, that and our fans are old enough to drink at our concerts now.

Your most recent video, “Chasin’ After You,” is a fun song but has a more mature sound. Is that a reflection of growing in life?

Jacob: We were working with Mark Suhonen who did half the record with us, and Phillip LaRue, an awesome talent. We wanted to do an uptempo song. We thought, ‘Let’s do something sexy with a falsetto.’ Mark tinkered with a bass line and Philip had the melody. The fun comes across because it wasn’t a struggle to make the song. Actually, toward the end of the process with the album, we needed another song. We asked Phillip and “Rewind” was written, cut and finished within four days.

Dan: When we first started, we didn’t know nuthin’ bout nuthin’! Now though, we have 15 years of education in the music business under our belts. Whatever aspect it is of the music business; whether it’s understanding contracts, songwriting, performing live….we’re better now than we were 15 years ago. Beyond that though, we understand how to deal with each other so much better and that has helped to make this reunion super fun.

What’s next for O-Town?

Jacob: We are looking to do a tour this fall. Dan has a wife and two kids so we balance between touring and being at home. We have at least another single off of the album because the fans will not let us forget what they want to hear.

Dan: It feels great. The fans who are coming to our shows this time around are the true die-hards. They are the fans who never gave up hope that we would someday reunite and record new music. And now that the reunion has happened, all that pent up love, passion, & support they give us at shows is pretty overwhelming.

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