We recently spoke to singer/television personality Nick Lachey in advance of the return of the a capella group singing competition, The Sing-Off, for a five episode run in December. Nick was the lead singer of the boy band, 98 Degrees, and then pursued a solo career with Jive Records. The relationship with Jive has since ended, and Nick has spent the last few years making television appearances and planning the next stage of his music career. And possibly a reunion of sorts with 98 Degrees...?
We also had an opportunity to speak with Joel Gallen, the executive producer of The Sing-Off to find out from him just how difficult it was to narrow down all the applicants to the final ten groups that will be performing on the series.
The Sing-Off premieres on Monday, December 6 from 8:00 to 10:00pm on NBC, and then continues Wednesday the 8th, Monday the 13th, and Wednesday the 15th. The live finale will air on December 20.
USTOWNHALL SPEAKS TO NICK LACHEY AND JOEL GALLEN OF THE SING-OFF:
USTH: Regarding your engagement to Vanessa Minnillo, have you and Vanessa set a date or a timeframe yet for your wedding?
NICK LACHEY: No, we're still, you know, basking in the glow of our very recent engagement and enjoying that. I'm sure we'll get on to all the other planning and whatnot shortly, but right now we're just enjoying this experience.
USTH: Okay, great. As far as The Sing-Off is concerned, you've done a few other projects that have involved finding new talent such as Clash of the Choirs and Taking the Stage. Can you talk a little bit about why these types of shows are important to you?
NICK LACHEY: Well, I think for me I remember that moment when we got discovered, when you got your opportunity. And certainly, there are countless talented people across the country and around the world.
And, it's exciting to see people who truly love a cappella singing, who love music. It's exciting to see them get that opportunity to step out and make their dreams come true, so to speak. And have the chance, the opportunity to win a competition like this and make it a career potentially. So, this is the genuine love and excitement that's contagious with all these talented people.
USTH: In terms of your career going forward, are you going to be releasing any more albums, or are you planning to focus more on acting?
NICK LACHEY: Music will always be my passion and kind of my home base, so to speak. So yes, I'm actually getting back into the studio here right now to start a new record. I'm now independent. Jive Records and I've – we've decided just to part ways, which is exciting because the music business has changed so much over the last few years. There are a lot of new opportunities and ways to go about being in the music. So it's exciting – kind of an exciting rebirth for me to attack from a different angle and get a new perspective.
But yes, music will always be something that is very meaningful to me. And I can't ever imagine not doing this in some capacity. So, very excited to get some new music together and get a new album out there for everyone to hear.
USTH: Okay, great. And you know, you've sort of alluded to fans of 98 Degrees that there might be some surprises on The Sing-Off – that you might perform with them or something. Are there any actual plans for a 98 Degrees reunion to go out on tour – like Backstreet Boys and New Kids on the Block have done?
NICK LACHEY: We remain in contact with each other constantly and kind of throw that idea out there every now and then. I don't think there are any imminent plans to get back together. But it's certainly something we've all kept the door wide open on.
And given the right timing – the right opportunity – yes, I can certainly see that happening. But for right now, there's no imminent plan to go out on tour or do anything together.
USTH: Now regarding the show again, you're sort of the impartial host, but within your own mind as you're watching these groups sing, do you pick out a favorite and root for somebody? You know, not necessarily voice it to the public, but do you have a favorite of the ten groups that are there?
NICK LACHEY: You know that they're all so different, and they all come from different kinds of backgrounds and maybe have different strong suits in terms of their experience in a cappella.
And that's, I think, the beauty of the show is we get to see these groups challenged along the way and thrown some curveballs with the judge's choice, and have to prepare and perform songs that maybe are outside of their typical wheelhouse, so to speak.
So, just when you think you've heard it all, "Oh, that's the group that's way out front," the next week someone else comes along. I remember the first season, Voices of Lee, I think in one of the earlier episodes maybe they were on the brink of not making it to the next show. And then they grew and they got better, and they were right there as one of the final groups in the competition.
So you never know. It can all come unraveled in one performance, or you can elevate yourself dramatically with one performance. That's the beauty of performing on national television; you never know how it's going to play out.
So, there's really no way to predict with any accuracy, who's going to win and who's going to lose.
USTH: All right. And a couple of questions for Joel. Joel can you give us a ballpark estimate of just how many groups initially auditioned for this season?
JOEL GALLEN: I would say including the ones that we didn't see in person but they sent us links or video and stuff like that – probably in the neighborhood of 600.
USTH: Let's talk about that then. How do you narrow down 600 groups to 10? What criteria do you use to get those final ten groups on the show?
JOEL GALLEN: Well, just like with any casting process, there are certainly obvious ones that just are not up to the standards, that get eliminated right away, as far as their singing abilities and their blends as a group and all that.
And then of course once you eliminate those, then you're really going through the process of trying to separate the great ones from the good ones.
And we have a team of executive producers and myself, and obviously the casting people that have had years of experience doing this. And they're very difficult decisions, but we make them based on what we think is best for the show.
And like I said earlier, what we think will also be the best for the audience watching and making sure that we are representing a lot of different styles of music. So, there's not too many of the same type of group.
It's a definitely a difficult process. I can't say we've mastered the process yet. I don't know of anybody in this business who gets involved with casting – there's always going to be disappointment. There's obviously a lot of celebration for the people that make it.
And the ones who don't make it, they probably usually benefit from it and they come back and they audition the next time. I do another show called America's Best Dance Crew, and there we're going into our sixth season.
And there are groups that have been rejected three, four, or five times in a row, and they keep coming back. And the group Poreotics, who won Season 5 – they auditioned all four seasons and didn't make it. They finally made it Season 5, and then they were the champions.
So you know anything's possible. And it just will make these groups work that much harder to get back, hopefully, for Season 3 because there's only room for so many groups.
USTH: How long is this casting process? How long does it take you and your team to narrow down 600 groups to 10?
JOEL GALLEN: Well it's probably about a 90 day process – probably three months through production, traveling, reviewing, coming back and going through the process. I can't give you an exact calendar, but I would say it's approximately a three month process.
USTH: There definitely seems as though there is a lot of hard work and preparation that goes into making this show. Viewers will get to see the results of their efforts for themselves as The Sing-Off returns to television for its second season beginning Monday, December 6 for a five-epsiode contest that culminates in the live finale on Monday, December 20. The series will be hosted by Nick Lachey and judging the competition are Nicole Sherzinger (Pussycat Dolls), Ben Folds (Ben Folds Five), and Shawn Stockman (Boyz II Men).