Nick Lachey: I'm Blessed to Host "The Sing-Off"

By Karen Moul

?Nick LacheyThe Sing-Off returned this fall with an extended season, an expanded field of 16 teams, and a new face (Sara Bareilles) on the judges' panel.

Two things haven't changed: Nick Lachey is back for another season as host, and he still loves being a part of the show.

"It's such a fun show to be a part of," Lachey says excitedly. "I think the best thing about the show for me is being around people who are so passionate and excited to be musicians and to be part of music.

"When you've been in the business a while," he admits, "sometimes you forget the passion and the excitement that you had when you first stepped into it. And it's refreshing to be around people who have that excitement and passion."

"So I'm blessed that I'm able to be the host of The Sing-Off."

Nick LacheyAnother reason Lachey loves hosting the show is its focus on a capella singing, which launched his career.

"I grew up singing a capella," explains Lachey, "and [I] sang in a barbershop quartet when I was in high school, at (Ohio's) Kings Island amusement park.

"And then when 98 Degrees first formed we did all a capella. That's how we got signed to Motown records. We walked into the president's office and sang an a capella medley for him."

Working on The Sing-Off is his chance "to give back to the art form, if you will."

Although The Sing-Off has expanded from five to 11 episodes, Lachey still finds time to work on his own projects.

"I just went back in the studio about two, three weeks ago to start a new project," he says. "So hopefully the beginning of next year we'll have some new music."

"I'm very excited about that and excited to ultimately get back on the road and tour and get back to performing, which is what I truly love to do."

Asked if is old group 98 Degrees plans to appear on the show, Lachey admits "It's something we've talked about in the past.

"I wouldn't be surprised at all," he adds coyly, "if you see that happen at some point."

Nick Lachey spoke with reporters about why people love a capella singing, the talent in this year's competition, and his new colleague, Sara Bareilles.

SciFi Vision reviews episodes 1 and 2 here.

NBC UNIVERSAL Conference call with Nick Lachey
September 29, 2011
11:30 am CT

QUESTION: What does Sara bring to the table as a judge this season?

NICK LACHEY: Sara has been such an absolute joy to be around to work with. I think she's such a brilliant songwriter and musician in her own right and she brings such a wealth of knowledge to the panel.

And I said this before and I'll say it again, I think she's the absolute perfect fit for what The Sing-Off is and what The Sing-Off's all about. And she's been just an absolute joy to have on the show.

QUESTION: What was behind the decision to expand the competition to 16 groups this season?

NICK LACHEY: Well we were just - we were afforded the opportunity to have a longer season, 11 episodes this year as opposed to the five that we had last year.

So it just gave us an opportunity to expand the search and expand the audition process and ultimately have more groups compete, which I think is great.

You see a real diversity this season between the groups, everything from high-schoolers to our first-ever rapper on the show and the old doo-wop guys, North Shore.

So you've got a real wide range of a capella represented. And I think it's great that we're able to expand it.

QUESTION: Although you've had a solo career after 98 Degrees, do you ever yearn to be part of a group again after watching these talented a capella groups on The Sing-Off?

NICK LACHEY: Sure, sure yes. It's a contagious show to be a part of. And I think there's a camaraderie that comes with being in a group of any kind or a band.

And certainly that was true for 98 Degrees. There was a real special brotherly kind of bond that we all shared.

And yes, I miss that. It's fun to go through those experiences with other people and guys you care about. And so yes, there's definitely something to be said for being a part of a group like that.

QUESTION: How do you feel this year's groups compare to the previous seasons?

NICK LACHEY: Well, I think – not to take anything away from previous seasons but I think the groups this year have been just unbelievable.

You know, the talent level across the board, I think, is certainly improved this season. And as I said earlier, the diversity of the groups has really, I think, improved this season.

I think it's just a testament to the show and its success and that's created an awareness and an interest from singers out there and groups out there to be a part of what we're doing.

But I couldn't be happier with the level of talent and the level of execution that these groups have been bringing to the table this year.

QUESTION: And how do you feel about members of past groups appearing again in different groups this season?

NICK LACHEY: Well, I think it says a great thing about competition is that if you get knocked down, you get back up and you stay after it.

You know, obviously those members were parts of groups that didn't win but they still want to pursue their dreams and pursue their passion and try it again.

And I think if it's reimagined in a different form I don't have a problem with it.

QUESTION: Have you ever been really disappointed or had a problem with any of the decisions the judges have made? Anybody that you really would've liked to have stay on the show or you believe should have been given another chance?

NICK LACHEY: Interesting question. I think there [are] certainly situations where my opinion differed from what the judges ultimately decided.

But that's kind of the beauty of my role. I don't get a voice [and] I don't have to make those tough decisions.

But I think I'm probably not unlike anyone else watching at home who thinks "Oh man, I can't believe they were sent home. I was expecting some other group."

As I'm sitting backstage waiting for the judge's decision, sometimes when I ultimately see it and see who's been sent home it's the same reaction.

So they certainly have their criteria and their method, if you will, and even I am not privy to that. So I'm almost a spectator in that sense.

QUESTION: Would you rather be a judge or a contestant if you had a chance to participate in the show not as a host?

NICK LACHEY: Boy, you know what it'd be...I mean it'd obviously to be fun to be a contestant and then be a part of a group competing, but at the same time I know how hard they have to work.

I mean, this competition is a lot of singing in a very short amount of time and the competition is really stiff. And I can't imagine how much pressure those groups are under.

But at the same time it's neat to see the kind of family bond that they all share together. I mean they really do get a chance to bond together. And they really do pull for one another, so it's a neat dynamic.

But I think I'd have to...oh gosh, that's a tough one. I guess I'd want to be a contestant.

Judging's not my thing.

QUESTION: You don't want to make the hard decisions?

NICK LACHEY: Yes, I'm not good at it.

QUESTION: How have you been enjoying your time on the show? And can you say that you have learned anything from your overall experience that you may be able to interpret in your own career?

NICK LACHEY: Great question. Yes, I love being a part of the show. It's such a fun show to be a part of and be around talented musicians every day and be a part of watching them grow and ultimately giving someone a chance to chase their dream and pursue their dream. It's a great process to be a part of.

So I'm blessed that I'm able to be the host of The Sing-Off. And yes, I think I learn something every day. I mean, it's contagious to be around music and to be around great musicians.

So certainly if nothing else I think their passion is contagious. And when you've been in the business a while sometimes you forget the passion and the excitement that you had when you first stepped into it.

And it's refreshing to be around people who have that excitement and passion so that's certainly contagious.

QUESTION: When can we expect something else from you?

NICK LACHEY: I just went back in the studio about two, three weeks ago start a new project. So hopefully the beginning of next year we'll have some new music from myself.

QUESTION: Are there any other projects in the works for you?

NICK LACHEY: That's the one I'm focusing on primarily right now. I do have a production company that I started with my brother. And we're trying to develop a couple of ideas that hopefully you'll see in the next couple years, realize themselves on television.

But for me it's really getting back into the studio and starting a new project.

So very excited about that and excited to ultimately get back on the road and tour and get back to performing, which is what I truly love to do.

QUESTION: Why do you think The Sing-Off is so popular?

NICK LACHEY: You know what I think? It's just people understand and appreciate and enjoy watching real talent. And I think that The Sing-Off certainly maybe showcases that better than any other show.

With a capella music there's just nowhere to hide. So you really get a feel for how talented these groups are.

And there's just great performances. I think people gravitate to hearing great music and great music done well.

And I think that we certainly do that on The Sing-Off so [I] just appreciate everyone out there who supported the show and continues to watch it and continues to support what we're doing.

QUESTION: Boyz II Men has reunited on the show for the finale. Would you ever consider bringing 98 Degrees onto the stage?

NICK LACHEY: Sure. Yes, it's something we've talked about, we've talked about in the past. And I wouldn't be surprised at all if you see that happen at some point.

QUESTION: I love all the great puns that you seem to use to introduce the performances. Do you have any part in writing them?

NICK LACHEY: I have very little part in that. I can't take much credit for those, although they've become a little bit of a, kind of a - they have their own cult following at this point.

But yes, I know the writers are always looking for a chance to [sneak] those in. And every time I read the script through before we do the show, I'm always looking for what they've come up with this week. So I'm glad that you get a kick out of those. I do too.

QUESTION: You seem to have a focus on being on music-themed reality shows [and] a lot of them highlight youth and the arts. Would you ever consider expanding into reality shows that weren't necessarily specifically music-oriented?

NICK LACHEY: I don't think I necessarily limited myself or try to limit myself to those. It's just for me I think that's where my passion kind of originates from. And music's something certainly that's been very good to me in my life and in my career.

And so it's always an opportunity to give back, so to speak, and be a part of watching other people realize their dreams. It's always an exciting thing to be a part of.

But no I certainly would - I wouldn't limit myself to doing just music-based reality shows, although that's just kind of where I think my natural knowledge and interest lies.

QUESTION: I just read this morning that there's an a capella movie being developed in Hollywood called Pitch Perfect. Why do you think acapella's having this moment in the pop culture spotlight?

NICK LACHEY: You know what? I think it's in such an era of auto-tuning and effects and all this stuff. I think it's kind of come full circle to a point where people really appreciate that they are its rawest sense.

And that's really what a capella is. You know, it's talent showcased with no effects, nowhere to hide.

And I think the people appreciate that and it's kind of come to a place where people are yearning for that.

I think we've seen shows like Glee that certainly have played into it. And all the music shows obviously play into one another.

But I think a capella's...I think we've gotten past the stereotype of it just being doo-wop or it just being barbershop and people now realize that a capella can be anything and it's really kind of expanded the opportunities for it.

And people have really kind of taken to that. So I just I think it's people's appreciation for the talent it takes to pull it off.

QUESTION: These acts come from different parts of America and there are a couple of L.A. acts of course -- Delilah and Kinfolk 9. Do you sense the difference in the level of ambition exhibited by the L.A. groups? Because certainly Kinfolk 9 you really sense that this is their chance. And obviously L.A. is a place where people's showbiz dreams do tend to come true.

NICK LACHEY: Yes. I think we see Sonos is another L.A-based group. And I think that when you live in L.A. and it's what you're doing actively, all the time and maybe there is a little added sense of pressure as opposed to a group that's prepared to go back to school or go back to their day jobs or whatever.

But I think all these groups realize that this is an opportunity and an opportunity to chase their dream and realize their dream and get started in this business.

But I do know what you're saying. You know, for people who work in the industry – The Collective from Nashville, another group that's really immersed in music there, very music town – maybe there's a little added sense that hey, this is our chance to make or break this opportunity.

I think all the groups on some level realize that opportunity that's in front of them and take it seriously.

QUESTION: How do you think the music industry has changed since you were a part of it with 98 Degrees?

NICK LACHEY: Well, it's certainly changed a lot. I think the biggest change is that the music business is struggling to be a business anymore.

You know, with downloading and the loss of record sales and all that it's just - it's cut the financial side of the business down to a place where everyone's kind of having to scramble to make things work.

And that changes things across the board. So I'd say that that's the biggest thing. Obviously music will always be a part of our lives and music will always be there.

But the way that we're getting our music and the way that we're monetizing our music has certainly changed.

QUESTION: Everyone always asks you the best advice for that you can give. But what was the best advice you might have been given by someone that was on the show?

NICK LACHEY: On The Sing-Off? Oh wow. I think it's just a - it's a kind of leading by example advice. As I said earlier, I think the best thing about the show for me is being around people who are so passionate and excited to be musicians and to be part of music.

And again, sometimes you can become a little jaded and affected, having been in the business for however many years.

So it's refreshing to be a part of people who view it in such a fresh and innocent and excited way. I think that's the best thing I've taken away from being a part of this.

The Sing-OffSCIFI VISION: Aside from the addition of Sara Bareilles is there anything new we could expect to see this season? And in particular I'm wondering if The Sing-Off is going to embrace social media as much as The Voice has?

NICK LACHEY: Yes, I think the biggest change is more groups, more episodes. But with that we're also able to expand what we we're able to do [thematically] on the show.

So we have our first ever country and western episode. We have our first ever hip-hop episode.

You know, just having the opportunity to do more episodes gave us the chance to kind of break it open a little bit more.

And as far as social media, that's something obviously that everyone across the board is trying to make more use of. And I think that we're the same.

You know, we're a little - I think Sara's got over 3 million followers or something so certainly she's figured it out. I'm a little behind the eight ball on that. I'm trying to get a Tweeter tutorial so I can join the 21st century.

SCIFI VISION: We know that you're pulling for all the groups but are there any specific groups or individual performances that have made an impression on you this season?

NICK LACHEY: Yes. I mean, every episode there's a handful performances that just stand apart as being just unbelievable.

I think we saw Delilah in the first episode do "Grenade" and just absolutely killed it. And I think really everyone took notice of that.

And so every episode there's someone that's kind of stepping out and seems to take the lead for a second.

But that's the great thing about the show. It always seems that the next week someone else comes out and evens the playing field.

So, you know, it's hard to pick a favorite or a front runner. They're all great in their own ways. And ultimately as I said before, I'm just glad I don't have to make that decision. The judges get to do that and then ultimately America gets to make the choice so I just get to talk about it.

QUESTION: What makes you interested in the genre of a capella, since that really wasn't your original niche in the music world?

NICK LACHEY: Well it actually was kind of our original niche, believe it or not. I grew up singing a capella and sang in a barbershop quartet when I was in high school at Kings Island Amusement Park.

And then when 98 Degrees first formed we did all a capella. We'd go around town and sing for anyone.

And then actually that's how we got signed to Motown records. We walked into the president's office and sang an a capella medley for him.

So I have a real appreciation for A) what it takes to pull off a capella and pull it off well and B) what it's meant to my career, meant to my life.

So it's kind chance to give back to the art form, if you will. You know, when you become a "boy band," so to speak, and you end up dancing and wearing goofy outfits and all that stuff, you know, a capella takes a little bit of a back seat.

But it really was the thing that inspired us to get together and the thing that created our opportunity.

The great thing about a capella is it's always going to be there. You know, just because you sing to track doesn't mean you can't do a capella.

And I think that's certainly something even on every 98 Degree album we always did and a capella song because we always wanted to continue that foundation.

QUESTION: Do you have any tips for young people who might want to get started in a capella music?

NICK LACHEY: Yes. Much like other things in life [it] is really about practice. And in a capella the blend is so important. And I think the only way you can really achieve that blend is by singing a lot together.

And you can certainly tell the groups that have performed a long time together because it's almost as if they sing as one voice. And that's really what a capella...when it's done well it's one voice.

And so I think that there's really no substitute or there's no replacement for a lot of practice, a lot of time invested.

QUESTION: Is Ben as much fun in person as his music would suggest?

NICK LACHEY: Yes, Ben is great. My favorite part of being a part of the show is the dress rehearsal with the judges where everyone is just kind of [improvising] and talking off the top of their heads.

And Ben always has some very witty and funny things to deliver in dress rehearsal. Some of it is not meant for network airtime. But yes he's a - he's great. It's been a lot of fun to get to know him and get to know his sense of humor because he's certainly a funny guy.

QUESTION: Since all the judges' music styles are very different, how do you think that adds to the show and their chemistry?

NICK LACHEY: Yes, I think that's a great point and it's a great reason why our judging panel is in my opinion the best on television. They all come from such accomplished careers but very different careers.

You know, certainly Sean is [part of] the most accomplished R&B group ever. Sara as a solo artist I think one of the best songwriters I've ever had the pleasure of meeting and an incredible performer.

And then Ben who's done the solo thing and the group thing. And everyone comes from a different place but it's a very successful and established place.

And I think that that's why they bring so much knowledge and so much expertise to every comment they make.

QUESTION: Will we be hearing maybe some music with you and celebrity judge Sara Bareilles? Maroon Five and Christina Aguilera [have] successfully released a song after working together on The Voice.

NICK LACHEY: Yes, you know what? I'd be honored. If Sara will have me I would thoroughly enjoy being able to do a project with her.

I can't say enough great things about her talent and who she is as a person. I think she's - I think she's awesome. And yes, I think we'd make a good team.

QUESTION: As a huge sports fan I wanted to know what you thought of last night's baseball game and the upcoming baseball playoffs?

NICK LACHEY: Well, I said last night as I was attempting to tweet...that was the most incredible night of baseball I've ever seen in one night.

Just so much drama and, you know, bottom of the ninth, two outs, two strikes I mean just you couldn't script a better dramatic moment than we saw last night.

And hard to believe one, much less two, teams blew leads of that magnitude. But, you know, that's why you play the game.

QUESTION: Actually most of my questions have already been asked but I do have a comment.

As a mom and as a vocal coach in a small town I want to thank you for the projects you have been working on -- Clash in the Choir, The Sing-Off.

They really enabled America to see what choirs and churches and schools – what our groups are trying to do and to continue to grow vocal music and not just electronicbound vocal music but true vocal talent.

And I want to thank you for really working on projects like that, that show kids what music is really about.

NICK LACHEY: I appreciate that. It's certainly my pleasure to be a part of a show like The Sing-Off. It's hard to call it work most days. It's a lot of fun.

QUESTION: Well we thoroughly enjoy watching it and it's great also to have a show that we can all watch as a family and not have to worry about what costumes are being worn or what songs are being sung that are really inappropriate.

So I just want to thank you for being a part of good wholesome programming.

NICK LACHEY: Well, thank you. I appreciate you saying that.

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