LiveDaily Interview: Donnie Wahlberg of New Kids on the Block
After New Kids on the Block's 14-year hiatus, Donnie Wahlberg said he was surprised by the chemistry that remained between the group and its fans.
"It's pretty intense between us and the fans," the soft-spoken Wahlberg said during an interview with LiveDaily. "That's the part that's sort of shocking everyone. The emotional kicker is the bond between us and the fans."
He's also flattered that fans will spend their hard-earned cash and free time with New Kids on the Block, which recently released the album "The Block." In turn, the act--which also includes Joey McIntyre, Jonathan Knight, Jordan Knight and Danny Wood-- has "set out to give them everything they could hope for with this show--the old, the new, the balance of both.
"It's not dull," Wahlberg added. "It's not overly self-indulgent. It's a very unselfish show, to be honest with you. That was our goal: To give people their money's worth. I think that's what you can expect--to get just that and more. We could say, 'Hey, we're going to give you value. We're going to give you two hours. We're going to kick ass. We're going to do every song we can imagine. We're going to do every dance step that you remember and tons of new dance steps. We're going to work our asses off. And we're going to give you the money's worth.' The thing you could never plan for was this unity that's happening in the building."
Wahlberg took the time to talk to LiveDaily about his group's return to the stage, why "Summertime" was the perfect first single and why creativity is a mystery.
LiveDaily: How's the tour going?
Donnie Wahlberg: It's coming along.
Is it better than you thought it would be?
I think the reaction from the crowds and from the fans is more than I could have imagined it could be. In terms of the work itself, I would hope it would be the best set we could do and nothing less. There's always two ways to answer these questions. I think the fan reaction has been mind boggling at times, how amazing it's been and consistent and intense. As far as the work itself, it's a whole 'nother thing. The creative process is what it is. People say, like, 'How does it feel to be doing it again?' I'm part of a creative process. Being part of a creative process is always fun and exciting. It's always exciting and very satisfying. It's not like, 'How does it feel to be sleeping with your ex-wife?' or a girlfriend from high school again after 20 years. It's not like that. It's like, 'How does it feel to be creative again?' It feels the same way it always feels when you're creative--it feels incredible.
It must also feel good to be back out on the stage after taking such a long break.
It's just a creative process. The fans and their reaction is the part that you can't expect. That can only surprise you. Does it feel great to be on stage again? I always feel like I'm on stage. Even if I'm acting, I'm somewhat on a stage. But it's so much about where you are. It's about what you're doing. When I'm on stage, I'm being creative and performing, and if I'm on a movie set, I'm doing the same thing. That feeling is always a very satisfying and rewarding feeling.
Was it hard to put your movie career on hold for New Kids on the Block?
Um, was it difficult? No. It wasn't difficult because the goals were to make music, to make new music, to make an album. I was feeling very passionate about writing songs and being creative in a different way than acting for a little while. I think certain changes taking place in my life certainly probably lit that fire. If it was just a reunion of doing old songs and the same old stuff, yeah, I would not have put my career on hold for that. I don't go backward in life. I go forward. In order to work with the New Kids, it had to be in a way that was going to create forward momentum for me. Or be a new challenge as opposed to an old challenge, or trying to reignite an old flame. The central part of it was putting the album together. The fact that we were making new music, it really drove me to really want to take part in it and not only take part in it, but be in the forefront of it.
Why is now the right time for a New Kids on the Block reunion?
I can't answer that question. I can't answer that. I could try. You make a choice and you put your energy out there and people react or not. For the five guys, why was it time? I think you'd have to ask each guy individually. For me, had it not worked, I'm sure a lot of people would have said, 'What the hell were you thinking Donnie?' But I believed it would work. I believed we could put a great album together and put a great tour together. I think we had the maturity to not worry about the things we can't control. You can spend 11 months, 12 months saying, 'What if no one comes? What if no one comes? What if the fans don't react?' If we make a great album, and they don't react well, then we made a great album and we can feel good about that. That's kind of the approach that I take as an actor. I just do my best work. I can't control what happens with the movie once it's done. It's the same thing with this. I focused on the things I could control and didn't worry. I did all the work, the research, and different things I could do to ensure the greatest success. I didn't sit around with my fingers crossed. I definitely took initiative and did things to sort of fire up the buzz about the group and stuff. At the same time, I didn't lose sleep over the things that were out of the New Kids' control. I lost sleep making music.
What was the songwriting process like for "The Block"?
It depended on the situation. What happened mostly was that [producer] Nazri, the young kid who wrote "Click Click Click," which was the first song that really kind of lit the spark in me, him and I became really close and we started writing a lot together. As different producers were coming around wanting to work with the group, I would screen them out to see if they had the right energy for the project and then, usually, I would invite Nazri and he and I would write together with the producers. At times different guys in the group would come along. Other times, there was just me. I think the difference in the songwriting process this time for me more than any time in the past was that, in the past, I was always very isolated. I was in Boston, in my studio, in my workspace with my team. I would control songs from the ground up. This time, I was much more of a collaborator. I would meet with a producer who I really liked. They would start building a track with me. We would start throwing ideas around and just write a song that way. It was much more open for me. I think probably, again, my acting career has really helped me so much [with] doing [New Kids] over again. My work ethic is much greater because of my acting career, and applying my work ethic now to the energy and creativity that I already had--it's almost like I'm a kid in a candy store in the music business. You put me with talented producers [and], with my work ethic, we're going to get great s--- done. I won't sleep until it's right. That's how I am as an actor. It's the same with the tour: I'll never sleep until my creative juices are completely drained. I got the answer to the mystery I'm trying to figure out--which, every day in the creative world, there's always a new mystery. I think, as an actor, I've had to be much more collaborative with writers, screenwriters, directors and stuff like that. I've sort of applied a lot of that into my songwriting this time. It made me a better songwriter, for sure.
Had you been writing songs during the break?
No, not at all. There hadn't been much to write about.
How did you choose "Summertime" as the first single?
It was a matter of time, circumstance and other factors. The song really spoke to the New Kids' sensibilities. There was a lot of trying something, a real departure from what the New Kids did. Like, something really different, 'Let's shock the world.' At the same time, when you take those chances, you run the risk of alienating your core fans. I think the most important thing for us to establish was our desire to bring back our core fans. We don't want to alienate the people who made us who we were in the first place. We want to give them the option of coming back to the table. The song was sort of about them. It was springtime, summertime was coming along. Thematically and time-wise, it just made a lot of sense.
How do you feel "The Block" fits in with your catalog?
I think it's the perfect next chapter. I think our last album, "Face the Music," was a little too much of a departure at times from the traditional New Kids' sound. I think we did a better job this time of balancing the different musical sensibilities in the group with the tried and true New Kids sound. There's a lot of great melodies and harmonies and simple pop melodies. But I think we brought in the other elements--hip-hop and R&B--much better without bogging it down. It's a much more unselfish album. Music really comes from an unselfish place. There's songs that some people think are very sexual. But they're really celebrations of women, in a lot of cases. Even the song "Sexify My Love," it's not really as just sex-based as it sounds. It's about taking on a relationship that's been building to the next step. It's not like, 'Hey, let's have sex on the first date.' It's saying, 'Hey we've been seeing each other for awhile and we really love each other, maybe it's time to go to that next step.' That's kind of rare these days, for anyone to wait until the second or third date. It's almost unheard of. This song is about doing it after already falling in love with someone.
What's next? Have you started thinking about another album?
We're five dates into a 50-stop tour and I can tell you the only thing on my mind is stop No. 6. I'll be honest with you: I do plan things long range, but, right now, getting the tour up and running has been such a priority and the focal point in my life, I haven't really begun to explore the options yet. Probably by show No. 7, I'll be ready to start exploring what the future holds.
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