Countdown to Christmas with 98°

By Alana Snyder

You don’t have to think twice when listening to festive music, especially when it’s the harmonizing vocals of quartet, 98°. Considering the first time I geeked out to their hits, like I Do (Cherish You) and The Hardest Thing, was when I was in braces, I was elated to get the chance to interview them about their upcoming Christmas tour and album (the follow up to their 1999 platinum holiday record This Christmas). We chatted with Justin Jeffre to talk about Let It Snow, their 20th anniversary, and their show Friday, November 10 at Grand Falls Casino & Golf Resort

What inspired you guys to do another Christmas album together?

I think part of it was this past summer was our 20th anniversary and we were feeling a bit nostalgic. Also, collectively that’s our favorite album that we have done together, which kind of surprised me, because I was never really into doing that. But, once we actually recorded, we were really proud of it. The other part of it was we had never really done a Christmas tour, so we thought it would be a bit of a challenge. We did This Christmas, but we wanted the challenge of finding new holiday songs that we all liked and agreed on. In the past, we have had a Christmas song or two in the show, but never an entire holiday show, which is exciting.

How do you feel about touring up until Christmas Eve?

I think it might be more difficult for the other guys because of their wives and children, but I think the families will come out at some point during the show. It’s great for the guys to have their families on tour, and we made sure to schedule it so we will all be home for Christmas. We are all really excited to do our first Christmas tour so close to Christmas Eve.

What made you decide to release The First Noel first?

Partially, because we pride ourselves on being a vocal group. We wanted to showcase our harmonies and our abilities through acapella. Christmas songs like The First Noel are the kind of songs that are in your DNA that have our own little quirks in them.

What are some of the other songs you guys are doing? Do you have to play rock-paper-scissors to pick your other favorites?

We all kind of had our individual favorites, but then we also asked the producers what their thoughts were. There were some songs that I wasn’t very familiar with, which was cool, too. We wanted to take people on a journey, with more up tempos and variety of holiday music.

Did you feel any pressure to make classic songs your own?

One of the things about being an artist is challenging yourself, and we were fortunate enough to have the opportunity to work with some great producers, which resulted in some great arrangements. These are songs that everybody knows and loves, but they will have our own twist that make them really neat.

What are you looking forward to most?

We are looking forward to the fans and feeling their energy and excitement. Recording and releasing the songs is fun, but there is something special about being able to take our fans on a journey through the show. It’s going to be a fun show, and the thing about a Christmas album is that it isn’t just our normal demographic, but it reaches entire families.

After all this hard work for the Christmas album, do you know what you want for Christmas?

That’s hard. I’m excited to see our friends and families on tour. And being able to do this project with the guys is a Christmas present in itself.

98° will be performing at Grand Falls Casino November 10. Doors open at 7 p.m., show at 8 p.m.