It’s a feeling he hasn’t experienced since his multi-platinum boy band 98 Degrees last performed together in 2001.
“I was nervous,” the singer, 38, tells me. “I didn’t know how people were going to receive it, but everybody loved it. It was crazy – the women rushed the stage. I haven’t had that happen for a long time. The whole audience crowded up towards the front. They’re originally seated there, so I came to the front of the stage and I was like ‘OK, good, this is good!’”
Despite feeling reluctant to undress last month (“I don’t know if I’m in the shape I was in the 98 Degrees days,” he confessed.), Jeff is in the spirit now.
“I took my shirt off,” he says. “We did that in the group anyways. Now I was a little nervous because compared to those guys, I’m not big and giant and ripped like those guys, but that’s part of their thing to do these tear-away t-shirts and get the crowd going. I was like ‘I’ll do it.’ The crowd loved it. They thought it was cool. It was funny. I had a ton of fun doing it.”
To prepare for taking his top off, Jeff has given up his bad habits and adopted good ones.
“I stopped drinking beer – no more alcohol,” he says. “Back to lifting heavy weights and working out in the gym, cardio and P90X.”
He adds, “I want to be in good shape and I’ve always tried to be in good shape. All of us in the group did. I’m doing P90X some days. I’m doing heavy weights other days and lots and lots of cardio. I’m mixing it up to confuse my body and it’s definitely confused!”
How has giving up alcohol changed his body?
“I would drink beer occasionally in the studio when I’m working on music and now I don’t do that anymore,” Jeff says. “Even if you drink once a week socially, you can definitely see a difference in your body as far as holding water and body fat when you stop and cease from drinking altogether.”
For Jeff, who emcees the show and performs a medley of songs, the highlight is showing off his musicality.
“The crowd was familiar with the 98 Degrees songs, but when I sang one of my new songs, Emotional High, they’ve never heard it before, and they got up out of their seats and started jamming and dancing to it. Afterwards, I got a lot of compliments about the song. I think that was gratification.”
Still, becoming part of Chippendales took some coaxing from his old manager, Mike Caprio, who represents Chippendales.
“He approached me about doing Chippendales and, of course, I was like, ‘Hell no, I’m not doing the Chippendales!’ I’m not a male stripper, but he coaxed me and enticed me to come check out the show. Those guys are not male strippers. It’s a multi-million dollar production. It’s at the Rio in a $10,000,000 facility. Those guys are singers and choreographed dancers. I was impressed with the entertainment level that that show provided.”
Wait … they’re not strippers?
“The guys take their shirts off and they’re big old muscle-y guys,” he says. “That whole thing’s involved with it still, but they’re not doing lap dances and getting single dollar bills in their g-strings. It’s a seriously well-put-together show. You know how Vegas is now. You’ve got to have serious entertainment, and that’s what goes on with that show at the Rio.”
One source of encouragement is his wife Amanda, who cheers him on to go for the Chippendales gig and attends the debut performance.
“She said, ‘You should think about doing it.’ She actually encouraged me to do the gig and I think for her, she thought it was something that’s a good opportunity for me. She’s a fan of my music and for me, it’s a good way for me to get the new music out there and show people a different dimension as far as the entertainment factor of me as a solo artist.”
Despite his growing contentment with the all-male revue, he doesn’t see himself growing so comfortable that he would bare all in the pages of a men’s magazine.
“They put some photos from my first solo album, Whisper That Way, in Playgirl. I would never do Playgirl naked. There’s no way! I’m way too shy for that. There’s no way!”
Hm, he doesn’t want to embarrass his family?
“No, it’s more about myself,” he confesses. “I think I have so much support with my family and everybody knows how the entertainment business goes. I think that for me, I’m very private about my private parts. I’m shy about that stuff. I’m even shy about taking my shirt off. They had us taking our shirts off in every photo shoot for 98 Degrees.”
Thanks to the Chippendales gig, one bonus is the month he will spend in Sin City.
“I like Las Vegas, but I don’t gamble too much,” he says. “I like to go and see the shows there. I went with my wife. Recently we went to see Peepshow. I like to go there and socialize. I have a lot of friends in Vegas, so for me it’s a good time to get away from the family and go out there and enjoy time on my own. We always have a fun time when we’re in Vegas.”
Another bonus? He’s staying at the Rio.
“It’s a beautiful suite,” Jeff says. “They’re taking care of me for this. It’s new for them. They’ve never had a celebrity guest go in there and they’re trying to revamp the image of what people think the Chippendales are all about and if you go see the show, it’s totally different than what you expect.”
He continues, “The Rio is awesome! It’s a beautiful casino. It’s got three or four pools and the staff is accommodating. It’s an enjoyable time. It’s fantastic.”
Here’s a pic of Jeff at Chippendales, and a retro pic with 98 Degrees: