Having formed in 1988 as a quintet, Boyz II Men lost founding member Marc Nelson before even being signed. The remaining four, Shawn Stockman, Wanya Morris, Nathan Morris and Michael McCarry carried on undeterred. 1990 saw them sign to Motown Records and the rest as they say is history. With 60 million album sales under their belt and unforgettable hits including “End Of The Road”, I’ll Make Love To You and the massive Mariah Carey duet “ One Sweet Day”, it is little surprise that Boyz II Men want to celebrate their 20th anniversary in style. Now a trio, following the departure of Michael McCarry in 2003 due to chronic back problems, Boyz II Men have just released their ninth studio album Love and will be embarking on a tour of the UK in late 2010. Shawn Stockman took 15 minutes out to reminisce with zap! bang!
It’s been over 20 years since you formed, how do you think you have evolved in that time?
I think we’ve evolved just like pretty much everyone else, every other human being across the scale. All the ups and downs, life’s highs and lows. With all the mess-ups and screw-ups that entails. But I think its all helped us relate to our music a lot more.
Back in 1988, did you ever picture that you’d still be Boyz II Men in 2010?
We never had the perception of actually doing this for a living. But also when we started, we never had a perception of not doing it. Do you know what I’m saying? When things started going, we just thought we could do this till we are old and grey.
The latest album is being hailed as a comeback, but did you ever really go away?
No we haven’t. In the public perception it is a comeback because we weren’t plastered all over the press and TV for the past few years. And we weren’t hanging out with Jay Z or anything like that. But we’ve always been here. We did go through a few changes too. There were some things that just altered, you know we are no longer 4 but 3. So those things I guess led people to discuss being broken up, or not being around anymore. So I understand the public view but we’ve never gone away.
How has your relationship with your fans changed over the years?
People still feel the same, surprisingly. We are very fortunate, people never strayed from us and they never changed. So even with us having one less group member, the public still appreciate our music and our shows. That has never changed and for that we are very grateful.
And how about winning over new fans?
I think we have, because there is a new generation. I mean our original fans were about the same age as us and they now have their own children. And those children are getting to know Boyz II Men and our music. I have seen a couple of children at some of our shows. Our fan base now ranges from toddlers to 90-year-olds. That’s the beauty of what we do.
You have been phenomenally successful over the years. Do you think you will be able to reach the same level of success again?
I don’t think that we’ll ever sell 60 million records again. That’s not reality. The industry has changed and it’s not conducive to selling that many records. It’s just not. But to be successful in the relevancy of today, then yes. I believe we have a lot more in us. We have a lot more songs in us and a lot more today. There are still a lot more things that we have to do creatively. So yeah, we can be in a light where people see us in a way they saw us before.
Our fan base now ranges from toddlers to 90-year-olds.
You mentioned earlier that 4 became 3. Have you managed to maintain your friendship with Michael?
We are still very good friends. We just saw him about a month ago. Even thought we did try to discuss a means of bringing him back to the group, it just didn’t work out. There’s no hard feelings. There’s no bad blood or anything like that, but we continue on. Just as he continues to do what he has to do. But there’s no hard feelings at all.
Within the group, do you think it is our strong friendships that have allowed to you to continue this long?
It’s just a respect for each other, a love for the music and a love for continuing to do it at the level we are doing it. You know, we’ve seen the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. We don’t act like we have it. Its one of the things that has moulded us as artists and as people. It helps us appreciate our music more and it helps us appreciate our supporters more. All of those things make the reason why we are still doing it. The secret of our success is just living the life.
From Michael Jackson to Mariah Carey, Boyz II Men have collaborate with many of the world’s largest musical icons. Is there anybody that you’d still want to work with?
Collectively we always say that we had a chance to work with Prince and it didn’t work out. So that’s just once of those moments that we just wish that we could do it one day. Hopefully we will collectively. Individually, you know personally, I would like to work with the new talents, you know the Browns and people like that. Just to see if we could work together and come up with something that sounds fresh and new. It’s one of those things that we hope to be able to do one day.
In the 20 years of your career, you have definitely changed for Boyz II Men. Do you think your name is still relevant to who you are as a group?
Boyz II Men simply means growth, its a transition. No matter how old you are, you never stop growing. Growth is simply something that every living being on the planet does and will continue to do until they are not living anymore.
A lot of your contemporaries have recently gone down the reality television route. Is that something you have ever considered?
We thought about it, we did think about putting together a television show of some sort and hopefully it will come about. But you are right, it’s one of things where reality TV is the new TV. So to be able to have a show like that it just has to be right. It has to be the right timing. We already chose basically successful people to connect with the individuals that are on the show. That’s what its going to take for us to have a show and for it to be successful. For us to relate it to us and to our music.
We’ve seen our share of ups, highs, downs and lows. It was hard along the way but it did help.
Given the nature of your career, do you find the travelling is hard to balance with your family life?
It can be very difficult at times, in order to deal with certain things we have to do with our families. Where there is a will there is a way. You strive to do it because you love them and you want to see them happy. We also love what we do, our jobs. We try to facilitate both. But at the end of the day, they understand this is what we do and this is how we live.
Over the years there must have been some great highs and lows. What for you were the highest and lowest?
Some of the highlights could be anywhere from us performing with Michael Jackson on several occasions, or to the lows being where we didn’t have the ability to do the big shows anymore and having to do small shows instead. Most my friends wouldn’t be caught dead at them. We’ve seen our share of ups, highs, downs and lows. It was hard along the way but it did help.
You mentioned there were difficult times when your popularity waned. What enticed you to continue regardless?
Just our love for the music and our love for what we do and how we do things. We still have a lasting respect for music. We always will.
Is there one song in your back catalogue which means the most to you?
It’s not really one individual record, because the collection of work defines certain moments of our lives. You know the II album, it defines who we are and who we’ve grown up to be. So, I mean, what we’ve seen, a new era in our lives. A real milestone. That’s how describe our work, not just as individual songs but as milestones in our lives.
2010 marks 20 years since your first record, how do Boyz II Men plan on marking it?
We are working on a 20th anniversary album, which will probably be released if not late this year then early next year. And also for 2011, between February 11th and February 14th we are going to make a cruise. It is going to be called a Love Boat, a cruise from Miami to the Bahamas. It’s going to be a nice little thing where people can come out and meet a couple of guys. Its not going to just be thing where we will be sat there and can say hello, we will be very involved. We will be hanging with our folks, hanging with our fans. It is going to be a lot of fun.
Boyz II Men’s album Love is out now.
For tour dates and more information visit their Official Site.