Boyz II Men (due this Monday, September 5 at the Taste of Colorado) is the best selling R&B group of all time. Having sold over sixty million albums worldwide and continuing to tour consistently, even during the group's more recent down years, the crooning fellas from Philly have enjoyed the type of longevity most could only dream of attaining.
The crew, now consisting of Nathan Morris, Wanya Morris and Shawn Stockman, is back like they never left, and the truth is, they haven't. Set to release a new album, Twenty, on October 25, this will be the first time in ten years fans will hear new Boyz II Men music. We caught up with Stockman to discuss creativity, longevity, and the formula that's kept Boyz II Men in tip top shape as a group.
Westword: How does it feel to be releasing new material after ten years, all while celebrating twenty solid years in the industry?
Shawn Stockman: It's so crazy because it doesn't really seem like it's that long. It feels really liberating because we're writing new material and keeping our minds fresh all the time, but to apply it to the new album, is really great. I feel like I can express myself about things and sing about other topics that are important to me that come with growth. It's nice to expose a different side to the fans.
Even though this is the first new music we've heard from Boyz II Men in ten years, the band has been touring pretty consistently. How does that work?
We've conditioned ourselves over the years to be able to tour for long periods of time. We've toured all over the world and learned very early on to cultivate ourselves wherever we go, whether that's writing or whatever we are working on. Every band experiences a "down period," and we knew that would happen. No one likes it, necessarily, but it's important if the band is going to grow. We like to stay sharp and keep focused on the chemistry we have between us and the music we create.
After all this time, how does that band chemistry stay strong?
In our creative process, we don't think too much. We've worked together for so long that we refined our approach more and more, and it just works when we get in the studio. I don't actually even write my lyrics down anymore. I can't just sit at a computer and expect the lyrics to come to me. I have to sing the melody and listen to what the track is trying to convey. It happens very quickly. A lot of songwriters in the industry use this philosophy, and I've learned that it helps me a lot.
Does creating a song feel just as good as it was in the earlier times?
Yes it does. It's a different kind of good, though. We like to stay working. We don't sit and sulk in our own success. Our approach is to constantly work and make music that is accessible to people who have never heard us, or are hearing us in a different way. We like to reinvent ourselves as much as possible.
Are you out to capture the classic Boyz II Men sound with Twenty by working with Babyface, Jimmy Jam, Terry Lewis and others?
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It's really all natural when we come together. These are guys that are hugely responsible for our success as a group, and so getting together fits perfectly. We try to let it flow and know what we want from any set of producers. We worked with a set of producers out of Chicago, The Interns, and the process was really smooth because we knew how to get in there and create the record we wanted.
You're also one of the hosts on Sing Off. Along with touring and writing, releasing a new album, and now also the show, how are you balancing everything.
[laughs] Very carefully. All I'm asking for throughout this next few weeks is that I don't get sick. I'm going to be taping for the show, also performing in China, and then right back to the States. I'm staying focused, taking a lot of B-Complex pills and keeping things simple. I like staying busy and I'm thankful for that, because I could be at home doing the opposite. I'm one who likes to remain knowledgeable in my craft, so that I become wiser. That's how it remains so natural and abundant.