Cynics may roll their eyes when they hear that another boy band has entered the fray.
They may change their minds when they see and listen to mytown, Ireland’s answer to Backstreet Boys and ‘N Sync.
They’re the real deal.
“There is a bit of a stigma over here with boy bands, the way the whole thing is going with ‘N Sync and the Backstreet Boys, but we’re out there doing our thing,” Marc Sheehan, one-quarter of the R&B-flavored pop group, said recently. “There isn’t a stigma, though, when we go on the road, because we have the experience of doing big shows in parks and doing the radio shows. There’s no stigma when we’re onstage; everybody seems to be really cool about it. It’s difficult when you do radio or TV things, and they don’t know anything about you, they go, ‘Oh, they’re another boy band,’ but when they see us perform, they change their whole perspective.”
Unlike their multiplatinum rivals, mytown members – Sheehan, Paul Walker, Danny O’Donoghue and Terry Daly – sing, write their own songs, play instruments (hey, what a concept!) and dance.
The Dublin natives will try to win over American teenyboppers and pop lovers with their self-titled debut Cherry Entertainment/Universal album, due May 23.
“You read constantly about a band, but you never get to see them. It gets a bit tiring, and then you start jumping on to the next band that’s coming out,” Daly said. “It’s just a matter of us getting out there and getting in people’s faces. Enough reading about mytown; let’s see what mytown can do.”
Mytown can certainly assemble a powerful team behind it. After winning a deal with Cherry, the group hooked up with Guy and BLACKstreet leader Teddy Riley, who produced three of the album’s 12 tracks, including a remake of Wham!’s “Everything She Wants,” and co-wrote the groove-laced “Body Bumpin’.” Narada Michael Walden (Whitney Houston) was behind the boards for “Love Sent Angel,” and Boyz II Men members Shawn Stockman and Wanya Morris had a production hand in “C’mon Everybody,” “The Day” and the single “Lifetime Affair.”
“At first, I was really intimidated about working with Boyz II Men,” O’Donoghue said. “I’ve grown up listening to them, them being the harmony gods of the planet. Eventually we went into the studio with Wanya (Morris), and it was nothing but friendly and full of advice. They accepted all of our ideas. We thought maybe we’d sit down in the studio and maybe do a vocal. But they were great. They accepted all our ideas and we worked so well together in the studio.”
The hardest part about making the album was whittling a wish list of 50 tracks down to 12. It was so time-consuming that the album’s release date was moved from November to seven months later.
“We had a huge creative row over which songs we wanted on the album and which songs the record company felt should be on the album,” Sheehan said. “They’re very experienced people, so we don’t know a lot about radio or how the music scene works. We just know what we like to hear. We were picky and wanted a certain set of songs on the album, but the creative battling we had with everybody was worthwhile. The 12 songs we picked were the ones that are working for us right now. That’s what delayed the whole process.”
“When you have a creative battle like that,” Walker said, “it’s more constructive than anything else. You feel like you’re moving forward because you’re learning something, like how to deal with those situations. Somebody brings up a cool point and you go, ‘Oh, yeah, I didn’t know that.’ We’re only babies in this business, and we wouldn’t have known so the record company guided us in the right direction.”
Make no mistake, mytown isn’t the pawn of some megalomaniacal producer who choreographs their every move. They make their owns decisions, including moving to the United States for the time being to get their careers off the ground.
“Before we got signed, we couldn’t get signed abroad, like in Europe, because people said ‘A boy band that plays instruments isn’t going to work,’ ” Sheehan said. “When we came to America, they said, ‘This should work. This is the killer thing, a boy band that plays instruments.’ It took us a long time to get signed. We had no money. We went through the whole thing trying to support ourselves over here.
“Getting here, first of all, was a tough thing; our manager (Eamonn Maguire) had to mortgage his house and remortgage it again to pay for us to get here. We all came here broke pretty much. When we eventually got signed, we thought, ‘Yeah, we’ll have money now!’ but nope, the hard work was only beginning. We had to spend 10 months writing the album, coming up with new ideas and trying to be a little bit fresh for our album. It took a lot of time and a lot of patience.”
Cracking the U.S. market is important, Walker says, and moving stateside was a risk they couldn’t resist taking. They just hope their Irish fans understand.
“A lot of people in our hometown wonder where we went and whether we fell off the face of the Earth,” he said, “but we hope we can go back there some day with a bit of a success story.
“Ireland’s a very cool place to go back to. If you get any success anywhere else, they’ll forget about the past and say, ‘Yeah, here we go!’ They support you 100 percent. We’re always getting phone calls from family and friends saying that everybody’s asking about us. Even the Irish press recently have been doing a lot of good stories, saying mytown’s doing really well and working hard.
“We haven’t performed back home in probably about a year and a half. We’re really looking forward to going back there because our act has changed so much; it’s come together so much, we’ve really polished it up. I’d like to go home and say, ‘Hey, look at what we can do.’ People won’t recognize us.”
BWF (before we forget): Visit mytown on the Web @ www.mytown.ie.
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