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Nowhere near the end of the road

HONOURED: Boyz II Men received a star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame last month, and were joined by former member Michael McCary (2nd from left in inset picture)

IT’S perhaps no wonder the trio promotes “old fashioned values.”

With their music capturing an era where love songs still reigned supreme (the ‘90s really did spawn some classics), the fellas are self-confessed romantics.

“Yeah, I think we are,” says Nathan. “We have a pretty good track record when it comes to that sort of stuff!”

Proving he’s an advocate for chivalry, Wanya adds: “I have sons and daughters and I teach my sons to hold the door for my daughters. When it’s time for my daughter to get into the car, I have my son hold the door for her, because that’s what I was taught to do when I was growing up. So I try to pass that on.”

And apparently, Wanya has quite a few children to impart his wisdom to.

“[I’ve got] a lot,” he laughs when asked how many kids he’s got. “When you get past three you just say, ‘a lot!’”

Wanya and Shawn are both married, and all three members have children. But, of course, it’s their relationship as a group, which has earned them fame and success.

Though the ‘90s spawned many male R’n’B groups – Jodeci, Blackstreet, Next et al – none matched the commercial success of Boyz II Men. Nathan considers why this was the case.

“It may have a lot to do with our dedication to the craft. We’ve been doing this since high school and it’s pretty much all we know, so we don’t really have any other options."

“In the industry today there are so many other options. If a group breaks down, group members have options of things they can go off and do individually. Today, there aren’t many male groups that exist other than us in the States – I can’t name three. There is a certain amount of patience and diligence that’s required to be in a group and I think we’ve maintained those things. This [being a group] was all we wanted to do and we remain dedicated to that.”

Making their debut in 1991 as a quartet, there were shock waves amongst their fans when, in 2003, group member Michael McCary left – taking his distinctive baritone vocals with him.

Many questioned how Boyz II Men would survive as a trio, when much of their success was the result of their harmonies. But almost a decade on, the boys are still going strong, as was proved with the release of their 20th anniversary album, aptly entitled, Twenty.

Suffice to say, fans needn’t hold their breath for Michael’s return.

“Unfortunately, he’s not coming back,” says Shawn. “We wanted to bring him back for the 20th anniversary, which would have been the ideal time for him to come back. It could have been big for him too. But mentally, he’s just not there...he doesn’t have the mental capacity to do what we do as a group.”

Though Michael left the band due to physical illness, Wanya claims that his former bandmate’s refusal to return to the group is more about “his belief that he can do what he can do on his own.”

Still, Wanya insists that Michael – who joined his former bandmates when they received a star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame last month– is still like a brother to them.

“We’ll always be like family, but the fact is, we’re grown men and we grew apart. And now, he’s on a different mental plane to the rest of us. There’ll always be that love there because we went through so much together."

"There are things we know about each other that nobody else does. So regardless of whether he’s in the group physically or not, there’ll always be that thing that binds us together.”

Continually recording new music, Boyz II Men refuse to rest on their laurels. Despite boasting a catalogue of hits, the trio aren’t interested in being resigned to the history books and living off past glories. Still, they admit that some of their fans don’t want them to move on.

“There are some people who don’t wanna hear anything new and that’s fine,” says Shawn. “But we need to continue creating music and ensure we don’t get stuck in a time warp! For some people, that era is where they want us to be."

“There will always be people who only want to hear End Of The Road or End Of The Road-type records. But we’re just not on that plane anymore. We love those records and we still love to perform them, but we need to do new things to let people know where we are now. We’ve grown and we’ve changed just like everybody else.”

However, the fellas insist they’re not about to start jumping on any old trend in order to stay relevant.

“One thing with us is we’ve always written in our own way and maintained the integrity of things we believe in,” says Wanya. “So we try to stay clear of the trends because trends come and go. But real music stands still and people always appreciate it."

“That’s part of the reason for the longevity of Boyz II Men and people recognise that. It proves that our music isn’t about trends. It’s about real music and the way that music touches people.”

● Twenty is out now on UMTV

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