Born in Worcester and raised in Dorchester, singer/songwriter Jordan Knight, 45, rose to prominence as the lead singer of New Kids on the Block. The group sold more than 70 million albums worldwide before breaking up in 1994. Knight pursued a successful solo career before the band reunited in 2008. He has sold more than 1.5 million albums as a solo artist and continues to perform with the group, which also hosts wildly successful boat cruises in the Caribbean; the second season of their reality show, Rock This Boat, premieres on PopTV on June 1. He also pursues business interests such as his investment in Novara, a restaurant that opened in the former home of the Milton Cinema in January. He lives with his wife and two children in Milton.
Jordan Knight: I know, and I’ve always steered clear. Tons of people have asked me, and you always hear the horror stories about how it’s the riskiest investment possible. There are so many moving parts. But in this instance, it felt right.
What made Novara different? There aren’t a lot of restaurant options in Milton. We’ve watched Abby Park grow, and I felt like there was a real market for another great place. So I jumped in. It seemed like a no-brainer.
What’s it like to be an adult still known as a teen idol? It’s funny. A lot of people are like, “You guys are still out there, dancing and doing it? How do you do it?” As if we’re really, really old. I have to remind them that we hit the scene when we were kids. I’m only 45, and look at Mick Jagger or Steven Tyler. They haven’t slowed down.
Top three things in heavy rotation on your listening device right now? This is going to sound funny, but Justin Bieber. Seriously. His latest material is very good. I’m a big fan of Skrillex. And there’s one other DJ whose name escapes me…maybe because I’m so old.
Who knew Jordan Knight was a Belieber! What would your advice be to a kid starting out in the music business? My go-to answer is “Make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons.” Don’t do it because you want to be rich and famous, because that probably won’t happen. And even if it does, to get to that level, you have to go through so many obstacles, and you’re going to get beaten down. The only thing that will get you through those barriers is your love for what you’re doing.
All of you guys escaped the Miley Cyrus trap of getting caught on video with bongs or tumbling out of cars wasted. Being in a group really helped. A lot of people who fall into those traps are solo artists. They don’t have peers going through it. I had Joe, Donnie, Danny and my brother to talk to about things. A solo artist is surrounded by “yes” people, and they all have a motive. The other thing was coming from a big family, as well as being from Boston. A tightknit neighborhood keeps you grounded. If you get too big-headed, they’ll bust your balls.
Band you were in awe of when you were starting out? I always had a dream of playing bass guitar with Aerosmith while they were playing “Dream On” onstage. But we did get to sing with Aerosmith. That was absolutely amazing. One of the highlights of my career. It was at the Boston Strong show. Steven Tyler grabbed me by the neck when all the groups were up on stage, and he thrust the mic in my face. Good thing I knew all the lyrics to “Come Together.”
Were you into the Beatles? Yeah, because of my older brothers and sisters. They were into the whole British Invasion thing, the Who, Led Zeppelin. All the classic rock bands. That’s what I first started listening to before I got into rap, hip-hop and R&B.
Favorite New Kids song? On the reunion album, there’s a song called “Click, Click, Click” that I love. Classic New Kids song? Probably “I’ll Be Loving You (Forever).”
Any songs you regret? No, but I do regret some of my wardrobe choices back in the day. And some of the pictures. We always make fun of the album cover for our Christmas album.
Using the seven dwarves, who was each member of New Kids? I can’t do that to those guys, but a lot of people say I can be a little spacy, so if there was a Spacy that would be me.
You were always characterized as the shy one. I’d definitely say that’s fair.
Who was the clown? All of us were clowns, but Joey was the wiseass. He’s got a snarky sense of humor, and he’s very, very funny.
Which New Kid got the most girls? Danny. He still does.
Best part of being a teen idol? Traveling around the world. We were like kids in a candy store. Hittin’ it big. All the notoriety. Those were fun, but they were the cheap thrills. The very best part of it was feeling like you were part of something magical. A phenomenon. We recorded all our songs in a torn-down house in Roxbury, and to see that little spark turn into what it did just makes you believe in magic.
Worst part? I guess a lot of the backlash. The digs. People saying we lip-synched. All of that. But we overcame that, and we’re still here today. But dealing with the haters was tough, after we’d been loved so much.
Do you still get the same spark performing? I do, and it’s weird because we’re still singing the same songs we’ve been doing for years, but every night still feels new. We always revamp our show and do something to freshen it, not just for the fans but to energize us. And yet it really is the same songs, and you’d think you’d get bored of it, but we cherish and really appreciate what we have. Connecting with the crowd is the thing that I think makes it that way.
Award or accomplishment you’re most proud of? I would say reuniting. Staying together this long. I feel like we did something through our love for music, our love for being onstage and our love for each other. We created something amazing 30 years ago, and we kind of paved the way for other bands. But us coming back together and doing what we’re doing is kind of paving the way again, breaking the myth that a boy band can’t have longevity.
Favorite piece of NKOTB memorabilia? I don’t really have that much. I have the American Music Awards, which are cool. I have a couple of gold records. But my favorite piece of memorabilia is probably the “Hangin’ Tough” eight-times platinum plaque.
Was there ever a time when you were in a weird situation and a New Kids song suddenly came on and it was just awkward? I was in a doctor’s office, getting a certain type of exam—true freaking story—rubber glove and all, and I swear, “The Right Stuff” came on. That was probably the worst.
Ahhhmazing. Favorite venue you ever played? Man. I’m going to have to go with the Garden. I’m thinking of all the different places we’ve played, and I generally like smaller venues, but when we did the Garden, it was just electric. It’s our hometown; all our friends and families are there. There’s just a sense of pride.
How does your wife deal with the screaming, squealing fans? I think she deals with it great. She’s beyond a trooper. She’s so confident. I’m so lucky to have her. She’s so awesome, such a great woman, and being a really good person, secure, knowing who she is, gets her through it. And it’s part of what makes me attracted to her.
Does she ever come on the cruises? No. You know what she says? “Why would I want to spoil the moment for the fans?”
What do your kids and their friends think about who you are? I don’t know. Do my 16-year-old and his friends make fun of us? I have no idea. I did drag my son out on tour a couple of times. When we first reunited, I think he was kind of in awe of what I do, performing in front of thousands of people. Now, I think he’s just like, “That’s what he does.”