The Interview: Joey McIntyre of New Kids on the Block
As he gears up for a blockbuster New Kids on the Block show at Fenway Park this summer, Joey McIntyre dishes about teen stardom, Donnie Wahlberg’s dressing-room secrets, and why he’ll always come home to Boston.
Boy-band fans of a certain age may know Joey McIntyre as the youngest member of New Kids on the Block, but in the years since the group’s heyday, the J.P.-raised crooner has proven he’s more than just a teen idol. Beyond his successful solo singing career, McIntyre has appeared on Broadway in Wicked, and off-Broadway in shows like Tick, Tick…Boom! He also competed on the first season of Dancing with the Stars and starred in his own sitcom, while his film credits include The Fantasticks and Tony n’ Tina’s Wedding. Now the busy entertainer is getting ready to move with his wife, Barrett, and three kids from New York to L.A.—but if you ask him, nothing’s better than reuniting with the boys in his hometown.
When was the last time you cried?
I cried on the phone to my sister about a month ago. It was definitely connected to the pandemic, and just the journey, and sort of seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. But it was also connected to moving back to L.A., and doing restoration work on my home. It just brought me to my knees, the combination of the two, and the tears came. And of course, it always feels better when that happens. It’s such a relief. It’s like, why don’t I cry more often?
What do your kids think of New Kids on the Block?
They think it’s a fun place to be. Walking into arenas…it’s one big party to them. And certainly, they love the guys. They’re all like their uncles, so it’s very much a family affair at this point. But they totally keep me grounded, as far as music and pop culture. They love it, but they still think I can be corny at the same time.
Back in the day, when you guys were young and single, who was the biggest player in the group?
Well, the Three Amigos were Jordan [Knight], Donnie [Wahlberg], and Danny [Wood], you know? I don’t know if anyone had more conquests than the other, but it was definitely like the Serengeti out there.
What’s the weirdest place you’ve been in when one of your songs came on?
Remember there used to be a Brigham’s in Jamaica Plain, on Centre Street? I was by myself, eating breakfast, and my single “Stay the Same” came on. It was a top-10 record. It was just at that dentist’s office level of volume, which makes it kind of funky. At the same time, I’m kind of looking around, and I kind of want to make eye contact, but I also don’t want to be noticed. That’s when you know your song is a hit—when it’s playing at volume three in Brigham’s.
Strangest part of being a teen idol, or the point when you said, “Jesus Christ! This is so weird.”
I bought a really big, old Colonial house when I was 18. It was built in the 1740s, and it was on Warren Street in Brookline, in a really fancy neighborhood. It was like I was playing house, you know? Like make-believe. I had a lot of siblings, so it was Hotel McIntyre, but it just didn’t make sense. At the time, I thought Jordan was crazy for getting a two-bedroom apartment by the Prudential. I said, “What are you doing?” But now, I understand. He was wise beyond his years. We were kids. It was totally inappropriate. I mean, granted, I loved it. It was a great house. But it was a bit much.
Most uncomfortable fan encounter? I know you’ve had a million.
Well, speaking of that house, a lot of people, actually, would show up, from halfway across the world. They’d sit across the street, on the stone wall, and you want to be nice. I don’t think there was ever a time when I drove off without saying hi. But it’s one thing if it’s a group of girls, and they’re having fun, and they’re like, “Oh, let’s see if he’s there.” You take a picture, and it’s all good. But if it’s just one girl sitting there, obsessively, it’s a little freaky. And then some of the letters you get are weird. They really think they have this massive, genuine connection, and sometimes you think, “Should I make a call? Should I report this?” You know, you hate to be that guy, but it’s not about me, it’s about their mental health. But mostly, it’s just fun.
How do Barrett and the kids deal with it when somebody mobs you?
Well, my kids want me to be nice, which I am, and I hope that means that I’ve raised them a certain way. I don’t want to make myself sound like a jerk, and I’m not, but basically, if they sense that I’m trying to brush it off, they’re like, “Not cool.” But I’m always flattered. I’m very lucky to do what I do, and to have the fans I have, and at this point, we’re older, so it’s not so crazy. It’s not A Hard Day’s Night.
What’s the thing you miss most about Boston?
Well, I do get up there quite a bit, but I grew up in Jamaica Plain, and when I was growing up, it was lower-middle-class. Now, of course, you can’t get in there. The streets of my neighborhood are like a storybook. When I was a kid, every house needed a paint job. Now, it’s exquisite, which is great. It looks like this really magical little town. I didn’t know how lucky I was, but Jamaica Pond has always been that happy place, where I could get away and just be in the moment.
Tell me a secret about Donnie Wahlberg.
He leaves his underwear in the dressing room wherever he takes ’em off. If you want to know if Donnie was in the room, or somewhere close, just look on the floor. If there’s underwear, that’s where he was.
What’s the song you sing the most in the shower?
It sounds odd, but the national anthem. It’s always a good way to find out where my voice is, because you’ve got to start really low and then get really high.
One song you wish you wrote?
Right now? The entire Olivia Rodrigo album. Have you listened to it yet? Granted, she’s 18. She’s on a Disney show. But she’s it. It’s the hottest album, pure rock ’n’ roll. To me, it’s an instant classic. It’s like a Carly Simon record. My daughter and I, when I drive her to gymnastics, we’re always listening to it.
Is there an NKOTB song that you’re just sick of performing?
Of course, if I say there is, they’re going to be all over me, so what I will say is that we certainly don’t listen to the music in our car. But when you’re playing, you know, Fenway Park for 35,000 people, it’s amazing. It’s more about that than the song itself. It’s the performing aspect.
What’s one thing that your fans would be surprised to learn about you?
When I go into a public restroom, I’ll tidy up a little bit. If you think about it, all you need to do is push those hand towels down. You take three or four new ones, and you wipe the sink down. You get three or four off the floor. Then you wash your hands really well, and it’s your good deed for the day.
Any superstitions before you go on stage?
Oh, man, from about 2008, when we got back together, until about 2015, I wore the same underwear at every show. They were washed. Finally, they gave out, but that was quite a streak.
What’s your secret party trick, or thing that you do to impress people in a social situation?
If there’s a band, it’s always nice to get up and sing a song. I don’t know if that’s cheating or not, but it’s fun, and you can get a lot of mileage out of it. In my darker times, it was dancing on the bar at Dad’s Beantown Diner. They always yanked me off after a while.
Anything you miss about touring?
I love to bring a bike. It’s just an amazing way to see a city. On tour, it’s very easy to stay on the tour bus and in the arena all day long. But if I get on my bike, I feel like a kid. You’re just exploring. You’re in the moment. It’s a little addictive because it’s so exciting. And then you come back home and you have to settle back into the everyday. But I don’t miss the bus. I hit 40 and the tour bus was not fun anymore, right? Sleeping, you’re going 75 miles an hour down the highway, on a bed. It’s not ideal.
I think your podcast, The Move with Joey McIntyre, about moving, is really interesting. What gave you the idea for that?
It was a way to share and connect with people about what I was going through when I moved to New York. Now, of course, three years later, I’m moving back to L.A. I thought of it as sort of like Queer Eye for people who are moving. Everybody’s clueless, it seems. We all move at some point, but every time, we go, “What do we do? How do we do this?”
Is there one thing you’d like to erase from your IMDb credits?
I like when people forget that I was on Dancing with the Stars, because the reality is that I did it because I didn’t have anything else at the moment. I’d just gotten off a really bad pilot season. I was trying too hard, and forcing things. But I did get a lot out of it. You live and learn. And to each his own. Other than that? Not really. I love doing the theater I get to do, on Broadway and off-Broadway, and some stuff in L.A.
What one thing do you do that drives Barrett nuts?
Oh, man. She’s too sweet to point it out, but I kind of like to incorporate air when I swallow, if you will. Like, it’s a little too slurpy, but it just tastes better that way. If I have a cocktail or something, and there’s ice in it, there’s a little bit of that. And then my kids say I clean it out of my teeth. I do like a little [noise].
In Yiddish, it’s called chupse.
Okay, so that. Yeah. I guess I’m kind of a noisy drinker.
On the NKOTB cruises, did you ever feel trapped? You were stuck on a ship with thousands of fans and you couldn’t get off.
It’s very intense. We do have our own section, but we really go all in. We’re crowd-surfing half an hour into the voyage. You have to buy into the ridiculousness of the situation, and we do. We go hardcore for four days and four nights, and we give them the time of their lives. Yes, it’s crazy. Everybody wants a selfie, like every five seconds, but we’re very open with everyone. They’re extended family by now. They’re not just fans, so I’ll be like, “Listen, enough with the selfies already.” But we embrace the inclusivity of it all.
One person who made you starstruck?
When I was 17, I had a massive crush on Madonna. I’d be on my tour bus alone, listening to her album. And I’m like, okay, she’s dating Warren Beatty, and they were the same age difference as her and me. I was like, “This is gonna happen.” We had people who worked on her tour working on our tour. So I went to a concert in New York, the Blond Ambition tour. And she looked down at me and winked. My heart fell to the floor, right? They had me come back to the after-party. She talked to me for a little while. And then, later on, she was on the dance floor with her dancers, and she turned around, and I was there, and we danced for a couple of songs. It was surreal.
What would you tell your 13-year-old self if you could
You have more time than you think. Slow down. I just think when you’re younger, you always feel like you’ve got to rush everything.
How did you escape all the traps of teenage stardom—the partying, the drugs, the clubs, the enablers, the yes men? None of you guys fell into that hole.
Simple: I have seven older sisters.
How do you most want to be remembered?
You mean when I die, in 60 years? I want to be remembered as the guy who sang lead on New Kids on the Block’s first hit record, and continued to sing the hell out of it until the day he died.
Play It Again
Over the years, reunions have given us more—sometimes much more—of our favorite Boston-born groups.
Number of New Edition’s five original members who reunited to form a new band, Bell Biv Devoe. They’ll perform at the NKOTB concert next month.
Number of Cars members who weren’t present for the band’s short 2011 reunion tour—bassist Benjamin Orr, who passed away in 2000.
Number of years Mission of Burma spent on hiatus before reuniting in 2002.
Length, in months, of Aerosmith’s 1984/85 reunion tour, which brought the band back from the edge of extinction.
Number of years by which the current, post-reunion run of the Pixies (2004 to the present) exceeds the band’s original run (1986 to 1993).