O2 Gives O-Town Members Room To Breathe, Write

Bandmembers flex their songwriting skills as they aim to show their depth.

O-Town promise that their second effort, O2, will once and for all separate the men from the boy bands.

The group expects the album — due October 1, according to their publicist — will prove that O-Town aren’t ‘NSYNC wannabes, but a real group with divergent personalities and musical tastes.

“Our new album is a lot more us — it’s more of us individually,” explained Trevor Penick. “We had a lot more say in it, and we’ve written a lot more on this album. And the fans that know us, those who hang out [after the shows] won’t be very surprised. They’ll be very happy that it’s more us and it’s more guitar-driven and goes a lot deeper into hip-hop.”

While Penick claims those influences abound on O2, O-Town haven’t completely abandoned their dance-pop affinity. In fact, it’s “Girl Like That,” a song he co-wrote with his fellow O-Town group member Dan Miller, that carries his personal stamp of distinction.

“It’s got a club vibe to it. It’s about hangin’ out, chillin’ at the club,” he said. “Drinkin’, kickin’ it with the ladies. … So that kind of has me coming out on it.”

Of the roughly eight songs completed, Penick and Miller aren’t the only ones taking songwriting credits. Ashley Angel, the rocker of the group, penned two tunes: “Suddenly,” which he co-wrote with former Lyte Funky One Rich Cronin, and the dark-themed “From the Damage,” described as very Goo Goo Dolls- or Third Eye Blind-sounding by Penick.

Though the music has “a good rock feel to it,” Angel explained, “Everything we do is in the pop vein. It’s pop music, but we’ve been fortunate that, having a lot of different personalities and coming from diverse backgrounds, we can pull off a lot of different stuff. That’s been the challenge of the second album, to find the middle ground between changing the sound and keeping elements of the old. But I think people will be pleasantly surprised.”

Other songs on O2 include “Favorite Girl,” a track produced and co-written by Nelly (see “New O-Town Album To Include Track From Nelly” ), and “I Showed Her,” a tune Penick likened to “All or Nothing” from the group’s 2001 self-titled debut.

Since the release date of O2 has been moved several times from its initial early July street date, O-Town fans aren’t the only ones eagerly awaiting the LP’s arrival.

“We’re just as excited as everybody else,” Miller said. “We’re kind of getting tired of the old songs too.”

“In the beginning, to be honest, when we kept pushing the album back, it was little nerve-wracking,” Penick added. “We were worried about being out of the public eye too long. Now, knowing the material we’re going to drop when it comes out, it’s very soothing. I’m not nervous anymore.”

O-Town spoke about their impending release at a press conference in New York on Thursday to announce their participation in the Hard Rock Academy, a music-industry school that provides education and instruction to young people hoping to break into the business, not just as performers but in behind-the-scenes capacities such as producers and songwriters. Sessions began July 3 in Orlando, Florida, and run through the end of August.

Hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons joined O-Town on the academy’s Celebrity Advisory Council, which will periodically visit the school to offer advice. As Simmons explained from the podium, the academy strives to provide more than just instruction on the fundamentals by emphasizing perseverance and determination.

“Everyone, your friends and family, encourages you at first. Then after awhile, they’re like, ‘Damn, why don’t you quit that sh–?’ or ‘Why don’t you take that job at McDonald’s?’ There’s only so much gas the outside world can give you. You have to keep up your motivation yourself.”