After Rich Cronin's initial battle with leukemia in 2005, the former LFO singer made it his mission to educate the world on the importance of donating blood and stem cells.
Cronin had not yet undergone a stem-cell transplant — "And hopefully I never do," he told MTV News in January 2006 (see "LFO Singer In Remission After Chemo Treatment; Working On Solo LP") — but donated blood had saved his life.
Now, a year later, the same can be said for those stem cells. "After I was in remission for a year, I relapsed and they told me my only shot was a stem-cell transplant," Cronin explained. "Neither my brother nor my sister was a match and they said, 'Well, we're going to have to go into the donor pool and it's rare that you find a match.' But thank God they did find me a perfect match."
After a week of intense radiation and chemotherapy treatment, Cronin received his new stem cells on July 14. He was out of the hospital by late August, but he could barely walk until December.
What motivated the singer to get back on his feet was a project that stemmed from an idea Cronin had long before he was diagnosed. "Me and a friend of mine made our own little homemade pilot for a reality show I was trying to do about myself trying to get back into the business," he said.
Cronin was in talks with VH1 when he got sick, but the show didn't materialize. (MTV debuted the similarly themed "There & Back: Ashley Parker Angel" last January.) While he was in the hospital, however, VH1 came back to Cronin with a new idea: making a supergroup with former boy-band members.
"About 20 different versions" of the show were developed over the course of a year, Cronin says, until the final lineup of Cronin, Chris Kirkpatrick of 'NSYNC, Jeff Timmons of 98 Degrees and Bryan Abrams of Color Me Badd met in front of the cameras in January (see " 'Surreal Life' Meets 'Making Of The Band': Boy-Band Supergroup Coming To TV").
"I told my doctors, 'I have to do it,' and they weren't too pleased," Cronin said. "But I don't care, man. I just want to live my life. I'm just trying to enjoy every opportunity that comes to me, because for the last two years I have been cooped up in hospital rooms with doctors sticking me with needles and giving me bad news. For something like this to come around, it's like it's not going to come again. That's why I don't really care if people are making fun of me. I'm having a blast."
Just returning to music was enough. That Cronin is collaborating with guys who inspire him and contributing to songwriting is a bonus.
"We all had our own motives for doing the show, but as time went on and we started recording with [Grammy-winning producer Bryan-Michael Cox] we loved it so much that it was like, 'Maybe we should really do this,' " Cronin said. "So at this point, it's not about the TV show anymore, it's really about the fact that we think we have something here."
Cronin described the band's music as R&B with hip-hop undertones, a merging of the styles of each of their previous groups.
"Bryan came in and gave us each a track and said, 'I want you guys to all go off separately and write a song to this track,' " Cronin recalled. "And the track was very universal. So we all went off to our separate areas and three hours later we each sang what we came up with. And that was brilliant because he realized what our style was, where we were coming from naturally and then from that he developed tracks that would fit all of us."
Each of the guys quickly developed a role in the group, with Kirkpatrick taking on the leadership role. "Out of all of us, he was just ridiculously successful, and he must have learned a thing or two," Cronin said. "Jeff is really into the other side of the business, he's got ideas about how we can market ourselves, how we can make this happen. Bryan is like our teddy bear. He doesn't understand the kind of talent he has. And I'm the comedic relief."
Personally and musically, Cronin said there's been no conflict between the singers. Instead, the drama in the show will come from the struggles each one is facing in their own lives.
Well, that and facing the public.
"We played at halftime of an Orlando Magic game and we got booed by 20,000 people," Cronin recalled. "I suppose that was the point. We get the joke now. But then we also played at [famed nightclub] Mansion in Miami and the place was going absolutely insane. You could see these girls, early 20s, maybe mid-20s, and they are still into it, man. If we just came up with some bullsh-- music then we deserve all the sh--, but this stuff is really, really hot."