Singer Shawn Stockman talks opening night and the secret to his group’s longevity.
Washington residents got a taste of ’90s nostalgia in December as Boyz II Men serenaded the very first audience at MGM National Harbor’s brand new theater. The R&B super group brought their MGM Mirage Act to town to give locals a taste of their Vegas show before they embark on a summer stadium tour. As a lifelong fan, I jumped at the opportunity to see the trio perform live in my own backyard, just a short drive from DC. To open the theater, Boyz II Men sang all their hits including “Motownphilly,” “End of the Road” and “I’ll Make Love to You” as well as some unexpected covers such as Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and The Beatles’ “Come Together.” The night was capped off with a very special engagement during the group’s post show meet and greet, as my fiancé (also an avid fan) got down on one knee and popped the question in front of Boyz II Men. After that exciting evening, I caught up with member Shawn Stockman to get his thoughts on MGM National Harbor, his group’s music and where to get a great cheesesteak in Philly.
Washington Life: The MGM Theater at National Harbor has quickly become one of the Washington area’s top venues, which will see its fair share of top acts. But it can only have one inaugural act. How does it feel to have that honor?
Shawn Stockman: We are honored and humbled to have this incredible opportunity. We have had a great partnership with the MGM working with them since 2013 for our residency at The Mirage, so when they approached us to be the inaugural act, we immediately said yes. We are excited to warm up the stage for the many top acts to follow.
WL: For Washingtonians who can’t make it to Vegas, how does MGM National Harbor compare? Have you checked any of it out besides the theater?
SS: Vegas has become our home, but exploring the MGM National Harbor has been a lot of fun. We have loved every aspect of it from the rooms to restaurants and of course the theater.
WL: What’s the Total Package Tour you are doing next summer? How did you connect with Paula Abdul and New Kids on the Block?
SS: We had toured with New Kids on the Block a few years ago and had a blast so we’ve wanted to do it again, and the timing was perfect. Paula was the perfect fit to join the tour. We all performed at the Mixtape Festival together and once we all connected, the Total Package Tour fell into place.
WL: After 25 years your shows are still energetic and amazing. Where does that energy come from?
SS: The fans! No matter how many times we sing the same song, the reaction from the crowd is always full of energy and excitement. We owe everything to our fans and having them still come out to our shows and share their stories keeps us going.
WL: You are very grateful to your fans in your shows. Can you explain what they mean to you?
SS: They are the reason we have been so successful to this day. We were just a few guys from Philly trying to make it as singers and the fans came out to support us from day one so we couldn’t be more grateful.
WL: Are your fans people who have been by your side since the early ’90s or do you see any fans in your audience that may not have been alive in the early ’90s (or as you like to say in your show, were a “Boyz II Men baby”)?
SS: Our fans have gotten older and younger. When many artists have their fans grow old with them, our fans grow up, but they also pass along our music to their children which allows our fan base to skew much younger than one would think. Given the fact that the sound of music has changed so much over the past 2.5 decades, introducing our music to younger fans is almost like introducing a brand new style of music.
WL: The music industry has changed a lot in 25 years. Do you attribute your longevity to evolving with the industry, staying true to your roots, or a combination of both?
SS: I think it really comes down to our core philosophy. As artists, we are committed to making timeless music, we are willing to work hard, and everything we do is for the fans. That’s how we’ve always approached our careers and I think the industry and the fans have responded to that. We don’t take success for granted, and I think that has absolutely contributed to our longevity.
WL: Any other tips for super groups looking to still be going strong after 25 years?
SS: Work hard and listen to your fans. As long as you continue to give the people who support you what they want, there is no doubt you will be successful.
WL: What’s on your playlist today? What does Boyz II Men listen to?
SS: We like to mix it up between older and newer artists. We love Prince, he’s such a legend and of course we like the younger guys like Justin Timberlake or Justin Bieber.
WL: Your harmonies are inspired by the Philly Doo Wop sound, but do you have any other influences?
SS: We are influenced by all the greats, but Prince has been one of our biggest inspirations.
WL: As a fan, you’ve meant so much to my life, as I am sure you have to many fans. Your music has been a soundtrack for so many people. In fact, we were the couple that got engaged after your show. Thank you for being part of that moment! How does it feel to touch so many people’s lives so profoundly and positively?
SS: It is extremely flattering that our music has been the soundtrack for some of the most important moments in our fans’ lives. We’ve always been about making heartfelt, timeless songs for real moments in people’s lives.
WL: Last question: Best cheesesteak in Philly?
SS: I would have to say Mike’s, but Nate would tell you Ishkabibble’s!