NICK LACHEY at the Kool Haus (132 Queens Quay West), Monday (September 25). $32.50. 416-870-8000. Rating: NNNNN
Nick Lachey has been through the storm.
If you've bought groceries at any point over the last year, you probably know about the Kentucky-born 98 Degrees breakout's turbulent 2006. For months it was covered to death, perpetual front-page news in those weekly glossies next to the Archie comics.
Bold yellow headlines screamed it all - the highs, the lows, the gossip, the scandals, the speculation - culminating in the official dissolution of his famous marriage to Jessica Simpson, a relationship thrust into pop culture in 03 on the seemingly unbreakupable couple's mega-popular MTV reality show, Newlyweds.
Chatting on the phone from L.A. after a rehearsal for his first tour, Lachey says it's hard to describe being at the eye of a tabloid whirlwind during one of the toughest ordeals of his life.
"It's a very surreal kinda thing," he admits, "but what I've learned is, you can't affect it or change it or stop it, so the best thing to do is to just live the best way you know how and try not to pay attention to what's being said or written. Be true to yourself, and yourself only."
That final sentiment is what he's all about on his second solo album, What's Left Of Me (Jive), he says. Evidently writing during the month following his separation from Simpson, Lachey deals with his relationship demons through songs like I Can't Hate You Anymore, Outside Looking In, his favourite, Resolution, and the title track, which became Nick's most popular single of all time this summer.
He never gets too specific in the lyrics, but the disc's context - the events of Lachey's life - makes his biggest record also one of the most personal by a pop star in recent years.
But don't accuse the sports medicine major of capitalizing on his extremely high-profile breakup for the sake of record sales. Since SoulO (Jive), the more traditional pop-R&B record he dropped at the peak of Newlyweds' ratings, didn't connect with fans, Lachey says he'd been planning a more candid sophomore attempt.
"Even before I knew what kind of direction the record was going to take - what direction life was going to take, for that matter - I thought it was important to make an honest record."
In the aftermath of Lachey's marriage, what's left of him is, in many ways, much more than he had before: a certified gold CD, a promising tour and a new GF, former Miss Teen USA, MTV VJ (and current Maxim cover girl) Vanessa Minnillo.
You can't fault him for not seeming too hung up on Simpson, or bitter about their "irreconcilable differences."
"I just remain supportive of her," he says.
In contrast to Lachey's tortured ballads, Simpson's music post-divorce has taken an easy-breezy turn on her roller-rink disco-lite A Public Affair single.
At this point, if Lachey gets back together with anyone, it'll be with his former crew, brother Drew and friends Justin Jeffre and Jeff Timmons - 98 Degrees.
"I think it's certainly something to be entertained down the line. We needed some time away to get a full perspective on whether we enjoyed being together back then, so at some point I think it might happen."
It's hard to resist asking him how his current relationship's going. But guess what?
"You know, I've decided not to talk about my personal life," Lachey replies. "It's kind of a valuable lesson I've learned from the last experience."