How I Met Donnie Wahlberg by Martin Kierszenbaum

I've always been a popular music fan as long as I can remember. The New Kids on the Block were inescapable on TV, radio, in record shops, grocery stores, and just about everywhere else in 1989. They had more than a few great, catchy, pop songs so, like any unabashed pop music lover at the time, I ended up with several tasty New Kids 12 inches and CD's in my collection.

Well, fast forward to 2008 and I'm at Chalice Studios in Hollywood meeting with songwriters E-man and Kasi Livingston. They play me the demo version of a new song they've just co-written with some friends. It turns out to be a remarkable tune with a very real-talk lyric entitled "2 in the Morning." I flip out upon hearing it and beg them for a copy. They kindly oblige and I proceed to play it 8 times straight on my drive back to the office.

By the end of the week, I'm playing it 10 times a day and trying to figure which of the artists on the label could cut it because I'm convinced it's very special. As an A&R rep, that's what you wanna do with special songs: nab 'em for your artists to record. I had no idea with whom E-man and Kasi had co-written the song or to what purpose. I just knew that the melody was great and the lyrics genuine. I mean, who hasn't had an argument with a significant other and wished it could blow over before going to sleep that same day.

So, as my obsession with the song grew and I started playing the song for everybody that came into my office, I'd say things like "this is my favorite song right now" and "you wanna hear what a great song sounds like?" Haha! I get passionate about songs that move me.

So, a few days later, I'm in my office at a meeting with some other songwriter friends of mine and - though I usually don't do this (since they're there to play me THEIR songs), I say to them "you wanna hear a great song that somebody else wrote?" They say "sure" and I put on the demo of "2 in the Morning."

I'm playing the track pretty loud when a cat with a baseball cap sticks his head through the door. I instantly recognize him from my 12" covers: it's Donnie Wahlberg from the New Kids on the Block!

I lower the volume and say "Hey! You're Donnie Wahlberg. Hello!" He points to my speakers and says "That's my song."

I say "Yeah, man, isn't it great? That's MY JOINT too right now!"

He says "No, man, that's really my song - I wrote it."

I say "What?! E-man and Kasi wrote that with some friends ... Aaaaaah." I figure it out in mid-sentence. "Wow, and the lyric?" I ask.

"That's about me and girl," he says."

"Woooooah," I say, "That's like my favorite song right now. I can't stop playing it."

He laughs. I ask "Hey, what are you doing here, anyway?"

Donnie then proceeds to explain that he'd been in the office next door about to meet with Jimmy Iovine (Interscope's Chairman and my boss) about a New Kids new album and reunion tour when he'd heard me blasting his song. So, he decided to pop in.

I'm like "Wow, a New Kids reunion?! That's crazy."

He's like "Yep, it's time."

So I say "Congratz on the fantastic song and good luck with the album. It's super nice to meet you."

He says "Thanks," and goes to his meeting with Jimmy.

I resume my meeting which of course includes tripping out about the serendipity of the moment when I get a phone call from Jimmy asking me to his office.

As I walk over and enter, I see Donnie and Jordan Knight sitting with Jimmy. They point to me and say "That's him. That's who we want to A&R our record!"

And that's how I met Donnie Wahlberg - and Jordan again (I'd met and worked with Jordan before on his solo album for Interscope). And, it's also how I got the privilege to work on The Block album with Donnie and the gang.

Most of all, it's how I got the opportunity to become friends with Donnie and learn that he is a very talented, generous and loyal person.


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