What Ever Happened To O-Town?

Hard as it may be to believe, it's been over 15 years since O-Town's infectiously catchy (and pretty inappropriate) song "Liquid Dreams" ruled MTV's TRL, and "All Or Nothing" became the most requested song at homecoming dances across the country.

The boy band's breakup in 2003 marked an end of an era in pop music, forcing members Ashley Parker Angel, Erik-Michael Estrada, Dan Miller, Trevor Penick and Jacob Underwood to fend for themselves in and out of the spotlight. With recent news of a reunion (sans Angel) and an upcoming album, it's worth exploring the question that so often crosses the minds of late-20s and early-30s pop music fans everywhere: whatever happened to O-Town?

15 minutes of fame

After getting their start on the 2000 reality series Making the Band, O-Town released two albums. As Billboard outlines, their musical achievements in multi-platinum sales were initially no joke, with their 2001 self-titled effort selling 1.7 million copies; their two biggest hits, "Liquid Dreams" and "All Or Nothing," reached No. 10 and No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

However, the group's meteoric rise to fame came near the end of the reigning boy band era, and they suffered a dramatic sophomore slump. Their massive popularity had already begun to drastically fade by the time 2002's O2 was released, and the record failed to garner much in the sense of commercial success, selling only 257,000 copies. According to Billboard, the leading single "These Are The Days" came in at only #64 on their Top 100 chart.

Due to this and an undeniable change in the music industry's climate, they were dropped by J Records less than a year later, as the Daily Beast recounted.

The band called it quits in 2003

On November 5, 2003, O-Town sent out a mass email to their fans via the now archived site InsideOTown.com. The letter officially addressed the rumors rampantly circulating on entertainment blogs and message boards about an impending break up. And in the way your seventh grade boyfriend digitally broke up with you six days into your first relationship, the email confirmed O-Town fans' worst fears to be true.

Before discussing their individual future career plans, Angel, Estrada, Miller, Penick, and Underwood graciously thanked the fans for their support. They lightly hinted at various reasons for the split, including financial and legal issues with the now famed and late ponzi-schemer, Lou Pearlman, and his record label Trans Continental Records. (Pearlman's inevitable downfall would come about in 2007, as detailed in Vanity Fair.)

Indeed, the decision was mutual: "O-TOWN will always be the greatest blessing any one of us could have ever wished for...unfortunately, however, we had to sign several contracts that were not in our best interests. We wanted you to know that our decision not to continue forward as O-TOWN was mutual and we all still remain best friends...that will never change."

Ashley went solo

Following the group's quiet disbandment, Ashley Parker Angel remained the highest profile former member. May 2006 saw the release of his solo album, Soundtrack to Your Life, which debuted at No. 5 on the Billboard 200 albums chart. It marked a stark musical departure, featuring a slightly more mature pop rock sound, heavier, more personal lyrics, and a more hands-on approach to the songwriting.

The lead single, "Let U Go", preceded this release. Co-written by Angel with pop music heavyweights Max Martin and Dr. Luke, the song became the third highest debut that year, at #12 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart.

In March 2012, Angel endeavored on a musical project with songwriter-producer Xandy Barry called Mansions of Arcadia. The duo teased snippets of their work on Twitter in the lead up to the release of "Don't Let Me Down."

Angel's now a songwriter for EMI Publishing and hopes to one day release his sophomore album, as he revealed to Out Magazine in 2014: "Over the past few years, there have been a couple of songs that I've written that I haven't given away, just sort of tucked away in my back pocket."

Ashley starred in his own reality TV series

The release of Soundtrack to Your Life was preceded by, and promoted on, Angel's MTV show, There & Back. It debuted in January 2006 and ran until March 13th of that year. The series documented Angel's struggles as he navigated the unsteady terrain of the solo career path.

Over the span of 10 episodes, viewers witnessed everything from the making of the album to how Angel attempted to balance this stressful transition in his work with his relationship with fiancé and actress Tiffany Lynn. It also covered his adjustment to fatherhood following the birth of the now-exes' son Lyric midway through the series, as reported by TV.com. Bustle fact-checked that this was the first birth to be aired on MTV in its pre-Teen Mom days.

The music video for "Let U Go" was released on TRL the day following the series finale, where it quickly rose to the much coveted No. 1 spot.

Ashley hit the stage and the big screen

From 2007 to 2008, Angel had a hugely popular run playing Link Larkin in Hairspray on Broadway. His performance was initially announced on Broadway.com, and he soon received positive reviews, with the New York Post declaring he had "real pop glamour" in the role. Due to the overwhelming success of his casting and heartthrob appeal, BroadwayWorld.com confirmed that the show's producers requested he extend his contract four times.

In 2014, Angel returned to the stage in the national touring company of Wicked, as announced by Playbill, in which he played another leading man, Fiyero Tigelaar.

Angel caught the acting bug, and in addition to his work on stage, he's also starred in several movies. According to the Gazette Review, he earned his first major role on the big screen in 2009 in Wild Things: Foursome. His next role came the following year, as Frankie Muniz's co-star in Pizza Man. 2013's straight-to-DVD movie, Amelia's 25th, was his third film effort. And most impressively, he shopped around his own short film, Trona, at several film festivals in 2014.

Erik is a busy songwriter, actor, and philanthropist

At the end of 2003, Erik-Michael Estrada let fans know he was working all over the country as a songwriter and aspiring actor. He later told Glamour that he eventually settled down in Orlando before finally relocating to L.A.

According to Wetpaint, he put forth all of his energy to break into the film industry, working both behind the camera and as an actor. He starred in the 2014 crime drama Los Lost Ones, as well as 2015's The Bang Bang Brokers.

Most impressive, however, is Estrada's penchant for helping charitable causes, such as the "I Heart Ocean" campaign. The project launched on Oceans' Day in 2013 as a joint effort between Estrada, Shepard Fairey, Sam Harris, and the TerraMar Project, an environmentalist non-profit in NYC. The goal of the campaign was to encourage people to take a pledge to "support the need for the ocean to be managed sustainably for generations to come."

Estrada also maintains a strong social media presence, keeping his fans informed of his various current projects on Twitter.

Dan is a family man and jack of all trades

Since 2003, Dan Miller fell in love, started a family, and branched out into several other areas of the arts. He's worked hard behind the scenes, honing the varied crafts of artist, songwriter, producer, and designer. Following the breakup of the band, Miller detailed to fans his move to Orlando, where he's since worked on various projects out of his home studio. And over the years, he has kept his loving fans up to date on all of his creative endeavors through his Twitter and Instagram accounts.

Similarly to the majority of O-Town, Miller also tried his hand at a solo career. In August 2005, he released a pop rock EP that featured a more mature, singer-songwriter sound called Slower Than A Gun.

While Miller is the most family-oriented member of the group, he also seems to be the most keen on keeping his personal life private. However, as mentioned in Glamour, he and his wife celebrated their 10-year wedding anniversary in 2014, and the happy couple now have two beautiful children, a boy and girl.

Trevor pursued a solo career and acting

When O-Town broke up, Trevor Penick told fans that he planned to "study acting, professionally" and was "currently auditioning for both film and television." As he later disclosed to Glamour, he remained in L.A. to pursue these goals.

His stage name, "Tre Scott", grew out of the need to distance himself from his boy band past, as he told OK! Magazine: "The thing with that is so people could be like, 'Oh, Tre Scott. Who's that? I like that song.' Then maybe find out, 'Oh him, I can't believe I like that. Whereas, 'Oh, this is Trevor from O-Town. I don't even want to hear it.'"

In 2006, he teamed up with producer Eddie Galan of Mach 1 Music with the release of his single "Hold On," His music fostered a unique hip hop style he branded as "R&P" ("Rhythm and Pop"), of which he said: "My music is really myself. I'm half-black and half-white, and that's really what I think my music is."

Later, Penick also turned to acting, and Romper detailed his appearance in the 2015 drama Killing Lazarus. He also appeared in AKA Private, a 2011 documentary about Hollywood dreams.

Jacob took the country route

Upon the band's break up, Jacob Underwood disclosed to O-Town fans that he had just completed building his home in San Diego. At the time, he also served as an honorary firefighter.

In 2005, he returned to music, leading a country band called Jacob's Loc. Glamour revealed later that he had relocated to Nashville, where he recorded via Loc'd Up Records. The group released their first album, The E.P., in February 2006, and their last single, titled "Whiskey Callin'", was released in 2011.

In the same interview with Glamour, he opened up about the differences between this experience and O-Town: "I went through a rough patch and got beat up a lot, so I think humility is the strongest lesson that I learned. I appreciate the little things in life now. Even stepping out of the limelight for a little bit allowed me to fall in love [with music] in a whole different way again. It is such a blessing getting to do what we do."

He also retains a frequently updated Twitter account to keep fans informed of his projects.

Remaking the band

Back in January 2011, rumors of the group's reunion began to hit gossip outlets like TMZ following a slight tease by Underwood on Twitter: "Did someone say O-town reunion?!?" The legitimacy of the plans for this prospective reunion was further fueled when Angel made it known to TMZ that his "decision not to be a part of an O-Town reunion...was a difficult decision, but ultimately necessary to move on with the next chapter of my career."

For his part, Estrada later expressed to TMZ the group's disappointment in, but understanding of, Angel's decision: "I would just think he would want to come on board and be a part of it...but he doesn't and that's cool."

However, nothing was made official until April 2014, when Us Weekly reported that O-Town (sans Angel) was definitely reuniting. The band had also made the announcement a day earlier on their official Twitter: "Thank you to all of you that have shown love since our announcement!" and "This reunion is for you guys and we promise not to disappoint."

Album #3: Lines and Circles

As the now-quartet told Billboard in March 2014, this is more than just a typical boy band reunion. "We started this reunion purely for the fun of it. We had discussed a summer tour to perform our old songs and finally give the fans what they've been asking us for the last 10 years," Underworld revealed.

He then added, "However, once we began working, what developed was something a little more ambitious. The ideas kept flying and we couldn't help but start making new music." As Underwood continued, "We are blessed to be able to apply what we've learned to create something stimulating and beautiful, that we can call ours. This isn't just a reunion for us. It's a new beginning."

Recorded over the course of those three years, their third album, Lines & Circles, was released in the summer of 2014. The slow ballad single, "Skydive", came out around the same time. These efforts were released internationally via All About The Melody, and featured a simpler, more mature sound than that of their earlier days.

Penick described the leading single to Billboard as "a dramatic song...It starts with a simple piano and vocal, and by the end you hear a seventy-piece orchestra, and all four of us belting it out in 4-part harmony.

MY2K tour

In April 2016, People exclusively announced that several TRL-era musical acts whose popularity both reigned and waned in the late 90s and early 2000s would embark on a 35-city summer tour, aptly called the MY2K Tour.

As Rolling Stone reported, the two-month long throwback tour was all about addictive pop hit nostalgia, featuring the likes of 98 Degrees, Ryan Cabrera, Dream, and, of course, O-Town. However, People also hinted that all of these acts had also been working on new music.

As further emphasized by MTV following the tour's launch party, "the tour is fueled by a tidal wave of nostalgia with a murderer's row of stars whose posters once adorned your walls." The "MY2K Tour Sizzle" video conjoined these musicians' greatest hits with live performance footage and that of screaming, excitable fans – effectively imploring viewers, "Don't miss this year's greatest party."

According to Setlist.fm, O-Town performed a mix of their biggest hits and newer songs, including "Lines and Circles" and "Chasin' After You".

Kickstarting their fourth album

Fast forward to October 2016, when Us Weekly exclusively announced plans for O-Town's fourth album. This time around, they opted to go rogue and record without the influence (or, indeed, the support) of a record label. Underwood confirmed as such in the following statement to the publication: "We're ready to put out new music, and the fans have made it known they're ready for it too. For the first time in our musical careers we're faced with no label or funding to help us deliver."

On September 30th, the band had announced that the record would be funded through Kickstarter, exclaiming: "This time we're going to do it better, smarter, and we'll allocate funds where we've proven they will be most effective. We can only hope our fans will be as supportive as they always have been!"

As Bustle reported later that month, the band impressively surpassed their goal of $47,500 in just seven hours. And by the October 30th deadline, 514 backers had pledged a total of $81,040 to fund their favorite boy band's latest musical effort.

Underwood confessed to Bustle, "I had high hopes, but nearly zero foresight when it came to how the Kickstarter would go. Reaching the goal in only seven hours was absolutely unexpected and enormously encouraging."

He continued, "It told me one thing: That we have fans out there that want us to continue to make music as OTOWN, and that's exactly what we're going to do. Our fans truly bless us."

Looking forward in 2017

With the fans' overwhelming support, the newfound freedom provided by making an album through the sheer power of fandom, and an upcoming tour, things are definitely looking up as O-Town moves toward what hopes to be their major comeback in 2017. If the buzz on the internet is anything to go by, the band has certainly got fangirl nostalgia for early 00's pop music on their side.

As Estrada introspectively, yet excitedly, noted to Us Weekly: "The music industry has changed. When we first started, if you didn't have a label, you had nothing. Now, the power of the internet and the support of your fans, that's the true key to success."

He continued, "Our fans have stood by us for over 15 years, and this just goes to show that an era of music that many thought was over was really just a sleeping giant that needed to be awakened again."

Bustle reported that the as-of-now-untitled album is reportedly going to be split up into two EPs and is expected to drop in April; the first single is said to be arriving on March 14th. Additionally, O-Town will be touring the US this winter/spring, and tickets for their upcoming shows can be purchased via their official website.