By MIKE CHAIKEN
Although a decade plus has passed between albums for TLC, the best-selling group never lost its love for the stage.
Performing live, said Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas, is “like a rush or something. It’s a combination of being up there, loving what you doing, and the energy of the crowd.”
“It’s all so amazing. It’s such a blessing to be able to do this,” said Chilli in a phone call to promote TLC’s performance on Saturday at the Mohegan Sun Arena. “I’m thankful every single time we perform.”
Performing in a recording studio is special in its own way, said Chilli, who is joined in TLC by Tionne “T-Box” Watkins. Just like being on stage, you’re performing music and doing what you love. She also enjoys the creative process of recording, said Chilli. “We make songs from scratch build them up.”
On stage, however, “We perform the finished product. All of the hard work comes to life. And if the fans like it, it’s an extra reward.”
Earlier this year, TLC released its first new album of music since 2002’s “3D” (which came seven months after the tragic death of founding member Lisa “Left-Eye” Lopez).
“We had no plans to wait this long,” said Chilli of the new album, dubbed simply, “TLC.”
The decision to record a new album came about due to a couple of factors, said Chilli.
“Fans constantly were asking us for new music,” said Chilli.
Then, a biopic about the group, “CrazySexyCool: The TLC Story” was aired on VH1 in 2013. “We attracted a whole new generation of fans. They wanted new music too.”
Also, the music industry changed.
Chilli said TLC didn’t want to sign a contract with another record label. They then learned about bands that financed their recording with crowdfunding websites. So, TLC launched its own campaign on Kickstarter, she said.
Chilli said she and T-Boz liked the idea of reaching out to the fans to fund the record. It was fresh, she said, and it was thinking outside of the box.
“We were excited fans could be involved in the record,” said Chilli.
But Chilli said she and T-Boz were nervous that the fans might think that they were going to take their money and not spend it on a new record.
They were amazed, however, by the number of people who contributed to the new record including many of their peers in the music business, said Chilli.
It took some time to pull everything together, between scheduling and writing the record, said Chilli. But it was time that was necessary. “We weren’t going to do a rush job,” said Chilli.
The effort paid off. The album debuted at no. 1 on the independent charts.
The first single off the new album, “Way Back,” offers several references to the 1990s, when TLC first made its mark. The album namechecks fellow artists such as Prince and Michael Jackson.
“It’s funny,” said Chilli. “It’s a song we did a while ago… We didn’t do anything with it.”
But when the time came for the new album, said Chilli, the moment seemed right to commit the song to a record.
“Basically, it’s about a friend you haven’t seen in a long time… (but when you meet again) you pick right up where left off.”
“Everyone could relate to it in some way,” said Chilli.
TLC is coming to Connecticut as part of “I Love the 90s: The Party Continues” a package of 1990s acts.
“It’s funny, when I think back, the ‘90s had a good variety of music,” said Chilli
There were “phenomenal” rock bands. “When we come out, Kenny G (a jazz artist) was still around (on the charts).” At the Grammys, when TLC was standing on stage, Garth Brooks was sitting in the front row.
There was a lot of “stiff competition,” said Chilli.
“I felt there was so much more really talent,” said Chilli. “It made you work really hard.”
There was still some “ratched” music in the 1990s, but it was in the minority, said Chilli. But nowadays, she said, “ratched” music seems to dominate the charts.
Younger fans are turning to the music of the 1990s, said Chilli because “they’re hungry for really good quality music.”
When TLC takes the stage at the Mohegan Sun, said Chilli, “You can expect so much energy on the stage from us.”
“We’re going to perform songs (fans) know and love and some new ones,” said Chilli.
As for the other acts on the bill, Chilli has a couple of faves that she likes to watch from off-stage.
“I love Naughty by Nature,” said Chilli. “We all came out at the same time.”
Mark McGrath, formerly of Sugar Ray, “is so amazing. He has so much energy.”
And when Montell Jordan comes out and sings, “This is How We Do It,” Chilli said, the crowd goes nuts
TLC and the “I Love the 90s” tour, which includes Montell Jordan, Color Me Badd, Biz Markie, Coolio, and C+C Music Factory with Freedom Williams, comes to the Mohegan Sun Arena, Uncasville on Saturday, Sept. 2 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $89.50, $69.50, and $49.50.
For more information, go to www.MoheganSun.com or www.OfficialTLC.com