In fact, what Chasez really dreams about most of the day is music. Stepping out of the 'N Sync mold on his eclectic CD Schizophrenic, he combines Prince-inspired come-ons, reggae ditties and synth pop that would make Devo proud. (Yes, boy-band fans, he belts out a couple of aching ballads as well.) Chasez (pronounced sha-ZAY) also wrote 16 of the 17 tracks and played keyboards on the album. "Some of the songs I think of when I'm in the shower," he says. "Some of them I'll think of when I'm falling into bed—I've got to get up and put this down! When I get bored, I'll zone out and I'll just sit in front of my computer and start writing any random song that comes to mind."
And sometimes they just happen to be exceedingly raunchy ("I just want to get close to you/Find out what it takes to move you/Feel the rhythm, hit the spot, getting hot/All night long"). "Here's the deal," says Chasez, 27. "When you write 30 songs, you have to pick so many, right? And of course, the ones that everybody likes are about sex. There's a whole pile of other songs sitting on the shelf that aren't about sex." He also shrugs off comparisons to buddy Justin Timberlake, the first 'N Syncer to go solo, with 2002's Justified. "J's had his time to breathe," says Chasez. "Now I'll have my time to run and play."
Playtime was rudely interrupted by the NFL's decision to ax his halftime gig at the Feb. 8 Pro Bowl after a certain "wardrobe malfunction" involving Timberlake and Janet Jackson. But Timberlake and Chasez quickly patched things up. "He cared enough to call to say he's really sorry. I told him I can't blame him for what's happened to me," says Chasez. Says Bass: "We call JC the daddy of the group because he's like the father figure, the mature one."
As a kid in suburban Bowie, Md., Joshua Chasez, nicknamed JC, "was a painfully shy whip of a boy," says second cousin and comanager Phil Baker-Shenk, 47. The oldest child (his sister Heather, 26, and brother Tyler, 22, are both students) of Roy Chasez, 52, a technology consultant, and his wife, Karen, 50, an editor, "stood out with his incredibly beautiful voice singing Christmas carols at family gatherings."
If Chasez's vocal skills gently nudged him into the spotlight, dancing cracked his shell wide open. At 13, he and pal Kacy Combs formed a coed dance troupe that won local contests with routines done to tunes by MC Hammer and New Kids on the Block. Their funky footwork eventually earned them third place at a 1991 national competition in Orlando, where Chasez ended up soon after with a spot on The Mickey Mouse Club with Timberlake, Christina Aguilera and Britney Spears.
Success on a par with those multi-platinum Mouseketeers would be nice, but Chasez—who will join Spears for a week on her U.K. tour starting April 27—says he can do without a high-profile social life. "You're not going to see me throwing paparazzi around, doing excessive amounts of drugs or having a line of girls outside my room," he says. "I've seen enough Behind the Music to see that's a road to nowhere."
As for rumors that he dated Tara Reid, he says, "We were connected at the hip for a while, but we were buddies," adding that he doesn't traffic in movie circles anyway. "I don't need a Hollywood girl. They're crazy. If you're with an actress, you don't know who you're going to come home to every day." For now he's happily living single in an ivy-covered French chateau in Winter Park, Fla. "But I wouldn't mind a relationship with the right girl," he admits. "Every artist needs a muse."
These days he may need two: Chasez now has dual roles to fill as he kicks off a solo tour on April 19 and gears up to record a new album with 'N Sync later this year. For the record, he insists that being in a boy band in his late 20s is cool with him. "It's the fountain of youth," says Chasez with a laugh. "If I'm 40 and we're still playing shows, and people want to call us a boy band, by all means—drink from the fountain of youth!"
Anne Marie Cruz. Marisa Laudadio in Winter Park, Mark Dagostino in New York City, Pam Grout in Chicago and Dana Metzler and William Keck in Los Angeles