As one-fifth of boy band powerhouse New Kids on the Block, Danny Wood has been making music for over three decades—both inside and outside of the group.
On Friday morning, NKOTB released the video for their new single “Boys in the Band (Boy Band Anthem),” a history lesson-meets-celebration of boy bands through the years—and features cameos from Bell Biv DeVoe, NSYNC’s Lance Bass and Debbie Gibson.
NKOTB’s success and loyal fan base—both in the 1980s and following their reunion in 2008 — has also allowed Wood, 49, to “spread his wings” and explore writing, singing, and producing his own projects. “It’s really fulfilling because I don’t get to do this stuff with the group,” he tells PEOPLE in the new issue, on stands today. “Obviously, being in the New Kids is the best job on the planet, but on the side I can also be creative and help people.”
He has released three solo albums and directed proceeds from sales to the Remember Betty foundation, a charity he formed in honor of his mother who died from breast cancer in 1999. “I feel so lucky because I get to have another outlet and it’s all for such a great cause, helping women who are having hard times financially while going through treatment.”
His newest project stays true to his mission of giving back through music: He wrote “Bodyguard,” a new duet he performs with country artist and anti-bullying activist Jessie Chris. “I watched her music videos and saw some anti-bullying speeches Jessie had given at schools,” he says. “I just started writing notes down on a pad of paper. It went from a pad on my desk to my guitar, and it turned into this song.” A portion of the song’s proceeds will go to anti-bullying programs.
Chris, 21, who has visited 100 schools across the country to speak to kids about bullying, faced her own problems with fellow students in her schools. “Being from Massachusetts growing up, and wanting to be a country artist since I was a little girl, it made me different,” Chris told Billboard last year. “My classmates tried to bring me down, they bullied me, and I struggled with self-confidence.” Finding strength in those experiences, she now wants to shine a light on the issue and help other kids going through similar problems. “To be able to do this has been healing for me,” she told Billboard.
Wood said Chris’ message immediately struck a chord. “I’m from a different generation but I can relate to the issues of bullying. Everyone has their own bullying stories growing up, but it’s a different world for kids these days because of social media,” he says. “Listening to her speeches and seeing her already doing such great things for people at such a young age, I was inspired by Jessie and her positive message.”‘
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Positivity is key for Wood, who will join fellow members of NKOTB—Donnie Wahlberg, Joey McIntyre, and brothers Jonathan and Jordan Knight—on The MixTape tour this summer, along with ’80s music stars Tiffany and Debbie Gibson and hip hop acts Salt-N-Pepa and Naughty By Nature. “Since we got back together, it’s just been amazing to see all the love from the fans, who come back to support us,” he says. “It’s 11 years later and we’re still doing it, still having so much fun with the fans. I’m just lucky and blessed that we got a second chance to do things again.”
But for Wood, his three-decades-long music career will always be about family. “My kids are my biggest fans now,” says Wood, who is father to son Daniel Jr., 26, and daughters Chance, 20, and Vega, 19. “My daughters love coming to the shows and going on tour with me.”