Having known Britney Spears for more than 20 years, and witnessed an at-times worrying team grow around her, 98 Degrees member Jeff Timmons is showing support for his friend amid her conservatorship battle by hosting ‘Free Britney Radio,’ a pop-up radio station which will take over stations in more than 50 markets — including San Francisco, Chicago and Atlanta — on July 14.
Timmons teamed up with audio production company Benztown for the “day of solidarity,” as the program is billed to potential syndicators. Driven by his friendship with Spears, as well as his own experience battling what he describes as the “fucked up” California court system, Timmons hopes the initiative will create a “groundswell of support” for the pop star as she fights for freedom — something he believes was never justifiably taken from her.
“I don’t think Britney was ever out of control to a point where she needed this conservatorship,” Timmons tells Variety. “The media showed Britney falling off the rails, but that was salacious. In this business, everybody goes through ups and downs. It’s a rollercoaster and things become surreal. At certain points, it all piles up and you reach breaking point, but that’s just human existence. Anybody in her circumstances would’ve had a meltdown. Physiologically, alone, it was probably exhausting.”
“That doesn’t mean you can’t control your own life, finances or kids,” Timmons continues. “If you’re competent enough to get on stage 100 times a year and make millions of dollars, you’re competent enough to be a parent. The whole [conservatorship] was a travesty. I don’t think she was ever crazy, incompetent or unable to make decisions and care of herself.”
Timmons has known Spears, who is 39, since the late ’90s, when she co-headlined concerts with 98 Degrees, who released their new single, “Where Do You Wanna Go” on Friday. His first impressions were of a “sweet, quiet, polite, soft-spoken” Southern girl, who would “get on stage and just rock it.”
Amid her rapid rise, Timmons says the Grammy-winner never changed. “At one point, she was the biggest star on the planet, but still the same sweet, quiet, courteous person.”
What did change, from Timmons’ observations, is the circle that expanded around Spears while she was busy working hard for her success. He believes the growing entourage gradually gained control of Spears’ life.
“As she got bigger and into superstar status, you could see the team around her gathering more folks,” he recalls. “I saw a bunch more gatekeepers. It’s great to have one or two to protect you, but when there’s suddenly a whole team of gatekeepers and you can’t even have a conversation with the person and everybody has their own agenda, that becomes very dangerous.”
“Britney was always working, performing, being gracious to fans. When someone’s busy and successful, they start collecting more people on their team and if you’re not paying attention, you collect folks who might not be looking out for your best interests.”
Timmons recalls Spears’ mom Lynne Spears being gracious and down-to-earth, but had little interaction with her father, Jamie Spears, who serves as her co-conservator, despite his daughter’s requests that the court remove him. Timmons isn’t pointing a finger at Jamie, rather, he strongly believes multiple people “conspired to make sure this all [go] on much longer than it should have.”
Spears was placed under conservatorship in 2008, amid mental health concerns. She has since released albums, toured and headlined her Las Vegas residency, “Piece of Me.” In her June 23 audio testimony, the mother of two argued that an “abusive” conservatorship was stopping her from getting married, having more children and living a normal life without forced medication, therapy and psychiatric evaluations.
Timmons last saw Spears at her “Piece of Me” residency, where she “crushed it” onstage and was bubbly and coherent when he caught up with her.
He’s passionate about spreading support for Spears through “Free Britney Radio,” which will feature her hits, messages of support from celebrities, covers and live crosses to fans at the Los Angeles courthouse on “Free Britney Day.” Timmons is also interviewing lawyer and conservatorship expert Lisa MacCarley, who has backed the #freebritney movement and will discuss what she views as illegalities in Spears’ situation.
Benztown, which is in the business of radio imaging, voiceovers, programming, podcasting and jingles, is offering all U.S. radio stations audio and web components to rebrand as “Free Britney Radio” at no cost. Stations can register and access the assets here. Stations participating are listed on the Benztown site.
“The more stations across the U.S. that join the #FreeBritney movement and re-brand as ‘Free Britney Radio’ for this one important day, the bigger impact we will have in making her voice heard,” Benztown president Dave “Chachi” Denes said in a media release.
“Radio stations have prospered from Britney’s great songs, so this is an ode to her and her music,” Timmons adds. “It’ll show stations and artists support Britney getting her life back.”
Timmons, a father-of-five, is further motivated to support Spears and highlight flaws in the legal system following his own battle with California courts to win custody of his two eldest children, who he had with ex-wife Trisha Sperry.
“You can go in with facts and witnesses, but they’re so overwhelmed with cases that they just read the declarations or summaries and make a brash decision without exploring the details,” says Timmons, who’s now married to Amanda Timmons, with whom he has a daughter and two step-children. “It’s fast and negligent. Things slip through, especially if you have a better attorney or somebody in the old boys’ club.”
“It was only when my kids were of a certain age and able to explain verbally that they wanted out of that situation that I got custody. But it took 10 years. I spent all my resources that I made with 98 Degrees trying to be their dad – trying to get my kids safe by getting full custody. I could be in one of the biggest groups in the world, I could be on TV and I could perform everywhere, but being a father was made impossible by the [courts]. This kind of stuff happens all the time.”
Timmons says the silver lining of Spears’ troubles coming to light is the potential for change, particularly now she’s been invited to address Congress about her experience. He hopes potentially illegal ongoings in cases like Spears’ will be uncovered and that a system of “checks and balances” will develop around conservatorships.
“It’s sadly at Britney’s expense, but she’s drawing attention to how people need to ensure things are done legitimately from here on out.”
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