For his latest gig, New Kids on the Block's Jonathan Knight is walking "Step by Step" in some work boots!
The former teen heartthrob, 52 — who shot to fame in the late '80s with his bandmates, younger brother Jordan, Joey McIntyre, Donnie Wahlberg and Danny Wood — stars in the new HGTV show Farmhouse Fixer, on which he'll show off his other talent: restoring historic homes.
"I love seeing an old farmhouse brought back to life," he tells PEOPLE of the show — which premieres March 3 — in this week's issue, on newsstands Friday. "I'm so lucky to have two [passions] . . . I don't even call them jobs, because they're dreams."
Knight, 52, first got into home renovation when the New Kids first disbanded in 1994. "I came home to my 20-acre farm and woke up a couple days later, like, 'What am I going to do with the rest of my life?'" he recalls of his Massachusetts house. "I was 25, 26 years old and I felt like my career was over."
He eventually became friends with a police officer who was assigned to the security detail at the bottom of his driveway. They became friends and he asked Knight if he wanted to help him renovate and flip a property he had purchased in town. The singer admits he thought the concept was crazy at first, but with plenty of free time, he soon decided to go all in. "We started a company and flipped houses right up until I left for New Kids again in 2008," Knight says.
The band has since released new music (including two studio albums and one EP) and last embarked on a 53-date concert tour in 2019.
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Over the past 27 years, Knight has renovated more than 200 houses around New England, including a compound of 18th– and 19th-century farmhouses for his mom and the home he shares with his fiancé, personal trainer Harley Rodriguez, 47, whom he started dating in 2008.
Though he began his second career renovating more modern dwellings in the Boston area, he soon learned that working on historic farmhouses, which he calls "American treasures," is what truly speaks to him.
"Restoring the American farmhouse is not just a hobby for me — it's my passion, my obsession," he says. "I give it that love, show it that respect and bring it back to its glory."
On Farmhouse Fixer, he works with clients — something he hadn't done in the past and was anxious about at first. "It's so nerve-wracking to have a family hand over their house to you, but I'm confident in what I do," he says.
"I think the hardest part for me during this whole filming thing has been not crying with the homeowners when they see the house after it is all done," he says with a laugh. "It's such an experience."
Knight is also eager to show fans a new side of him, admitting that he thinks of himself as "the quiet New Kid."
"When we're on stage, I'm just kind of doing my own thing, not always front and center," he says. "So I think they're going to be shocked to see a lot of me chatting up the camera and getting up to strange antics."
He adds: "It's really exciting for me for fans to finally be able to see me doing my day-to-day thing off the road."
Farmhouse Fixer premieres Wednesday, March 3 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on HGTV and Discovery+.
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