I had the pleasure of interviewing my favorite music group, the Backstreet Boys in Atlantic City on August 15, 2008 when I was the editor of StarShine Magazine. Here is the transcript.
Sandy (StarShine Magazine): I’m here today with the Backstreet Boys. How are you guys doing?
AJ McLean (Backstreet Boys): We’re great.
Nick Carter (Backstreet Boys): Great!
Howie Dorough (Backstreet Boys): Good!
Brian Littrell (Backstreet Boys): [sings] Yay! [laughs]
Sandy (StarShine Magazine): [laughs] Thank you so much for speaking with me today.
AJ: You’re welcome.
Howie: Thank you.
Sandy (StarShine Magazine): We’re going to start with the fan questions. We got thousands of e-mails, but we could only pick a couple because time is limited. We’re going to start with Brandy Rivera. She wants to know if you feel Unbreakable would have been different if Kevin had been on it and how do you guys feel about his absence?
AJ: I think it would have been a little bit different, especially as far as the recording process, the writing process. We kind of went in with a completely open mind and just went in, wrote, and spent almost a month and a half in Nashville alone. We kind of locked ourselves in the studio and had two different rooms going with recording and writing. I don’t know. I think it definitely would have went a little bit different. I think Kevin’s opinion of certain music, certain sounds and certain types of production might have been different. He has a certain sound he likes. I think when the four of us went in, we just went in, like I said, with an open mind and said, hey if it’s a good song, let’s go ahead and do it. Then we also wrote–we wrote on how many together?
Brian: Four or five.
AJ: It was a different approach at making the record.
Brian: Well, we wrote on quite a few that didn’t even make the record.
AJ: Yeah, that’s true.
Sandy (StarShine Magazine): Yeah, it’s a change from Never Gone where you guys didn’t get any songs that you wrote on there, right? Is that correct?
AJ: Kevin did. “Never Gone”.
Sandy (StarShine Magazine): Oh that’s right! I forgot about that.
Howie: And I did one on the Japanese [album], it never saw the light of day.
AJ: Oh, and we also had “Rushing Through Me”, which was…I don’t know what album, like European…
Brian: There’s been a lot of records, a lot of recordings…
Sandy (StarShine Magazine): Is it very tiring to know that some of the stuff you’ve worked really hard on is never even going to make it to an album?
Howie: Oh, it makes it on the internet somewhere… [Everyone laughs] Sandy (StarShine Magazine): Well, that’s true.
Nick: I said this one time, actually it’s kind of cool. I mean me being a fan of other groups and stuff like that, whenever I go on the internet or I happen to go search for something or I find something accidentally or somebody hands you something maybe you’ve never heard before, it becomes exciting. It’s almost like hidden treasures. I mean we have so many songs out that have never made it on albums and some amazing songs like… “Rushing Through Me” was an amazing song that we did with the Underdogs. True fans will get to hear those songs because they search for them.
Sandy (StarShine Magazine): That’s true. I actually had someone just send me all of your stuff, so I have like a hundred and twenty-something songs.
AJ: I think it would be cool if we ever did an unreleased [album], like have all of our hits, but also every song we ever recorded.
Nick: The Lost Ones.
Brian: The Lost Boys!
Sandy (StarShine Magazine): That’s a good one.
Howie: It would be like a three CD compilation.
AJ: It would be the Backstreet anthology.
Brian: It would be a volume of twelve CD’s.
Sandy (StarShine Magazine): That would be cool. Okay, so the next question is from Nayeli Cervantes. She says, “I love you guys, you’re amazing. My question is when you first met, did you like each other?”
[Everyone looks at each other.] Nick: Heh. You know what’s funny, I’m the one who didn’t get along with the guys as much and that’s probably because having to go through puberty and not really relating to them because I was so young, so um, I would get into fights with pretty much everyone in the group.
Brian: But you and I were probably the closest.
Nick: Yeah, me and Brian were cool–I never really got into a fight with Brian. But I got into one with Howie one time. I got into a fight with AJ and I got into a fight with Kevin. Really it was just outraging hormones–outrageous hormones, I think, that really caused that problem. We’ve gotten into fights, but I think from the beginning we all loved each other. I think we all meshed really well.
AJ: If there wasn’t a camaraderie from the beginning we wouldn’t still be here. We would have just kept growing apart and growing apart and instead it went the other way.
Brian: I can see it being really different if I wasn’t family with Kevin because if I was just a friend brought in from Kevin…
Brian: It’s almost like, when you talk about me, it kind of made it a little easier to blend into the situation. It was strange the very first day we met at the band house. It was April 20, 1993 and…
Nick: [in a southern accent] How y’all doin’?
[The rest of the band imitate Brian as well, including Brian himself.] Brian: Hey guys, I’m Brian!
AJ: Cut off sleeves, flannel shirt and pumps.
Brian: But I’ll never forget that moment…thinking, “this is really weird”. We were all so young, but I think it helped that I was a family member because at least you guys knew a little bit about me or knew that if I was compatible with Kevin then we might be compatible.
Howie: We all grew to like each other. I mean, it is what it is.
Brian: Howie didn’t like me right off the bat.
Howie: I probably didn’t, Brian. [They both laugh.] AJ: I’ve known Howie almost twenty years…
Sandy (StarShine Magazine): Yeah…I was watching “Parenthood” the other day by the way. [laughs] AJ: I’ve seen that a couple of times when I was home.
Howie: [laughs] With my hair parted over to the side.
AJ: What’s the song that they sing?
Sandy (StarShine Magazine): “Close To You”.
Brian: [sings] Why do birds suddenly appear, every time you are near… [Howie joins in] Howie: That’s such a great scene when Rick Moranis kisses the girl.
Nick: Did he really?
AJ: He did.
Sandy (StarShine Magazine): You know what’s funny is that was one of my favorite movies growing up before I ever became a Backstreet Boys fan and “Hi, Honey I’m Home” was one of my favorite shows before I became a fan. Look at that, it was destiny.
AJ: Great name for me.
Sandy (StarShine Magazine): Oh yeah. So our last fan question is from Anina Youroukova…
Brian: Sounds like a German tennis player.
Howie: Or Russian.
AJ: Or a gymnastics name.
Sandy (StarShine Magazine): Most of the questions were from other countries. The American fans were kind of…
Brian: Lame? Quiet?
Sandy (StarShine Magazine): Yeah, they weren’t good questions. No offense American fans! Okay, if you could change your lives with someone else in the band, who would you choose and why?
AJ: [sneezes] Sorry, that came out of nowhere.
Sandy (StarShine Magazine): Bless you. Was that a sneeze?
AJ: That was a sneeze.
Nick: Howie, because he has the most money.
Howie: [stretches] I don’t know about that. Kevin, because he has the most time off now.
Nick: Yo, we’re just joking. Honestly, I don’t think I’d change. I love who I am.
Howie: We’re all so stubborn, hard-headed…I don’t think any of us would change. [laughs] Brian: And we’re all so different. We’re completely different people. It would be too drastic of a change.
AJ: I think we have a little bit of each other, though. I think it’s just kind of involuntarily, we’ve all gotten a little bit of each other; that kind of rubs off on us. I know for me personally I was never about business. I hate business. It’s crap to me. I want to just go up on stage and sing and dance, but obviously you need to be a businessman in this to understand it. I’ve learned a lot from these two guys [motions to Howie and Brian] because they’re very business oriented as well as artists. I would have never learned that if I didn’t have it rub off on me, so now I try to take things a little more responsibly as best I can.
Sandy (StarShine Magazine): [laughs] Howie and Brian are rubbing each other…
Brian: [laughs] That sounds bad…
Sandy (StarShine Magazine): Yeah, it does. Not in that way…on the arm.
AJ: And now Howie rubs me and I’ll rub Nick. It’s a chain, there we go. [He rubs Nick’s arm.] Howie: Wow, sounds like that telephone game.
Sandy (StarShine Magazine): All right, now for my questions…
AJ: Dun-dun-dun! [All make similar dramatic noises]
Sandy (StarShine Magazine): Now it’s getting to the end of the tour…are you guys sad? Relieved?
[A few people burst through the door from the stage.] Howie: Hello! Welcome!
AJ: Someone had their Wheaties today!
Nick: [getting back to the question] No, I think we’re excited because what we’re going to do is start to record a new album and there’s a new feeling of…I don’t know. I think we really feel that there’s so much to look forward to with the Backstreet Boys. I feel like things are starting to click now and the gap between Kevin leaving is starting to close and we’re becoming tighter than we were before. I think that we’re excited that it’s winding down so that we can get another album done and allow AJ to do his solo album. Just get an amazing album ready. We always talk about putting out amazing albums, but the thing about this one is that we know that this one–we’re not going to cut any corners. We’re going to do everything we can to team up with the right people and make this beyond an amazing album and it’s going to be light years ahead of the last two albums.
Sandy (StarShine Magazine): Very cool. Now, I heard rumors about working with T-Pain?
Nick: He was one of the people, I mean we’re throwing out all these different types of genres. People from Max Martin to T-Pain to Akon to Ryan Tedder to anybody! What we want to do is we want to attach ourselves and get with some amazing people who people know about because we believe that we’re talented. And we believe we still have what it takes as the Backstreet Boys. Now we just have to get the right material put behind us. That’s what we’re working on right now, so once we do that, we’ll release a single maybe first quarter of next year…a lot quicker than we’ve done before and get a tour going. We feel that this album is the beginning to the next phase and peak of the Backstreet Boys.
Sandy (StarShine Magazine): I’m excited to hear that you guys are doing another group album. Now I know “Helpless When She Smiles” is a great song, but I know you guys weren’t too keen on releasing another ballad type song. Are you going to be aiming for an up-tempo next time around?
AJ: If we stick to what we’re good at, that’s the one thing…unfortunately some people have labeled us as an AC (Adult Contemporary) group now because we’re older. A lot of the hits that have come over the past two records have been ballads. You have “Incomplete”, “Inconsolable”, “Helpless When She Smiles”. I think we definitely want to have more rhythmic, more tempo on this new record as well as continue to have the R&B ballads. I think it’s a nice mix between–if we go back to being what the Backstreet Boys are known for, it’s Pop/R&B. You’ve got the I’ll Never Break Your Heart’s, the All I Have To Give’s, that’s on the R&B sides. Then you have the Larger Than Life’s and Backstreet’s Back’s. Back’s…that sounds weird. But of today…Trying to add sounds of today, but just having great pop songs, great hit records. Hopefully we don’t stay in this ballad/mid-tempo world. Again, if it’s a hit, it’s a hit, you can’t really deny that.
Nick: AJ just said something really important. There are internal people–and I’m not going to say any names–but there are people that we’ve worked with who feel that we are an AC act and feel that’s all that we’re capable of doing. We believe that we are current. All we have to do is get the right tools.
Sandy (StarShine Magazine): I believe it, too. More power to you guys!
AJ: Thank you.
Sandy (StarShine Magazine): Let’s see, I only have fifteen minutes, so I’m trying to be quick…
Brian: You guys gotta be quick too… [laughs]
Sandy (StarShine Magazine): I’m not trying to rush you. [laughs] Um, solo albums…when are they all coming out?
Nick: [teasingly] Never. It’s all false.
AJ: It’s all fake.
Howie: Each of us are working. AJ’s probably the closest to releasing his album. The rest of us are working on our down time, but at the same time, we’re not trying to lose focus of what’s gotten us here and it’s the group. So it’s just a matter of making all of our schedules work together. We all want to be happy. None of us wants to ever hold anyone back. It’s just a matter of timing. We do believe there’s enough space out there for all of us to exist as solo artists, but at the same time supply our fans with what they want to hear overall, which is the Backstreet Boys.
AJ: I just know I’m going to have very limited time off next year. We’ll be on tour, then I’ll be on tour.
Brian: That’s a good thing. That’s a wonderful thing to be busy after fifteen, sixteen years in the business. [starts singing “There Is No Stopping Us Now”] AJ: It’s a good thing. I do know I’ve got a lot in store for me, just like we all do, but as long as there‘s a healthy balance. Like Howie was saying, everyone wants everyone to be happy. We want to have an amazing Backstreet Boys record.
Sandy (StarShine Magazine): Last question is, if you could bring back any song that you’ve ever recorded on stage tonight, which would you pick and why?
AJ: Doesn’t have to be a single?
Nick: “10, 000 Promises”.
AJ: That answers my question.
Sandy (StarShine Magazine): No.
Nick: That’s his [choice] too.
AJ: Um, I would say either that or…
Sandy (StarShine Magazine): “Lay Down Beside Me”? [laughs] AJ: Yeah, nooo…
Brian: Does it have to be one of ours?
Sandy (StarShine Magazine): You can do any one you want.
AJ: Honestly, I would say “Don’t Wanna Lose You Now”. There’s just something about that song…I love that record. I wish it would have been a single.
Sandy (StarShine Magazine): You guys don’t perform that song anymore?
Howie: That’s the one song off the Chapter One hits that we don’t do. Besides “Get Down”.
AJ: Or “We’ve Got Goin’ On”.
Sandy (StarShine Magazine): “Get Down” wasn’t on the American Chapter One. I have it.
Brian: She knows better than us.
AJ: Get your Chapter One’s right there, buddy.
Sandy (StarShine Magazine): I got three of them for Christmas one year. [laughs] Howie: Stocking stuffers.
AJ: I miss “We’ve Got It Goin’ On”, too.
Brian: I will go with Howie’s choice, “Drowning”. I really like that song.
Sandy (StarShine Magazine): You should do it tonight.
AJ: The band doesn’t really know it. We could do it a cappella, but…
Howie: That would be a song we’ll probably throw back in.
AJ: Who was the other band that we said it sounded like?
Howie & Nick: Lonestar.
Sandy (StarShine Magazine): Okay, that’s it for the interview. Thank you guys.
Nick: Thank you.