Carter is gearing up for an epic summer tour with his Backstreet Boys and fellow boy band New Kids on the Block, but admits he had to go through a fit of rebellion before finally being able to embrace pop music again. In our interview, he reveals his biggest addiction of all, his feelings about a possible BSB episode of 'Glee,' and how he escaped becoming a child star "tragedy."
Tell us about the process of making the new album 'I'm Taking Off.'
This entire record was about an eight-year process. When I had done my first album, I just wasn't comfortable in my own skin; I didn't feel I was even ready. So, after evaluating the release of the first album and the way it sounded -- there were a lot of great songs on that album -- in its entirety I don't think it was as good as I wanted it to be. I didn't think that it was anything that I could actually build off of, so I sort of put that one to bed and waited eight, nine years to do a lot of studying and research and learning how to be a better writer and a better entertainer, and just a better person.
I developed relationships with producers and writers and I think I had done about three albums with the Backstreet Boys and we went on like four world tours around that time and then with this album it was just time. I had all these different things that I had learned and I put them together. One of the things that I really learned was that I needed to embrace being a Backstreet Boy instead of being rebellious against it. We do great pop music that is just timeless. So in doing that I stretched myself to an entirely new place that was going to be unique just by my being by myself as a solo artist. But, I'd rather have a lot of our fans feel comfortable with what they see me doing.
So really, you can expect the album me just being me -- who I really am and embracing pop music. It's a great pop album, ultimately. I think that it's got some music that the Backstreet Boys to do, but then a lot they can't do, because I am by myself and I have my own experiences in writing. It's a comfortable, mature pop album.
So you went through a rebellious stage where you wanted to divorce yourself from your association with the Backstreet Boys?
When you're younger and that's all you know, you don't realize what you're doing and you don't realize that the things that you are doing are actually amazing. So yes, I wanted to be different and I didn't know who I was. I was rebellious, because there were so many things going on in my family life and so many things going on in my career. Backstreet Boys were moving so fast that I didn't even know what I was doing, which is why I don't think the first album had consistency. It was a thing that I had gone through and a phase in my life that I can look back on and reflect and realize why I didn't feel comfortable pursuing a solo career like I do now.
Backstreet Boys and New Kids on the Block recently performed on 'Dancing With the Stars' for one of their "Guilty Pleasures" episodes. Do you guys have a sense of humor about your work, or do you think boy bands should be taken more seriously?
Well it was amazing. The people on the show and the experience was amazing and really, we're entertainers. That's what we do and people are going to like us or they're not going to like us. We do what we do and we try to continue to do it the best that we can, that's all that matters. We're enjoying our lives and enjoying our music and we have a big tour that we're about to put on. We're enjoying all of the opportunities that we're getting and you know what? If there are fans there that want to buy our music and come to our shows that's all that matters. We are always trying to outdo ourselves and trying to grow, and we fit in a category of music that we're comfortable embracing. I think that shows in our music and in how much fun we have and people are attracted to that.
People say, "Hell, its OK to like a Backstreet Boy. It's OK to like their music!" If they want to call it a "guilty pleasure" that's fine. I have a lot of guilty pleasures! I'm not going to say it's guilty, but [I'm] loving and absorbing so much Prince right now! I watched 'Purple Rain' like three times in a row in the past week. I think it really doesn't matter. It's music.
So the NKOTBSB tour is coming up and you've just added 'Glee's Matthew Morrison to the lineup, which already includes opening act Jordin Sparks. Are you a 'Glee' fan?
Oh yeah! I watch the show.
When are they going to do some Backstreet Boys songs on the show?
You know everyone keeps asking why they haven't yet, but you know what? All in good time!
So what's in store for your fans on this big upcoming tour?
They can expect it to be jam-packed, explosive. Nine guys full of testosterone and competitiveness and excitement and just putting it to people. We're going to have fun.
Are all nine of you getting along so far?
Oh yeah. When I say "competitive," I mean they push us we push them to go higher than we've ever been before. It makes us try to be better as entertainers. Both groups have done so much in our careers that you want something fresh and music that gets your blood going, and they give that to us. And hopefully we give that to them. We play as a team. You all have to play together in order to win and that's what we're doing.
You started with Backstreet Boys as a teen and went through a troubled time and as you say, you didn't know who you were. Any advice for today's young pop stars?
I might sound harsh, but I don't have advice for young people, because they're going to do what they're going to do anyway, no matter how you cut it. People want to be that savior, but it's not about that. I went through my stuff and I developed my own path and my own success story based on my difficult experiences. There were people along the way who wanted to help me and give me advice, but I didn't want to listen to anybody. The only piece of advice I have is try not to be a tragedy.
There is a track on the new album called 'Addicted.' Is it inspired by your past struggles with drug and alcohol addiction?
I've done my share of drugs and alcohol, but I've come to find that love is extremely addicting and probably the biggest drug in the world out of all of them. At the same time, it's the healthiest drug. So yes, it was inspired by my experiences and things I'm going through right now.
Are you in love?
Well, yeah. I like to keep it as private as I can, but it's a good thing that keeps me motivated and grounded. When you have support you can accomplish more and be healthy. The thing about her, she pushed me to be a better person.
The name of the album is 'I'm Taking Off,' what does that mean to you?
It means I'm finally blasting off into outer space and the world unknown and the place that I always wanted to go, but I had to assemble all the pieces and tools to create that rocket to ride in. I didn't have all the necessary supplies to build my spaceship. It's about time for me and I feel like I was ready.
What about this album will surprise your fans and critics?
This entire thing for me is a surprise. Nobody knows really who I am and what I'm capable of. It's funny, because I was on my website the other day and I'm starting to put up these videos from my recent trip to Europe. I released my record over there and before that I was in Japan -- and I jumped up on stage and I was playing the drums. I'm a drummer since I was 12 years old. So I jammed out with the band and I was watching myself on this video and I was like, 'Oh s---! I forgot I can actually play drums!' And it's insane because I've been so intertwined in the dancing and the Backstreet Boys and the harmonies and all that, and I realized that there's so much more to me. It's a self discovery in some ways and it's really exciting.
You seem really proud of the work you're putting out.
I'm happy and ultimately that's what matters in life. If you're not happy with what you're doing, don't do it. That's why I stopped after the first album. I just wasn't ready as a person. And you see a lot of artists out there who come in real quick and they're really interesting and they make great music for a couple of albums and then they're gone, because they're just so screwed up in their lives and its unfortunate.
Not to be negative, but what would have happened if someone like Kurt Cobain would have had his life together and didn't turn out to be a tragedy. Or Janis Joplin, or Jimi Hendrix -- what I'm trying to do is learn from their mistakes. I'm not trying to say that I am as talented as those people are, but with a clear mind and a clear understanding of what I've gone through and what can bring it down, I can actually get better.
Watch Nick Carter's 'Just One Kiss' video.