AOL Music caught up with Howie, who revealed in an exclusive Q&A that he attempted a Latin-leaning album before having an identity crisis as a Latino American who doesn't speak Spanish and opting to put out a 'Glee' music producer-assisted pop album instead. When he's not busy converting New Kids on the Block fans to his Howie D fan base on the NKOTBSB tour, he's watching his 2-year-old son dance like crazy to his dad's new single.
Why have you decided to put out your first solo album now, after almost 20 years of being a Backstreet Boy?
It's been a project that I've been working on for the past five years and to me timing is everything, and right now I feel like I've finally got a record together that is the best representation of me for all my fans out there. It's all come together finally and I'm excited to put it out there and step outside of the box of the Backstreet Boys and really show people what Howie Dorough has to offer.
What did the timing come down to? Was it a matter of having the right combination of songs, or personal life, or Backstreet Boys projects?
It was actually a combination of all three of those, believe it or not. When I started working on the record about five years ago, was when we had a break that we were taking and I got a good chunk of the record done at that time. Actually, the sound was going more in a Latin direction. And at that time, or shortly after, the guys all got back together and we started to tour, so I had to put it on hold. And then we got really busy with a couple of tours in a row and a couple of albums. I was piecemeal-ing it together in between all that. And this past year, I really just sat down and said, "I'm really dedicating this year to getting it together." So I did.
The sound changed as well since the beginning. It was going in a Latin direction, now it's gone in a little bit more of a pop-dance direction. It all came together and took shape just recently.
Why did you make the switch away from the Latin-leaning record that you started with?
Initially I was trying to make an album that was in a totally different direction than the Backstreet Boys and I thought, "Maybe I'll go into my Latin roots and go that direction." But then as I was doing it, I started really soul-searching and realizing that if I spoke Spanish fluently it would be more of a natural thing. But, I grew up in a half-Anglo Saxon, half-Hispanic family and Spanish wasn't my first language as a child growing up. I picked up on it, but I'm not fluent. I didn't want to come off as trying to be something that I'm not to people. Going in this direction just felt a little more real to who I am and how people know Howie. I do have a hug Latin fan base out there, so I kept a couple of the songs, like one I wrote with Jon Secada. Another song I have has a mix of Spanish and English in it, but the majority of this album is more pop and dance.
It's definitely something I didn't want to run away from either. I want to embrace that and hopefully as time goes on and I work on more solo records down the line, and as I get better with the language, my intention is to try and do that. But for now, I didn't want to have to go over to South America and do an interview and be like, "Uh, English please!"
Watch Howie D's '100' Video
What writers and producers did you work with?
I worked with a wide range of people -- from Wayne Rodrigues, who did Natasha Bedingfield's 'Unwritten,' to Adam Anders, who has done a lot of the stuff on 'Glee.' I worked with a gentleman, who I'm very proud of, Mr. Jon Secada, as I mentioned. He's a good friend of mine. Even Nick Carter and I wrote a song on the record together, 'Pure.' I'm glad to have had the chance to really just experiment.
How was it working with Nick outside of the Backstreet Boys context, on your own record? Did you get to call the shots and tell him what to do?
[Laughs] No, actually! The way it came together was we were trying to write a song for the last Backstreet record and it just didn't fit right for the record that we were working on at the time. So, when I was working on my solo record, I listened to that song again and I thought "Wow, this could really work for my record." It was definitely a cool experience writing with him. He's one of my longtime friends and partners and we both have so many creative ideas. It was great to see how we could bring them together.
AOL Music recently interviewed Nick Carter and he mentioned that he went through a phase of wanting to disassociate himself from the Backstreet Boys and not really wanting to embrace the fact that he was in a boy band. Did you ever go through a similar phase of just wanting to have your own, unique identity?
No, not really. For me, I've never had that challenge of having to step out of the box. This is going to be my first experience stepping out of the box. When he was doing his record, at the time there was a little bit of a backlash that we were all experiencing. But for me, I've always been able to embrace the fact that I was a Backstreet Boy and wearing that hat. And now I will wear the hat of being a solo artist, and I think the two can both exist and go hand in hand.
What creative freedoms do you have now that you may have been compromising all these years as a part of a larger group?
Doing a solo project by myself, I was definitely able to reach in and experiment and really try different things, when the Backstreet Boys wouldn't have gone in that particular direction. It wasn't like I stepped majorly far outside of the box at the same time. It's still in a similar vein.
You have a 2-year-old son [crying in the background], does he listen to your music?
Oh yeah! He dances up and down to '100' He loves it, he really loves it. It's cute! My wife will put on '100' and as soon as he hears the beat he starts shaking up and down. It's really cute.
How has it been on tour with the Backstreet Boys and New Kids on the Block?
It's been great. We have a great show we put together and we're able to entertain both fan bases for two hours and take a trip down memory lane. We all get along really amazingly well. We've had a blast so far. We're almost at the end. August 7 will be the end and it's crazy that it's gone by so fast and how much fun we've had in between.
Have you converted any New Kids fans over to the BSB side?
I think absolutely! On both sides. Some of our fans are younger than theirs and some of theirs are older than ours, and there is some overlap in between, but by doing this we've been able to open our fan base. I see signs out there and some girl the other day had a shirt on that said, "Always been a Block Head fan, Now a Team Howie fan as well." It was really cool. And the fact that I'm closer to their [New Kids on the Block members] ages helps me a lot as well to get some of their fans.
What is the significance of your album title, 'Back to Me'?
Well it's funny, one of the songs on the album is called 'Back to Me,' and we were going over album titles and one of my managers suggested 'Back to Me.' It has a lot of meaning for me. I'm getting back to me, Howie Dorough, and what I'm all about outside of Backstreet Boys. At the same time, "Back," being a part of "Backstreet," it's got kind of a cool double meaning.
Do you have any fear of going solo and not being able to be seen as your own person, outside of the Backstreet Boys context?
You always have a little fear and hope you'll be accepted and that people will like your music. People might say, "Oh he should stick to what he knows and the group." That's always the challenge that you take in life when you step outside of a box and I'm always about taking on challenges. I give it my best shot and whatever comes of it comes of it, and I accept that.