Approximately a year ago, I came full circle with regard to my career choice when I had the opportunity to interview Nick Carter and AJ McLean of the Backstreet Boys. As I said then, I chose the profession of entertainment journalist in part because it was a way for me to use all that fanatic energy I seemed to have in over-zealous quantity when it came to the artists I liked – BSB topping the list for many years – and apply it in such a way that it became good and productive.
I was so nervous at the time that the first 3 minutes of that interview where incomprehensible. What do you say to someone you have been waiting to speak with since your teen years? I don’t think I was even speaking English. Although I managed to pull myself together and ended up with a decent interview, I promised myself that if I had the opportunity to speak with either of them again, I would make sure I made up for that embarrassing afternoon.
13 months later, I had my chance.
Right on the heels of a gruelling and extended tour with NKOTBSB, Nick Carter celebrated the Canadian release of his second solo album, I’m Taking Off, with a show in Toronto, Canada before coming to Montreal to do some interviews and perform at MusiquePlus’ 25th Anniversary show. It’s on that day that I met with Nick, in the conference room of the television studio, ready but still nervous. “Nice to see you again” he said as he walked in, and for a second my nerves got the best of me. But then he smiled and shook my hand and I was able to chat with him about the new album, his solo career to date, his new found appreciation for nutrition and healthy living and many other things.
How would you describe the new album?
This album actually is very similar… it’s the closest thing to who I am as a Backstreet Boy. It’s me being comfortable with, and accepting, who I am and where I come from; while at the same time applying my influences to it in a way that is tasteful and it doesn’t push away any fans. So if you are a fan of the Backstreet Boys or me [you’ll like it]. Or if you are just a fan of pop music it’s also different enough that it has it’s own world. It has its own place. I personally think that it’s good lyrics, great beats, good pop music, and good melodies from someone who’s been doing it for a long time.
How does this second solo album compare to the first, Now or Never? Now or Never seemed a deliberate departure from the Backstreet Boys and at the time you said that what you were doing solo was doing solo was who you really were. What’s changed or what’s different?
The first album was deliberate. With this one it was more like just be, don’t force anything. Just write music and see. The first album I went in with a deliberate mindset saying ‘I want to write rock music, I wanna have guitars…’ you know what I mean? This one was just to be who i am, let my influences come out naturally and lets see what the music sounds like. That what the process was.
Definitely Backstreet Boy pop music was one. There still is some rock elements to it and some 80s rock I think. There’s R&B, which I love. There is dance music; I love dance music as well so I was able to do that with song like Burning Up or Love Can’t Wait or Not the Other Guy. I think that’s the thing with the solo artist. You can experiment with your sound but at the same time if you depart too much you can push people away and I didn’t want to do that.
Do you think that that happened with the first album?
Yeah I think that there were people out that that probably said ‘what is he doing?’ or ‘what is this?’. And I guess I was trying to… well first of all I didn’t necessarily know what I wanted to sound like or who I wanted to sound like or what kind of music I really wanted to do. So when I was writing, I was experimenting but I was doing it in such a way that it was so extreme.
There are producers and writers out there that have been writing for so long that once they’ve done all their experimenting they’re able to sort of pick out with they like and sort of connect with that. I think that what happened with the first album is that I was experimenting. When you listen to the album it felt like it was a writer trying things out. [There were] great writers and producers like Max Martin who wrote on the record and in doing that they sort of lead the album in a certain direction.
But I felt as if a solo record should be more than just recording other people’s song. It should be your influence. It should just be more than that. I didn’t want to be like Britney Spears; I didn’t want to be that. And even Backstreet Boys, they record other people’s music as well. For me I wanted to be more of a singer song writer. But, I wasn’t ready. I realized that after I released the first record and was doing promotion and touring. There were just so many things from my health to my state of mind, my mental stability, all these things that hurt the first process more than it helped it. That’s why I backed off and said ‘you know I’m not ready and I need to learn more. I’m not complete.’
I don’t think I’ll ever feel like I’m complete. But I’m much more prepared than I was before. The one thing about albums and music is that it’s always a process, it’s always about evolution and I think that that’s what I’m doing. Do I know who I am more than I did then? Yes completely. I have a better old on me as person; I have a grasp on the direction I want to go and all these things.
What’s the difference between what you do solo and what you do as part of group while touring? Do you prefer one over the other?
The solo work is a lot of work. The weight of the workload and the decision making is all on your shoulders. So you have to think a lot more and you have to prepare a lot more but at the same time that’s the fun part about it, that’s the exciting thing about it; the challenge, the adventure. Because you are relying off your own judgement to pick a single, you are relying off your own judgement to pick the director for your video, the way you wanna look, the clothes that you have one.
With a group you sacrifice your own personal needs for the better of the group and you make decisions together as a team. That’s fine as well. I like being in a team atmosphere, I’ve been in it my whole life. You get the best of both worlds and you can venture out and learn things as a solo artist that you can bring back to the group or you can learn things from the group that you bring back to the solo project. It’s definitely an equation.
Did you take time off between the NKOTBSB tour and the solo promo tour?
I’ve had a couple of weeks off. We did 53 shows and it was gruelling tour, it was a lot of work. And I think that right after [the tour] I went to Toronto and did a three or four day release of the album to sort of kick it off there so I didn’t get to go home like everybody else did. But that’s my choice you know. I enjoy this. I enjoy the entire creative process. I love it.
Are you more comfortable on the road?
It’s become the known and sort of like home. But then I also look forward to going home for three or four weeks because when it comes to my health I like to do a lot of thing that I can’t necessarily do on the road. Things like getting in the gym and eating certain foods and training. I enjoy training and playing sports, you know. Those things are very important and I can’t wait to get home to re-sculpt my body.
I play video games all day long. I try not to cause I gotta work out and stuff but football season’s about to start so I’ll probably watching some football; I love the Buccaneers so I’m going to watch them. And also I’m going to do some studying, reading and playing guitar and paddle boarding and surfing. I live on the beach in Malibu so I’m able to get out there and just enjoy that atmosphere a little bit. And really, studying. Like Pro-Tools and Logic and music programs. I have this need to learn more and to know more and to improve my intellect.
What subjects interest you?
I like natural history and science and biology. I’ve gotten really into health and fitness so one of the sides of it is nutrition. The effects of nutrition on the body and certain things that we eat. Like vegetables vs. animal proteins and that stuff. I’m kind of all over the board I do so many things.
How do you balance being on the road and staying healthy?
On the road you have people that can help get you the food that you need. When we were on a really large tour we had a lot of assistants so when I’m working really hard they’ll go to the store. I was eating mainly vegetarian on this tour. Now I’m kind of back to eating fish with brown rice and I’m going to wean off the fish a little bit more. I don’t really eat red meat anymore. I sparingly eat chicken and turkey. But for the most part they help with that and try to keep the refrigerator full of healthy things. Also I take supplements. In the dressing room we juice vegetables and drink that before the show. It’s crazy because our rider went from unhealthy candy bars and chicken wings you name it to a basket full of vegetables and fruits.
Do you think that that comes with maturity which in turn provides you with common sense?
It comes with age and yes common sense. We’ve seen the effects of nutrition on people in the past and we have to get on stage for two hours a night and we have to be healthy and we have to be strong [and that’s the way to do it].
How does having to hold the attention of an audience by yourself compare to having to share the stage with 4 (or 8) other people?
Well being by yourself and performing on stage, you have to first of all be conditioned vocally. It’s like any other muscle you have to warm up. You are carrying the entire show on your shoulders, it’s not like you have one part of a verse every other song or whatever it is. If you are weak vocally you don’t sound good. I like to play guitar and instruments so I like to incorporate in the solo shows. Also coming up with the customs and everything myself is going to be exciting. But this time around for this next solo show I look to challenge myself and do something that I’ve never done. With the Now or Never tour I used to just get up on stage and it was just me playing with a band and that’s it. This time I wanna make it a show. I wanna put all my talents and my creativity into it and turn it into something that challenges me and entertains me.
The reception was great. The promo show in Toronto was sold out so I’m happy.
When the record label rep came in about thirty minutes into our conversation to let me know I had time for a final question before Nick had to head to another interview, I felt as though barely 5 minutes had gone by. I thought for a second and finally asked him this:
How would you get people that aren’t BSB fans to listen to the solo album?
I don’t even call it a stigma anymore. It’s a blessing to me. What I want to say [to people who don’t like what I do with the Backstreet Boys] is I look at it as if it’s a part of something special. We make great pop music that has lasted a long time and if anybody out there doesn’t want to listen to the music – be it my music or our music – they are completely allowed to. People who truly love music, love music in it’s entirety. So if you the kind of person who likes to search, I call it treasure hunting because every know and then you’ll find something musically that is special and that could be what I to some people. They could take that chance and they might like a song or two. I am very diverse when it comes to my selection of music. I like metal. I like R&B. I like straight dance. I love Metallica and Chris Brown and rap like Tribe Called Quest and I love Tchaikovsky. I’m diverse. So I think that people that say to themselves that they do like me because I’m associated with the Backstreet Boys, well that’s their problem and I feel bad for them for being narrow minded.
After our goodbyes and posing for a picture in which I invaded his personal space – sometimes the fanatic in me takes over – I left the studio feeling like for the first time in a long time I had a new perspective on this man who’s career I had been following for the better part of 15 years… I hope you did too.
I’m Taking Off is in stores now and if like me you are lucky enough to be in the Montreal, Canada area Nick will be at the Metropolis on November 5th, 2011. Don’t have tickets yet? Check out our Nick Carter contest on the Contests section of CONFRONT.
Editor’s note: Interview photography taken by Christine Jutras. Though the images have not been tagged, please note that they are coyrighted by CONRFONT Magazine and are not meant for third party distribution.