By David Michael Conner
Originally published on Advocate.com October 20 2009 4:50 PM ET
Nick Carter’s excitement over the new Backstreet Boys album, This Is Us, is palpable: It’s a return to form, with track after track of the kind of pop music that put the 1990s boy band on the map. Carter points to Moroccan-Swedish RedOne -- who can take at least a little credit for Lady Gaga’s '80s-inspired dance beats -- as the kind of Scandinavian who has pop music in his DNA. RedOne is among the red-hot producers (including T.I.) who have updated the Backstreet sound just a notch on the new album.
And yet it’s clear that This Is Us represents a crossroads for Carter, who recognizes the album as a return to a successful formula -- and who has cleaned up his act in order to seriously pursue other creative and professional outlets, including writing, directing, acting in, and producing films that explore his self-professed “dark side.”
Advocate.com: This Is Us sounds like the Backstreet Boys from way back, but you worked with a lot of new producers, including RedOne, who has produced Lady Gaga, Robyn, and a lot of current dance music artists. Did working with new producers affect your music much?
Nick Carter: I think that, actually, it made us sound like even more of what we are. RedOne is from Sweden and it’s almost like he does music like ours back in the day. I think it’s a really good combination. It’s very familiar because… he’s from Sweden and a lot of our greatest hits, and the greatest pop songs, came from Sweden. [This album] is our pride and joy. We love it so much. We’ve worked so hard on creating an album that is worthy of radio and worthy of stuff that we’ve done in the past -- just really good music, you know? It’s got a nice little dance vibe to it. It’s music that you can dance to in a club, you can play in your car… it’s feel-good music.
The Swedish pop influence is pretty prominent in the new album. But you’ve also got songs like “Helpless,” produced by T-Pain, which has a little bit more of a Miami trance vibe than we’re used to hearing from the Backstreet Boys, and rap artist Pitbull even makes an appearance on that track.
Yes. You know, the trance and the Miami feel just came naturally with [producer] Jim Jonsin. That’s stuff that he loves 'cause he’s from Miami. And it was cool because it gave a new element, a new flavor -- something that we hadn’t done before. Experimenting with new music like we did with our last album is fun to do unless -- we just didn’t feel like it was us, the last couple of albums. We didn’t feel that the pop rock feeling that we were going with really fit us and we were asking ourselves the questions, Who are we? What are we? Well, we’re a pop band. We’re not trying to be something that we’re not and we might as well just be who we are. We might as well go back to what we do best. And so, if you think about our past albums, they have a little bit of R&B influence, a little bit of dance, and we’re just pop music. We’re just trying to re-create that sound that everybody knew us as and loved us as. I think that we really came through and did that, and we’re so excited.
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But the sound is a little bit more current -- it sounds like what you hear on the radio today.
exactly. I mean, everybody loves old music, nostalgic music, but that’s
not what we’re about. We want new and fresh and we want to be current.
We also want music that we can take to our stage because we’ve got such
a badass show to put on. It’s going to be amazing, seriously. It’s
going to be worthy of a Britney Spears live show, you know, that’s how
awesome it is.
And you’re touring Europe and then Asia, and then coming back to the United States?
and the rest of the world, they’re definitely going to see this show.
You’ll be able to pop it up on YouTube and check it out. But it’s
just -- I would hate for the U.S. not to get to see it because there are
only a few shows out there that are really showish. We’re bringing out
dancers with us, so we’re going to have a big spectacle dance show.
It’s going to be like our old shows, but all new. We’re definitely
going to come back to the states, but especially if people fall in love
with our album.
Do you have a favorite song from the album?
new favorite song is “This Is Us.” I just think it’s beautiful. It’s
years and years of hard work…years of life…packed into one song.
I assume you’re keeping up with Dancing With the Stars?
Of course. Absolutely.
Aaron narrowly escaped elimination last week.
I know. But you know what? Honestly… the great thing about the show, I
told my brother, is that it’s all about learning. He’s young enough
that he’s going to make those mistakes in front of the world, but he’s
not afraid to show the emotions, as well. He wears his heart on his
sleeve. He’s a caring and heartfelt person. But he also does want to
learn and he does want to get better and he does want to win. He really
wants to win. That’s that young spirit and fire inside of him and I
think that, if everybody gives him a shot, then I think that he’ll be
able to really shine. I’m glad that he lasted because now he gets
another shot to go back to the drawing board and to really perfect
himself because he’s talented. I think that he’s going to make himself
better and he’s going to come back with class.
Do you think he’s going to win?
knows. But I will say this, though: We are all winners at heart at
anything that we do. I think that if he places third, if he places
fourth, whatever the case may be, for him to get this far is amazing in
itself. But you can’t deny that he’s talented as a dancer, as an
entertainer. With that having been said, I hope that everybody sees
that the most three or four talented stay around because that will give
me faith in that show, that it’s about talent, like an American Idol.
You’re a good big brother. Would you ever do Dancing With the Stars?
I’m more of a singer than a dancer, but maybe I’ll change my mind after
we get out on the road because we’re dancing basically 80% of
our show. So if you come out and see the show then maybe I’ll change my
You’ve had a couple of forays into reality TV -- your family’s
House of Carters show on E!, your date with Kathy Griffin on My Life on
the D-List. Is there anymore reality TV in your future?
think so. If I did one, I’d have to do something that could help the
world. And I believed that I was doing something that could help the
world and could help my family. But I always want to do something that
will help other people, as well. So it would have to be a positive
show, a positive spin.
[Lately] I’ve been filming independent
movies, writing movies, and acting. I’m so passionate for the arts and
theater, especially because my grandfather was an arts teacher. He was
an actor, as well. So it’s in me, and it’s in me to get better. My
objective would be to go along the more credible side of… you know, not
necessarily do reality TV, but do movies. I write my own screenplays
and I just got done writing -- and acting in and directing -- my own short
film, so that’s what it’s all about for me: the creative side of
things. As long as I’m creatively involved, I’ll do something. And who
knows, the next [place] you may see me…is on Broadway.
Do you have something lined up for Broadway?
necessarily, because I’m on tour for the next six to eight months, but
after we’re done with the tour, that’s what I’m talking about. Either
Broadway or the West End in London.
What’s your movie about?
a thriller-horror sort of thing. I’m fascinated by the paranormal; I
have been my whole life. So it touches on the paranormal side of
things, but more from a subtle, love-story approach. It’s the first
movie [I’ve ever done], so it’s not going to be perfect, but I did
everything myself so that I could learn it and experience it. I did all
the casting myself, I did all the budgeting myself -- I did everything. I
worked it out, paid my money. I directed it. It was very guerrilla-style
filming, but the idea was to experience it and see if I really loved
it. And that’s why I’m going to continue to write and, when I get time,
direct my own things. I do want to come to it from the darker side of
me. That’s a side that I don’t get to show often because I am from a
pop…a lighter side when it comes to my music. So it gives me a chance
to be the Mr. Hyde.
Sounds like you like to keep busy.
I’m always busy. Fitness is my other number 1 priority.
Has fitness helped you to overcome your struggles with addiction?
The number 1 therapy, to help yourself out of depression, is physical
activity. It stimulates the brain and it helps you to overcome that. It
gets your blood flowing. When I started getting physically sound, it
helped me out of the dark holes that I may have been in for whatever
case that may be in the past.
You seem like a completely positive person. Do you think of yourself as a role model?
wouldn’t necessarily put myself in the role model category. I’m just
doing what I do and if people want to look at me in whatever way, then
that’s fine because I am now living a much better life than I had in
the past. I’ve overcome a lot of things and I am in a better place, so
if they want to respect my triumphs over tribulations, then that’s
You did an Advocate “Big Gay Following” interview a few years ago, and years back, in 1997, you were a cover
model for XY, a magazine for gay teens. Not everyone in a boy band
would be so involved with gay press, and these have followed you for
years, for better or worse. If you did something like XY now and you
were the same age and at the same stage in your career, do you think it
would be such a big deal?
I don’t think it would be as much of a big
deal. I really don’t. Honestly, I have so many gay friends, family
members who are gay… it’s not a big deal to me. It may have been a big
deal back in the day when I was young, but, you know, whatever. It’s
part of our culture now and that’s what’s great about it. People accept
it now. I love it.