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Sunday, February 05, 2012

NICK CARTER: Goes From Backstreet To Spotlight

When Nick Carter, the youngest member of the phenomenally successful boy band Backstreet Boys, made his first solo record, "Now or Never" in 2002, it sold well enough to attain gold status, hit Billboard's Top 20 and produce a Top 40 pop hit, "Help Me."

Carter now says the record was a success almost in spite of itself.

"There were some things that were just incomplete from an artist's perspective, a personal side," he says in a phone interview. "Just all around, I wasn't even prepared for it."

So instead of releasing a follow-up, Carter rejoined Backstreet Boys after a hiatus. The group released three more albums, sold more than a million more records and performed successful tours both as a group and on an outing with fellow boy band New Kids on the Block.
Carter says that in addition to performing, he was learning.

"I learned the ropes, was able to develop relationships with producers [and] writers, learned how to be a better writer. Learned the ins and outs of some of the business things that were very important to touring, to production, even from a record company standpoint."

A decade later, Carter is now 32 and has released his sophomore solo disc, "I'm Taking Off." Its first single, "Burning Up," was released Jan. 24, and Carter is on a solo tour that stops today at Philadelphia's Trocedero Theatre and Wednesday at Allentown's Crocodile Rock Cafe.

Carter says that he has not only learned how to make a record, but this time he also actually made it. He co-wrote all 11 songs; helped in its production; released it on his own record label, Kaotic Records, and worked on distribution deals.

"I felt that it was time," Carter says. "Actually in late 2010 I was recording and writing and things came together. I like to say that I went back to college with the guys and was able to apply all of the things that I studied in my career."

Carter says the disc represents a transition in his both his career and his life.

The fact that the disc's songs don't stray too far from Backstreet Boys is by design, he says. "There's a lot of similarities. There are dance songs like we do. There's R&B-type songs like we do. And then there's stuff that we don't do. I love rock music, I love pop-rock-type stuff. I like picking up a guitar and writing songs to a guitar.

"But … it was important to make sure that I didn't alienate my fans — or our fans — because you kind of have to feed them little bit by bit. Even though you might enjoy doing music a certain way you might be a fan of, you can't shock people, because you don't want them to turn away and cringe. You want them to embrace you and then you can transcend."

The learning experience Carter describes with his new record could just as easily apply to his life.

"It really is a transitional stage," he says. "Even more so, it's all the work and all the things I have done to myself that came out in the music. All the things that I've gone through, the change. Because this person who I am and this album and who I was before, they're completely different. So it really represents a new me.

"And the transition, the change, the re-born-again sort of approach, I think that it comes out in the music. It's very therapeutic, it's very telling. All-around for me, it was just triumph. It was getting over my trials and tribulations and really just applying it all to a new project. … It was me being completely different."

The interview with Carter was conducted before Tuesday's death of Carter's sister Leslie, 25, from a likely overdose of prescription drugs, according to a police report. Carter was a singer who performed with brother Aaron Carter at Bethlehem's Musikfest in 2001. Nick Carter pledged to remain on tour, saying, "Performing is cathartic to me and I am dedicating the rest of my tour to my sister since she loved to watch me perform."

But in the interview, he spoke freely of a troubled family life that led him to abuse alcohol and drugs.

"I was dealt cards that, I think, weren't the greatest from the family side of life," he says, describing a "chaotic" childhood in which his parents would have violent fights and force him and his siblings to choose sides.

He joined the Backstreet Boys at 12, and says that by his early teens — when the group was selling 35 million albums with such hits as songs as "Quit Playing Games (With My Heart)," "Everybody (Backstreet's Back)" and "I Want It That Way" — he was abusing alcohol, cocaine and other drugs.

In 2002, around the time of his first album, he was arrested for refusing to leave after a fight broke out, and in 2005 was arrested for drunk driving. But it wasn't until Carter was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy, a weakening of the heart muscle, that he saw he needed to turn around his life.

He got sober and started exercises that helped him lose nearly 60 pounds.

"I was able to really know that I could be better than I was," he says. "That I deserved to be better. I deserved to feel better, look better, think better. And so that's what I'm doing, and I feel great. But it's not enough for me. I want to feel better than that.

"In order to achieve that, I have to continue to put in the work. That's from the educational side, that's from the health side of it. I'm in the gym every single day. I'm reading books. For me, it's a work in progress, and I'm always going to have to remember that for the rest of my life. But I know that there's even bigger things to come."

Carter's brother Aaron has had troubles of his own, including a marijuana-related arrest in 2008 and an announcement in January 2011 that he was entering rehab for an unspecified problem. But Nick Carter says his brother, now 24, "is doing better than he's ever done before. And it's cool to see."

"I was able to realize I wasn't able to save anybody — grab someone and hold them and say, 'You have to do it this way because it's better for you,'" Nick Carter says. "No one did that for me. I had to sort of let go and let him grow.

"But then I said to myself it was important for me to lead by example because I had the responsibility of the older brother in my family. I think I started to understand that the younger siblings were looking up to me and I was really able to just, I think, work on myself, and then just hope the best that they would take a look at me and change."

Carter says his relationships with the other Backstreet Boys members is even better. "It's family," he says. "These guys are more than just business associates. We have shared life together and we have experiences and we go to each other's weddings. They have been a support system for me, and have even been able to raise me in a sense, better than my family did."

The Backstreet Boys is working on a new album and hopes to release it this year. It also will be touring again with New Kids on the Block starting in April and will travel to Europe and Australia.

Carter also directed the video for "Burning Up." And he says he's finishing his third screenplay and hopes to soon not only produce them, but perhaps act, as well.

But for now, he says he's concentrating on his solo tour.

"I have a really great show prepared," he says. "It's really entertaining. We have costumes, and it's a show. I think it's out of this world – that's what it is. It's really fun. We have a really great band and it's really entertaining."

Despite all his personal and professional growth, Carter says he'll do some Backstreet Boys hits in his show.

"It's important to keep the fans happy," he says. "I'm sure they want to hear some classic songs, which is great. But for me, to entertain myself, I was able to do some remixes on those songs, and we came up with some really cool renditions that we put on those songs that the fans love.",0,6849228.story?page=1