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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

HOWIE DOROUGH: Talks "Live From Toronto"

"I wanted to take people different places on this record," Howie Dorough says of his solo debut, Back to Me. "I wanted to show fans where I see myself. I have a lot of positive energy around me, and that’s why a lot of the record has a Euro pop dance feel. I also love to dance, and I love songs that move me and make me want to get out of my seat and enjoy life."

That's precisely what Back to Me does. Now, Howie D is showing yet another side of himself with Live From Toronto. The brand new seven-song live EP sees Howie performing tracks from Back to Me as well as a Backstreet Boys classic in a stripped down, piano-driven setting. His inimitable croon resounds pristinely on the album, and you can feel each and every moment due to his infectious passion. It's sultry, smooth, and soulful; it's Howie D at his finest.

In this exclusive interview with editor in chief Rick Florino, Howie D talks Live From Toronto, The Howie Dorough Lupus Foundation, and so much more.

How did Live From Toronto come about?

Nowadays, you've got to think outside the box. Doing an online concert initially started off as one of the platinum package ideas. Coincidentally, I have some good friends in Toronto who hooked me up with this great recording studio that I used for my album release party and for Neverest, the group that I manage. They said, "If you want to use the studio for anything in the future, let us know." I had this idea of doing the live record there, and the fans were even requesting the album before we had a chance to do it!

The songs have the same energy stripped down that they do on Back to Me.

We were definitely trying to create that same vibe. It was either go one direction and keep the songs the way they are or totally unplug them and go in a different direction. I wanted to preserve the element of familiarity though. That said, I was pleased with how well the songs translated to the acoustic setting.

Was it important for the lyrics to really come through on Live From Toronto? Listeners can really get close to them.

Exactly! When you break it down without as much production and instrumentation, you're able to hear more of the lyrics and melodies as well as the way the music was originally created. Most of the songs were initially written with just an acoustic guitar. All of the songs I wrote began at that route.

Do the lyrics and music tend to arise at the same time?

For me, every writing situation is different within its own self. There are times I'll write with a producer and he'll have a list of tracks, beats, and melodies. So we'll start there. I'll pick one that moves me. I close my eyes and visualize where I see this song like a video in my own mind. From there, I'll write it. Other times, we'll start from scratch. I'll start playing guitar and humming a melody. Then, I'll fill in the blanks of the lyrics. To me, writing is such a fun, creative part of making the album.

What does "Going, Going, Gone" mean to you?

I was working with a producer, and he had a list of tracks he played me. When I felt that beat and the piano that was initially there, it definitely stood out from everything else. I was reading this book of American sayings that I had and I saw the phrase "Going, Going, Gone". I thought it was interesting. Growing up, that's how you describe a homerun hit. I started thinking more about it and I was like, "I wonder if anybody has ever put a twist on this about a relationship?" You're telling your significant other, "Wake up and realize I'm here. I'm in this relationship and committed. If not, I'm going. You'd better hurry up or I'm going further and before you know it, I'm gone, if you haven't gotten the picture."

Is "How Did I Fall In Love" particularly special for you?

It is! It's actually one of the very first songs I wrote on one of the Backstreet Boys records. It was on Black and Blue. I had a chance to share it with Brian. I got invited to a writing trip in the UK. I was working with Andrew Fromm, who's a good friend of mine. It was one of those songs that was written so fast I had to pinch myself and go, "Wait is this really good?" [Laughs] Sometimes, the greatest songs should and do come out that way though. It's true when people say, "This song came to me in an hour". To me, the song was also a way of making my fans realize that I'm not forgetting who I am. First and foremost, I'm a Backstreet Boy, and I'll always be a Backstreet Boy. I'm very proud to wear that hat. While I'm doing this individual project, I want everyone to know I'm not going anywhere. I'm very thankful to be a Backstreet Boy, and it's my main priority. I'm also thankful we've been able to create a platform to give each other space to work on some individual projects and satisfy not only our creativity but the curiosity of our fans to know us individual.

Does "Sleepwalking" come from a different place?

I wanted to take people in a different direction and surprise them. "Sleepwalking" had a little bit of an R&B feel. There's a mystique to it. It's really cool.

Do you think Live From Toronto will be somewhat of a bridge to your next solo outing?

For me, there's something about stripping things down. You're able to really show off the vocals. It's not all about the production and the beats. I feel like a good song should be able to be played with just a guitar. When just your lyrics and vocals can move a person as much as all the production, that's when you really know you have a hit song. It gives everybody a chance to hear my voice. I've been noticed the most with ballads when my voice is able to open up. I have a lot of emotion in me and I think the ballads are able to bring that out. I've had some ideas recently that I'm kicking around for the next one. Mostly, I've been focusing on promoting this. In between the next Backstreet Boys project, I'd love to do some of my own shows and stuff like that. The next challenge at the top of my list is to create a show. While all of that is going on, I'll probably work on music. I'm always writing music. I just love to write. It's a lot of fun.

What's going on with the Howie Dorough Lupus Foundation?

I was actually at the foundation's storage the other day. The Foundation is still going, and we're always accepting ideas for different fundraisers as well as donations. We're still giving out money to research. We have merchandise online we're selling. The Foundation will always be close and dear to my heart. I also support Lupus L.A. and other foundations.

What else do you have going on?

I'm also helping manage some projects out there. I have an artist named Dan Tolevsky, and this great band I'm very proud to be working with, Neverest. They actually sang on "Lie to Me". I like helping other artists get a start and using the knowledge I've gained over the years to give back to other artists. Also being a good father and family man is so important to me!