On June 14th, Jive Records will release Never Gone, the first studio album from the Backstreet Boys in almost five years. Never Gone is the first studio release from the group since their debut in 1997. To date, they have garnered two diamond albums, RIAA Certification for 10 million sold as well as numerous multi-platinum verifications for albums, singles and videos. In total, they have sold over 73 million albums worldwide.
Incomplete, the first single off of Never Gone, was released in April and within the first week, has been added to 116 out of 117 top pop radio stations. It quickly became the number one most requested song in top markets such as New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, Miami and Boston.
The Backstreet Boys have just announced their Summer Tour which starts at West Palm Beach, Florida on July 22nd.
HIP: Was there a period during the time you were, you know, you were not recording and taking a break, were you guys, I guess, there wasn’t a Backstreet Boys, did you always feel confident you’d be coming back and making another album?
Nick Carter: I believe we thought, you know, we just really wanted to – we needed to take some time to ourselves on the break. And, you know, we really didn’t know when would be the next time that we would do an album. We always wanted to. Obviously, we’ve been together for 12 years now, going on 12 years, and we’ve experienced so many things together. I mean, I’ve been in the group since I was 12 years of age. And, you know, we’ve had hardships and we’ve made great music together. We’ve toured all around the world. We’ve had many albums that we’ve released and it’s great to get back in the studio again and to create this record.
How do each of you guys feel that you’ve changed since the last time you recorded an album? And how has that changed the music?
A.J. McLean: For me personally, now living a sober life, a completely sober life, my life has changed 360 degrees for the better. I can speak on behalf of the other guys, that our relationship as a – as a whole has definitely changed. We’ve all had some time to grow up, experience things individually. Brian started a family. You know, all of us have had the time to really do some personal growth. And I think each of us now are able to bring something a little different to the table.
And, also, going into this recording process, we all went in with an open mind and just kind of going into experiment and try new things, and try new different genres of music, which then led us to a final product, which is a contemporary, pop, rock direction. And it’s just really good to be back with the guys with a clear head, and my feet back on the ground, and I’m coming up on three years sober in October and it’s just good to have a great support group and we’re all happy and healthy to be back again.
You guys have expressed some trepidation in the past couple of months about returning. I’m curious if you were surprised at all? I mean, the single is top 10, you’re getting lots of airplay and judging by the million people who are apparently on this call, there are still a lot of interest in the club tour went really well. And so, why so scared?
Kevin Richardson: In the pop world everything moves pretty quickly in the music industry, in the entertainment industry. You know, it’s always about what’s new, what’s next what’s going on and whenever you take a break like we did, especially for as long as we did, there’s always a risk that when you’re out of sight, you’re out of mind. We believed in our hearts and in each other in what we knew we could so, and we believed that we had established a strong foundation being that we toured all over the world, we started off in very small venues. We actually started off in high schools, in middle schools all across the country before we ever had a record deal in 1994. And actually it’s funny because we actually had someone come to us at a show and said, you guys played at my middle school 15 years ago – we’ve only been together for 12 years.
Howie: When she was in sixth grade.
Kevin Richardson: Yes, when she was in sixth grade, and now she’s in the work force. Actually, it happened when we were in Minneapolis and we did a visit to Best Buy to talk to all the buyers, and we did a presentation of our album and had a listening party. And she’s like, I was a fan then and I’m a fan now.
Why did you decided to go with “Incomplete” as the first single?
Nick Carter: We got lucky with that song because we had about four more songs that we hadn’t finished recording yet and the song somehow or another got released – accidentally released to radios and leaked out over the Internet. So when the radio stations picked it up and stuff like that, our record company was a little scared and they didn’t know what to think. But then their reception and the response was it from overwhelming and everybody wanted to hear it. So we decided to go with it and release it. And it took a lot of stress off of our back because we loved the song, first of all.
Who do you think your fan base is now? Is it the same teenage girls who are three years older or five years older? Or are you reaching out to someone else?
Kevin Richardson: When we were recording the record, our record company was not sure really who our fan base was. Making the record, we didn’t make it for any particular demographic. We’ve never went into the recording process with an attitude that we were going to make it for a particular demographic. We just make music that we’re proud of that we like, and so the record company wasn’t really sure. When we did our Club Tour about two months ago, it kind of revealed our fan base and we did see a lot of the familiar faces that we recognized from the past, and they have gotten older. So we feel like we’ve hung on to a lot of our fans, but at the same time, we noticed that there were some young kids out there that when we took our break, could’ve only been about eight years old when we took our break. So we feel like we’re gaining some new fans.
It’s possible that the biggest sort of popular music phenomenon to come out was American Idol. And I was wondering if any of you guys watched that show, took an interest in that show and had any thoughts of any idea of, you know, posing, you know, popular music as a kind of competition in which, you know, anybody might feel they have a shot at glory?
Howie Dorough: I feel the American Pop Idol is definitely a new avenue for people to get a shot at trying to get a record deal and possibly stardom. And I think it’s become our feature, I mean, it’s become our 2000 version of Star Search, I think, of what we grew up with. As a group we kind of have mixed feelings of it because we feel like in regards to people working at something and paying their dues, I think it takes a lot of the credibility factor of… true musicians are really struggling to get a break… When we first started, we were like a good two years at least of – almost three years probably of just rehearsing and, you know, trying to get out there, promoting.
Brian Littrell: I wanted to add to that… I know that I was a big fan of the first series that came out, and, you know, would watch it religiously. Myself and A.J. liked it a lot. But I know from the fact from a musician standpoint like Howie was mentioning, there’s a point where, you know, kids have to be very extremely talented to be on that show. One thing that it teaches our society is that they are singing live. They’re real singers. Nothing is fake, nothing is artificial. The music that’s performed on that show is live and are live; mistakes and all. I think that’s good. I think it also raises the quality of music that’s in our industry today because, you know, these kids do get up and sing live, and that’s hard to do.
Kevin Richardson: A lot of people look down on the fact that, OK, these guys have been on a television show, and they’ve gotten a record deal, and they didn’t really have to pay those dues. That’s one way to look at it, but at the same time, it’s what you do with the opportunity that’s given to you. This is a great way to – for a new person, a new performer to develop a fan base. And then it’s all about what that person does with it. I mean, look at the success of Kelly Clarkson. I mean, you look at some of the winners on the show and some of the runner’s up. Some of them have done well and some of them have not. And I think it’s all about what you do with that opportunity.
AJ: I was just going to add really quickly, there’s a young man that did sing “Incomplete”, our single on the show, and I think it saved him one more night. So we were – we were lucky and honored at the same time that they would pick our song. I think that’s a compliment.
Which song on Never Gone do you guys feel the most personally connected to and why?
Kevin Richardson: I’m sure you’re going to get a different answer from all of us. I’ll go first and then the rest of the guys can roll through it. My favorite song on the album is probably “Weird World.” And we did that with John Ondrasik from Five for Fighting, and I just think it really speaks to what’s going on in the world today. The first line of the song talks about the sun is over the city but it’s an orange day. It plays on – it’s a play on words with the fact that since 9/11, we’ve been dealing with, you know, orange alerts, and all this stuff. And to me, I feel like its very relevant for our time right now and we were honored to work with John on that song.
A.J. McLean: My personal favorite record on the album would probably be a song called “Siberia,” which we did in Stockholm in October with Max and the whole Swedish team. It’s just a very deep record. It’s got a very interesting play on word as well talking about “Siberia.”
Howie Dorough: I’d probably have to say my favorite is a song called “I Still.” It’s a song written by Max Martin and Ramie, if I’m not mistaken. To me it’s just one of those kind of feel good, summer kind of songs you can play driving your car around and it has such a great melody to me. All five of us sing on it, and I think that’s – it’s actually a contender for possibly being one of the second singles or the second single, excuse me.
Nick Carter: OK, one of my favorite songs on the album, I’m really a fan on the whole entire record, but “Siberia” happens to be one – I mean, we fought for that song tooth and nail with our record company. We loved it so much it was – it was written by Max Martin. And it’s just the place that the song takes you – it just takes you to another world. I personally love songs like that, songs that you can just listen to and just escape for a moment.
Brian Littrell: For me, this is Brian, I would have to say there’s a toss up between obviously I have an emotional connection to “Never Gone” because Kevin, you know, when he lost his father, I lost an uncle because Kevin and I are family. So it’s a hard song and I love that song because Kevin had spent so much time with the musical production for that.
Was there any point at which you guys doubted you would – you would get back together? And as a part of that, was any of you less enthusiastic than the others about it?
A.J. McLean: I don’t think there was any doubt. I think had we parted ways on bad terms hypothetically, I think that might have left a bad taste in each of our mouths. And, you know, if it was a parting ways where we just couldn’t stand each other any more, it probably would’ve been doubt. You know, but, because it was a healthy decision, we had all talked during the hiatus period and, you know, everybody was really excited, you know, all at the same time. I mean, after the first year-and-a-half we all talked and not everybody was 100 percent ready yet. People were right in the middle of a tour for like Nick. You know, Kevin was doing Broadway. Each of us were kind of doing their own thing. Brian was working on a family and, you know, was going through the, you know, crucial stages of, you know, childhood with his son, and he didn’t really want to miss out on that. And it was – it just happened to be the right place at the right time, only when we reconvened on the Oprah Show and, you know, I don’t think there was ever really any, you know, doubt across the board.
Kevin Richardson: I want to add to that for me personally the only trepidation that any of us may have had is, you know, was it A.J. in the right space? Was he in the right place? Because when we ended the Black and Blue Tour we had the put that tour on hold for a bit so A.J. could go into rehab. And then once he came out, he only went in for 30 days, and then we had contractual obligations that we had to fulfill. We had to finish that tour. And we were mostly concerned with his well being. And in this break, we had all made a conscious decision on the inside that we weren’t going to do anything until A.J. was ready. And unfortunately, when he did go into rehab and actually before he went into rehab, he wasn’t very reliable. We couldn’t – we couldn’t trust in him, we couldn’t believe in him, and it hurt our trust in him. So we had to rebuild that trust and work on that trust. But once we all started meeting together again and we saw each other face to face and I looked into A.J.’s eyes and I saw that he was clear, and that the old Alex was back, then there were no doubts.
It was really interesting to see you working again in a significant way with Max Martin, because a lot of times when groups take that kind of time off, and take a break, and come back maybe looking for a different sound slightly or considerably, they change the people they work with.
Howie Dorough: I’d say after we finished our last album, we were at a point of trying to make a decision on whether to continue working with Max as well as Max continuing to, you know, make the decision of whether to work with us. And I think unfortunately with the backlash of all this stuff that had come out of his camp not only with us, with *NSYNC, and Britney, there’s almost an over saturation of the sound on radio and we kind of got the backlash of it by radio, kind of like wanting that sound to go away. But at the same time, we always knew we had a such a personal connection with Max, that we didn’t want to end our relationship with him. But at the same time, he didn’t really know exactly where to take us either. So we decided to give each other a break, and he actually started working on other artists, and we started working with other producers.
And I think he wanted to actually let us work with other producers so that he could almost kind of create some creative juices to, you know, inspire him to get back into the studio and be able to create the magic once again.
And it happened accidentally, the whole situation how he came back in. He was presenting a song to Clive Davis for the Spiderman 2 soundtrack, a song called “Climbing the Walls,” to be the lead soundtrack song. And the group that he was presenting it to, guys help me out, who was it?
Howie Dorough: Audioslave, they actually passed on it because they wanted to do a song of their own. But Clive Davis saw a bigger vision and said, what about, you know, using the song for the Backstreet Boys? And that right there started our whole relationship once again. Once we got together with him and put our vocals on it, from that point forward, we, as well as he knew the direction of where the album was to go, and that was midway through the whole stream of the album cycle.
Brian Littrell: When we had heard about the song, “Climbing the Walls,” I know I had asked our management staff if they could get us a CD of the demo of the song. And we were told that we couldn’t listen to the song until we got to New York to record it. And I was kind of asking questions like, well, why, you know, why can’t we listen to it and learn it so when we get ready to record it, we’ll be ready to go? And come to find out, I had spoken with Max directly on that, and his, you know, his answer to the whole thing or his comment on all that was he was a little afraid and a little timid that we would not like the song because of the more rock, more guitar driven track that the song has. It’s obviously funny looking back on it because that was really the catalyst in changing the direction of where the record went. Because when we left that studio after we had cut that song, it took us two days to record it. We all kind of felt as a – as a whole that, like it was like recording the Millennium record. That was like a “As Long As You Love Me,” or that was like a “Quit Playing Games,” or that was like a “And I Want It That Way.” I mean, it felt that good and it was a good feeling to have again after being out of the loop for so long.
+ Charlie Craine