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Homegrown Superman

From his humble beginnings to boy-band superstardom, Nick Carter’s musical talents have helped him amass legions of fans all around the world. Growing up in Tampa, Carter never imagined he would one day be a member of one of the highest-selling boy bands of all time, with over 130 million albums sold.

The Backstreet Boys, consisting of Carter and bandmates Howie Dorough, AJ McLean, Brian Littrell and Kevin Richardson, were formed in 1992 in Orlando. They rose to fame with their self-titled debut album in 1996. Since then, the group has received numerous awards and accolades, and continues to record and tour together.

The love and support of his bandmates and family have guided Carter as he has navigated through both personal struggles and tragic loss. Now, the devoted husband and father of three young children is working on his latest solo album, his most impassioned to date.

With a hit new single and an eagerness to return to the stage, Carter is currently on the road with his Who I Am tour. Due to popular demand, more shows continue to be added. The tour brought Carter to Orlando last month for a performance at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts. Orlando Family Magazine recently caught up with the gifted singer, who spoke of his career beginnings, life as a boy-band member, future projects and his love for Orlando.


What initially drew you to singing and performing?

I was raised in Tampa and around the age of 10, I really started to take an interest in singing. It was the early ‘90s and I was fixated on the radio and would do my best to impersonate singers like Paula Abdul. I think what really got me into wanting to perform was MTV. Watching all the cool music videos, at a time when videos were on repeat all day long, helped create this love of music for me. I would just start singing and that’s when my mom and my family recognized that I was pretty good at it, and so they put me into vocal classes.

I started with a classical vocal teacher. I’ll never forget going to her house every single day, sitting at the piano, and doing my scales, just practicing and getting better. Soon after that, I started taking dance classes at Karl and DiMarco School of Theatre and Dance in Tampa. As I got better, I began doing competitions like Showstoppers. Then I started heading to Orlando for auditions because that was the place for the Nickelodeon and Disney shows. For about 2 years I was constantly in Orlando, going to auditions, and I would run into AJ and Howie who were also auditioning. During that time, I wasn’t getting many callbacks, because even though I was a good singer and dancer, I wasn’t the greatest little actor. Then suddenly things started heating up and I got two callbacks—I was offered a $50,000 contract with The Mickey Mouse Club at the same time that I was asked to be in The Backstreet Boys. So, at 12 years old I had to make a choice and that’s when I chose The Backstreet Boys. A couple of years later, The Mickey Mouse Club was canceled and 30 years later, I’m still a Backstreet Boy.

At age 12, did you have any idea what you were signing up for and how your life would change?

No. Listen, I am the youngest member of the group and at that age the only thing that I thought about was just having fun, performing and going to school. It was a whirlwind. I didn’t necessarily process everything that was going on because I was so young and it was all so much. To think that we would be able to have a career in music this long was unimaginable. And really, we’ve always just lived in the moment and have truly enjoyed everything that’s ever been given to us. We never take anything for granted. We are brothers and have so much love for one another individually and as a group. We share a love for the music, a love for performing together and a love for entertaining people and bringing joy into people’s lives simply by getting up on that stage.

What were those early days of being in The Backstreet Boys like?

For about four or five years, we lived in Orlando and Kissimmee. We had a band house, and we were always rehearsing in a huge warehouse that had no air conditioning; just dancing and practicing and perfecting our craft as The Backstreet Boys. We kept getting better and better and kept recording music and then we started going on tour. Everything for The Backstreet Boys was cultivated in Orlando when it came to the group and who we are today. We owe so much to Orlando. There are so many great memories and stories. Our very first concert was at SeaWorld. At that time, New Kids on the Block had started to fade out a little bit and there was this transition of music. Basically, no one knew what to do with another boy band but when we went up on that stage and performed at SeaWorld’s Grad Night, the high school kids that were there loved us and started to go crazy. Then we performed at Pleasure Island, and I believe we shot our first-ever video there. In fact, I think our first few videos were all shot in Orlando.

What would you say is the secret to The Backstreet Boys’ longevity and ability to continuously gain new fans?

It’s not necessarily a secret, it really has to do with never forgetting the fans and never forgetting what they really want to hear and what they love to see. There was a point in the early 2000s where there was a transition into the new music that was out, and there wasn’t necessarily a place for us, but we knew our fans still loved our music and we felt like we had the kind of music that could stand the test of time. But of course, we, just like our fans, have evolved and around that time we were experimenting with new music. We were trying a little more of a rock approach because you get to a place as an artist where you feel a little bit lost and you don’t know where you want to go or what kind of music you want to make. When we came back together after Kevin [Richardson] had taken some time off to start his family, we started to get to a conversation of, “This is who we are. It’s OK to be a boy band. It’s OK to have the music that we have. We don’t have to try to be as cool as the new stuff that is out.”

We decided to just embrace who we are, while at the same time evolving slightly, which really resonated with those fans who were trying to discover new music as well. And that’s when the resurgence happened. We ended up having a No. 1 hit with Florida Georgia Line with the (2017) song, “God, Your Mama, and Me.” With that, we realized that a lot of country artists just write and sing really well-written songs, and we have had well-written songs in the past, so we just wanted to go back to those types of songs and collaborate with people who resonate with what’s going on in the current music scene. And so, that might be the secret: to evolve without ever abandoning your fanbase, instead take them on the journey with you.

What led to the start of your solo career in 2002?

The initial step into my solo career came from just getting to a place where I wanted to try some new stuff as an artist and just experiment with music. To be able to pick up a guitar and play on stage, write songs and learn as I went was a fun experience for a little bit. At that time, I think it was more of a rush to put things out, from the label, and to capitalize on what was happening with The Backstreet Boys. The label did cause a lot of division between the group, especially with me, to try to push out material when it probably wasn’t ready. But hindsight is 20/20 and you just have to look back and realize everything happens for a reason. Now that I’m older and have a family of my own, I know where I want to be as a solo artist and what music I want to make. What I’m working on right now is probably the best I’ve ever done. I want this next album to be the best music that I have ever put out and I am caring about it more than I ever did before because I know I have such amazing fans who want quality music. Anytime I put something out going forward, I want to make sure that it is a true representation of who I am.

Speaking of which, what can audiences expect from the Who I Am Tour?

For this tour, I wanted to do something that tells the story of my music journey and what influenced me to become the musical artist that I am today. At the same time, I want to give a show for all music lovers. The show is really for anyone that wants to come out and hear hit songs from the ’80s all the way to today. The show starts off with the sounds of a baby crying in the dark to symbolize my birth on Jan. 28, 1980, and then boom we start the show. I start off with songs from the ’80s, like Tears for Fears, Simple Minds, maybe some Prince stuff, and then it evolves into the ’90s, when I’m 12 years old and starting to really listen to the radio. So, I’ll perform songs from Jamiroquai and maybe Britney Spears, sprinkling in some Backstreet Boys stuff and some solo stuff as well. Then we get into the music of the 2000s. The fun part about this show is that even if you are not a fan, you can come have a good time and just listen to great hits from the ’80s, ’90s and 2000s, and it just so happens that The Backstreet Boys had some hits in the late ’90s and 2000s as well.

Your latest single, “Superman,” has received rave reviews. What is the meaning behind the song?

It’s a love song about a guy who has always wanted a simple life and he’s basically fighting to save his family. When people hear the title “Superman” they may think they know what the song is about, but as they listen to it, they will see that it’s a little different than that. There is a lyric in the song, “I ain’t nobody’s superhero, but I can be your Superman.” It’s really a love song about a guy who will do everything he can to save his family and save the ones he loves.

What can you tell us about the “Superman” music video?

I came up with the concept of the video and I wrote the treatment. It is directed by Danny Roew and we just jumped in the car and filmed the whole drive all the way up to this absolutely gorgeous place called Sheridan, Wyoming. The video starts with me being really busy, because we just got off tour, and I jump in my car and take almost like a solo guy trip. I end up in the middle of nowhere and I’m looking to buy a home for my family. There are a series of scenic shots and a little bit of comedy in it—where basically my truck breaks down and I’m holding a little red gas can as I’m singing on a mountaintop with the overview of the planes. Then I start to renovate the house by myself, tearing down walls, sanding the floors and painting. It’s just a really simple video of a guy just taking a trip in his truck by himself and getting a little bit of decompression time.

You have done quite a bit of acting, writing and directing. Do you have any upcoming film projects?

I’m actually working on some very interesting things right now in the animation world, music animation, but I can’t really get too much into that. But what I can say is that I love acting, writing and directing. I did a movie with a bunch of my boy-band friends called Dead 7 that I wrote and directed with Danny Roew. I like to do very random, off-the-cuff things, and so with Dead 7, I wanted it to be a little bit of a Western meets a zombie film because that had never really been done before.

You mentioned working with members of other boy bands. How have those relationships evolved: Was there ever any fierce competition between the bands?

Not at all. I literally talk to Joey Fatone every other day as well as Lance (Bass) and Ryan Cabrera—we are all buddies. We’re all like old college buddies where maybe there was a little competition in years back but now we’re all just family men. Now the phone conversations are like, “Hey, how are you doing? Hold on one second, I just gotta change this diaper,” or “I can’t talk now, I need to feed my kids.”

Have your children shown any interest in music?

Both of my daughters, Saoirse (4) and Pearl (2), have a little bit of that musical bug in them. My son Odin (7) is more of an intellectual who loves books and characters. I have a little karaoke machine at home and Saoirse will just go and turn on the microphone, and just start singing “Let It Go” from Frozen all by herself. It’s really cute.

Any more solo music on the horizon?

Right now, I am working on my new solo record. I just got this song written that I think is the perfect song to dedicate to my children. It’s a song about them growing up too fast and me not wanting to let them go. I’m really excited to get in the studio soon to record that song.