by Darryl Smyers
20 years ago, The Backstreet Boys were unleashed on an unsuspecting American public and the "boy band" phenomenon of the late '90s was officially under way. Inspired partly by the great doo-wop groups of the '50s and partly by the R&B of the '90s, Nick Carter and the rest of the boys were quickly scooped into international stardom.
From a tour stop in Cincinnati, Nick Carter was kind enough to talk to us about the Backstreet Boys' road to continued success and why they didn't change their name to Backstreet Men.
It's hard to believe that the Backstreet Boys have been around two decades. In some ways, that time has gone by fast, but in other ways, it feels like we are a brand new artist. It's very exciting, all the things that are happening. I mean, what more could you ask for? We have a top five album in America, all around the world. We have a sold out tour. It has brought new life into the project. There are just so many great things that are happening that it makes it feel like a brand new day.
How has the band been able to stay popular for so long? We put on a really good live show with songs that people can sing along to. I think we try to look good. We don't look haggard. We have such dedicated fans. They love us. That dedication is amazing. I watch certain bands that have these dedicated fans, acts like Kiss and Jimmy Buffet. They have these huge followings. I think that we have created something like that, in a way.
Is the audience still 80 percent female? Yes, I think so, but last night, there were a ton of dudes. And that's cool. We don't discriminate. Music is music.
You guys have sold 130 million albums. At some point, these numbers must become surreal. Those numbers always come up and it is a little surreal and I don't accept it. I am always looking to the future and thinking of what we are going to do next. I want to think that we have not even sold one record. I want to keep that drive we had before we sold 130 million albums. When someone mentions the numbers, it still shocks me.
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It's like a double edged sword for me personally. I love it, but I put it in the back of my mind and say it's time to move forward. People like to hear the statistics. You start to think about how many albums that really is, how much money was made. But a lot of that money went to the record company.
It took a couple of albums selling well in Europe before the band made it in the States. Why do you think that was? You go where people want to hear you. We did try to make it in America at first. When we tried, Nirvana was big. So our music ended up hitting it big in England and in Germany. We went there and got everything together. We got our live show straight. We came back and hit it in America and in Canada and we were off to the races.Was the first Backstreet Boys performance really at SeaWorld?
Yes, that was before we even had a record label. That was Grad Night. That was the first gig at SeaWorlds' Grad Night. That was in 1994. We were received actually pretty well. Even at that age, we were able to put on a good show.
In the past, you have talked about not liking the term "boy band." Why? In 1994, we wanted to be Boyz II Men. We modeled ourselves after the R&B bands of the time. We were influenced by doo wop groups like Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. It's all relative.
Not too many bands have their own board game. I've never seen that game, so if it does exist, I need to find out about that. If there is a board game, hopefully it has been retired. A lot of the bands had dolls or bobble head dolls. We did not want dolls of us. We don't want anything to discredit us. Back then, we overanalyzed everything.
Have you always had a friendly competition with New Kids on the Block? We kind of like to have a competition with everyone. We are friends with the guys in New Kids and there is a friendly competition. It always makes you better. But some of the competitions are created by the press and have nothing to do with either band. I am personally a great friend to all of the guys in New Kids.
I read that when Backstreet Boys were going to sign with Mercury Records, John Mellencamp threatened to leave the label. That's funny. I've heard that. At that time, no one knew who we were. I am sure Mercury may be kicking themselves by now.
Why not change the name to Backstreet Men? We thought about it. We thought about just calling it Backstreet. But then we realized that the Beastie Boys and Beach Boys could do it. We knew that we were not changing our name. We're cool.
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The Backstreet Boys are scheduled to perform Thursday, September 5, at Comerica Theatre.