There are two things common to the rare breed of musicians termed as career artists ~ a catalogue of music that is regularly updated with brand new hits, and a fan base that remains loyal no matter how long the artist stays out of the spotlight between albums. No amount of media hype or spin doctoring by a record company can create this kind of artist because eventually it all comes down to the consumer believing, over a long period of time, that the artist is worth making a trip to the record store for, and that standing for hours in queues is perfectly alright for the chance at a good seat for a live performance. (Okay, so maybe you can get it all off the internet with digital downloads and Ticketmaster but let’s just keep it old-fashioned for the sake of better imagery.)
Even as you go through a list of rock gods, folk luminaries, blues legends and other ‘credible’ artists as being representative of the above, we’d like to add a name that fits the bill to the list ~ the Backstreet Boys. They have, over 15 years, and back-to-back multi-platinum albums, proved that they are made of the stuff that defies fickle musical tastes and trends. They sing like they mean it, interact with fans with the same warmth and humility as they did when they were starting out, and provide an excellent example of how if it ain’t broke, don’t go rushing to get a solo career and end up a has-been.
Their new album is titled Unbreakable and is the sixth studio release since they formed in 1993. The new record is a first for the fans and the band ~ it is their first release since the departure of Kevin Richardson who left the group last year to pursue other interests.
The Record, courtesy SonyBMG, brings you an exclusive interview with the group. Read on as they discuss the new record, what Kevin’s departure means for them musically, their years in the music business and their take on what pop music is all about.
THE RECORD INTERVIEW
What was the inspiration behind the album Unbreakable?
AJ: We were actually in New York, having dinner, just us four, kind of having just a little Backstreet Boys pow-wow, just talking about the record and talking about the album title. We had tried a couple of other album titles that just didn’t really ring. And Brian was actually kind of [giving a] pep-talk to all of us just about different things, one of the things he said was the word “unbreakable.” A little light went on in my head and I threw it out to all of the guys and I’m like “Guys what do you think about that as the album title?” And when you think about it, it really makes perfect sense. Through the past 10 years, all of the things that we have been through; the hard times, with deaths in the family, Brian’s open-heart surgery, my stick in rehab, and now losing a member… We really are unbreakable. There have been so many traumatic things that have happened to us that we’ve overcome and we have yet to disband. We’ve stayed strong. We are unbreakable, for 15 years.
Why did you choose Inconsolable to be the first single off the album? How does it represent the album as a whole?
Brian: Nick tells the story really well, but I kind of take the words out of his mouth. We had decided on a single. We had kind of made a decision and we were having a meeting with the record label in New York and they played us Inconsolable as a demo form. We all fell in love with the song and ended up cutting the record. And it is one of the last ones we cut for the Unbreakable CD that turned out to be the first single.
I think across the board, it is [representative of] the Backstreet Boys. I mean we are who we say we are. We aren’t trying to be anything other than what we hopefully are good at, and that we have been good at for 15 years. You know immediately when you hear Nick singing in the first verse, that hey, it’s the Backstreet Boys. It has got the stamp of approval.
I think it’s a great group oriented record where the fans of the yesteryears, and maybe new fans that don’t know who the Backstreet Boys are, will be excited about the song.
The Backstreet Boys are considered the most successful boy band ever. How do you deal with that level of success?
Howie: Wow, first of all that’s a very flattering honour. I mean, looking back on our track, where we’ve come from [over] 15 years, you know, the success that we’ve had has been unbelievable. I don’t think any of us fathomed the idea [that we’d be here] to this day. And I think you know we’re just…we’re very humble guys still. I think we’re very, you know, [taking into account] the success that we’ve had, people would think that we’ve become jerks or whatever, but I think we are still pretty cool, semi-average guys.
Brian: We’ve been blessed, we’ve been blessed in our career to go to work and do something that we love and that we’re passionate about for 15 years. Hopefully we have another 15 years. But that’s a tall statement to live up to. I don’t think anybody can really live up to that.
Are there any collaborations on this album?
Howie: On this record here we really haven’t collaborated, like duet wise, on the record. It was mostly…the collaborations were by pretty well-known producers. We worked with a guy, several people, one of the guys was John Shanks, who worked on our previous album as well as did some stuff with Ashley Simpson, Sheryl Crow and other artists as well. We also worked with E-Man. He did the first single Inconsolable, and we also worked with a guy named Billy Mann who did a lot of stuff with Pink and some stuff with us on the last record. Also a guy named Rob Wells (Nick Lachey, Cyndi Lauper).
Are there any artists out there that you would like to work with?
AJ: Wow, there are so many artists. I mean whether it is solo artists or other groups, I think it would be cool for us to do a duet with like the Eagles. Yeah, I mean that’s a lot of us on stage but it’s okay. You know do like a Hotel California. There’s also Sting...
Howie: We were fortunate enough to sing with Sting on stage.
AJ: But to do an actual record with him would be cool.
You have travelled the world. Is there any place you haven’t played that you would like to?
Howie: We haven’t been to Egypt.
AJ: Egypt, Russia, Tel Aviv, Dubai, Iceland... The list goes on. There’s plenty of places we haven’t been. We haven’t done an official performance in like Africa. So I mean there’s a lot of places that we’re really striving to hit on this real World Tour. We’ve said it’s a World Tour so many times and yet we’ve never really hit the entire world. It’s a World Tour.
You can read the rest of our cover story on the Backstreet Boys in the November 2007 issue of The Record Music Magazine available at your local newsagent.
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