Behind Nick Carter and Jordan Knight's Boy-Band Breakout

The New Kid on the Block and the Backstreet Boy join forces for an album and tour

Jordan Knight Nick Carter
Brian Doherty
Jordan Knight and Nick Carter.
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New Kids on the Block's Jordan Knight and Backstreet Boys' Nick Carter knew each other before their generation-dominating groups teamed up for a joint tour in 2011, but they'd never spent that much time together. "They kept pairing us off in our choreography routines and we got to know each other better," says Carter. "We had a good chemistry. In the eyes of many people, I was like a blonde version of Jordan."

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As the tour went on, they began tossing around the idea of touring as a duo, and maybe even cutting an album. It took a little while, but the debut LP by Nick and Knight comes out on September 2nd. Two weeks later, they launch a 37-date American tour. "A lot of people are just content with what they've done in the past," says Carter. "We aren't that way. We want to do something more exciting and more adventurous than anything we've done before." 

We spoke to both Nick and Knight about what fans can expect on the tour, future plans for the New Kids and the Backstreet Boys, and whether or not they still plan on sticking with their multiplatinum bands in the decades to come.

Walk me through the process of recording this album together.
Knight: We wrote some songs together, but [Carter] was on tour a lot. We had to cram a lot into a very small amount of time. We recorded a bunch in January, but a lot of songs fell through the cracks. Then Nick went to Europe with the Backstreet Boys. He'd send me songs here and there. It wasn't the easiest process. He worked on his tour bus and backstage. We also live on opposite sides of the country since he's in Florida now.

Carter: Things got complicated. The group demands our presence and our time. You have to balance things and make sacrifices. But he's the same kind of guy that I am. We don't take "no" for an answer. We're hard-headed. A lot of people are happy where they're at. We aren't. We like to challenge ourselves.

As far as the schedule, he sometimes flew out to Los Angeles where I was filming my new VH1 show, I Heart Nick Carter. We filmed nine hours a day, five or six days a week. After that I'd go right into the studio and stay until at least midnight. It was really burning the candle at both ends.

You guys do seem to have rather similar musical sensibilities.
Carter: Yeah, I think that's what is interesting about it. But we learn from each other. He comes from an older school, sort of an R&B and rhythmic background. I definitely have that as well, but also things that are a bit newer. He was influenced by things like New Edition, while for me it was more Boyz II Men. Also, I bring an edgy, sort of raw, more of a rock approach. I like classic rock, along with all sorts of music. Together, we have this great chemistry.

What's the tour going to be like? Are you going to share the stage for most of the show, but then have solo moments too?
Knight: We'll definitely have solo moments. His hardcore fan base is going to want to see him alone onstage, and the same with mine. There will also be sections where we break it down. Nick plays guitar real well and I play piano. We'll probably do an acoustic set in the middle of the show.

Carter: We're going to approach the show like we're a new band. The 10 songs on the album will be the focus, and then we'll do our individual stuff around it.

Are you going to be any songs by the New Kids or the Backstreet Boys?
Knight: I don't think so. Our fans see us all the time with our groups. They want to hear us do new material and sing different songs. We'll probably do some covers. Nick does Lenny Kravitz's "Are You Gonna Go My Way" real good on guitar. I might do a Prince cover or something like that. Maybe the way to bring people down memory lane is with covers.

Carter: I think we might do some New Kids and Backstreet Boys songs. We want to focus on the new songs, but we can't deny that we both come from very big groups. Fans want to hear those songs, so we're gonna have to take that into consideration.

Do you ever get sick of people saying to you things like, "I loved you when I was a little kid?"
Knight: I'm so used to hearing that it often doesn't even register. And then every once in a while I'm like, "Oh man, we sung those songs so long ago. We were so, so young." And the fans were even younger! We sang those love songs to girls when they were at their most tender moment, and it really, really made an impact. We were their first crushes. They never let go of that. We have to be responsible for that and not take it for granted.

Nick, what can we expect from the new TV show?
Carter: I did a reality show [House of Carters]a while back, but that person isn't me anymore. With this one I'm excited to show how in love I am and how much this person loves me back. I want everyone to see it. It's kind of like, "I'm in love! Look at me! I'm so happy!" Who knows, it might not be up everyone's alley. It's definitely got drama in it, but it's a love story with a happy ending. People see so much tragedy in my life, so I want them see something different. At the end of the day, if it doesn't do anything beyond the first season, I'm still happy.

What are the future plans for the New Kids?
Knight: We're definitely going to keep touring. We haven't put together exact plans, but fans can definitely expect something more from us next year.

Nick, why do you think the Backstreet Boys have managed to basically be the only boy band to never break up?
Carter: It's because we love the music that we do. We love the chemistry. There are no more five-part or four-part harmony groups anymore. Everybody these days wants to be a solo artist. They all want to be Justin Timberlake or Jason Derulo. It's much harder to be in a group. What we do is a challenge, but there's nothing like it.

It must be great to have Kevin Richardson back in the group full time.
Carter: Oh yeah. We feel strong again, mended. It's nice to have all our brothers back. When we come together, it's like Voltron.

You had a series of shows booked in Israel that you had to cancel...
Carter: It's unfortunate. As entertainers, it's not our job to take sides. All we can wish for is a cease fire and peace. We wanted to go there and entertain the common, normal person in their everyday lives. That's our job. We give people an escape. They were so excited to see us. The first show sold out in about 40 minutes or something. Then two more sold out. We were like, "Jeez, you people really like the Backstreet Boys." We were excited to play to an audience that was super psyched to see us. It's only postponed. We'll be there next year.

Do you ever see the day that 'N Sync might reunite? They all say no, but nobody saw the New Kids reunion coming.
Knight: That's all on Justin, right? I mean, it would be cool. Fans would love to see them. I don't seen it happening anytime soon. At a certain point in his life he might be like, "I conquered the world on my own. Let's do this 'N Sync thing and conquer the world again."

Nick, what are the future plans for The Backstreet Boys?
Carter: We have to finish this tour. There's still South America, Asia, Australia and maybe parts of Africa. There are talks of a new album, but by the time this tour ends it will have lasted two years. It'll be nice to take time off and allow our fans to get a break and get excited to see us again. But there's a Backstreet Boys documentary that's going to hit theaters next year. It's a really cool story.

I think a lot of people in America don't realize how huge the Backstreet Boys are overseas.
Carter: It's hard for people to know what their favorite artist is doing when they can't hear them on the radio. It's not our fault that radio programmers don't want to play Backstreet Boys anymore. It's taboo to play music by an old boy band. But we sold something like 500,000 tickets on our American leg of the tour. We aren't the hot new thing, but at the end of the day we still put on a great show and create albums for people that want to listen to us.

The Beach Boys are in their 70s and still at this. Do you guys see yourselves still playing with your groups at that age?
Carter: When you get older, you have to evolve. We've been playing instruments on this tour. We're students and we're always trying to evolve, trying to find new ways to entertain. We don't necessarily have to dance all the time. I mean, we won't be able to do that when we're 70.

Knight: We'll need some seriously toned-down choreography. It might just end up being snaps and claps by then, maybe some toe taps.