BSB Still Larger Than Life
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Date: Feb 03, 2001
Even though they've grown up, grown beards and (in two cases) gotten married, Nick, Howie, A.J., Brian and Kevin are still Backstreet Boys. But a lot has changed since we last heard from the grand old men of the boy-band era.
It's a crazy world we live in when their latest, Black & Blue debuts at #1, sells 1.6 million copies and is still considered a disappointment. But as they continue the mega-tour to promote their latest album of smooth R&B-flavored pop and dance numbers, the five guys say it's not about sales or competition.
Backstreeters Brian Littrell and Nick Carter told MTV News' John Norris they just want to put on the best, biggest, longest, most outrageous show of their careers. So expect flames, lots of costume changes and songs that are "more vocally challenging" than that other boy band's tunes. Not to mention some summer support from a slew of multi-platinum pals, including Shaggy.
Check out what Brian and Nick have to say, and look out for part two of our Backstreet Boys interview, where Kevin Richardson, A.J. McLean and Howie Dorough will be Black & Blue and read all over.
MTV News' John Norris: Eight years on, is it any harder to get pumped up for a tour?
Brian Littrell: We don't do it all the time, seven days a week. We always take time for our personal lives so we can enjoy normality. When it's the right time, a new album comes around, we all come together and we try to put together a quality show for the fans. It's not really a show, but an event, something that they can take with them.
Norris: You guys had a longer-than-usual break before Black & Blue came out. That led to some concern about whether the audience would still be there. They seem to be.
Nick Carter: I had a nightmare last night, a terrible nightmare. I was walking into the audience right before our show went on, and there were just a couple people scattered here and there. I started crying, then I woke up. I'm so humble and so happy that our fans are there for us. It's a great feeling.
Norris: Since you know the ins and outs of touring, do you take a little more businesslike approach when you go out now?
Littrell: Our outlook has changed a little bit. The production is the biggest that it's ever been. I think we are carrying the largest show that's ever gone out.
Norris: It looked like there were 15 rigs outside the opening-night show.
Carter: There's 20 or 30. But the main concern is to get out there and put on a good show for our fans. That's why we put the extra time, effort and money into making everything as good as it can be.
Norris: There have been some changes in your personal life, including two marriages. Does that make things a little different for you?
Littrell: Last night in front of 21,000 fans, to get behind a microphone and greet the audience, it's like it always has been. They cheer for each of us just as they've done before. We had been living with the new music for a while, so we were anxious to get on the road and show people the live show.
Norris: A.J. stepped to the mic and said, "Backstreet's back!" Is there a sense of reclaiming your spot, one that might have been overshadowed by other artists?
Carter: Our spot. [laughs]
Littrell: We've always tried to create something for ourselves. There's been so many groups, and the market and music scene have changed so much just in the past five years. We always look ahead. There's really no now; we're always preparing for tomorrow.
Carter: We're kind of afraid of people forgetting about us. But when you do three nights in a row and you see all the people out there for you every night, you say, "Maybe I'll calm down a little bit and not worry so much." [RealVideo]
Norris: When Black & Blue came out, there was speculation about the horse race between you guys and 'NSYNC, and how the record was going to do. Are you happy with the way things are going?
Littrell: There was no disappointment at all. We tried to set it up right; it was all our creative involvement to jump on the plane and fly around the world. We have so many fans all over the world that America is really small in the whole scheme of things. To sell more than 5 million records the first week worldwide, that's like something Michael [Jackson] or the Stones would do. It's amazing.
Carter: We can't be any happier. There's a lot of people out there that work their butts off to get to the points that we've been to before, and we're working really hard, too. We've been around for a while, but we're grateful to be able to sell that many records in the first week. The Backstreet fans are the strongest out there. That's no disrespect. [RealVideo]
Norris: Had [1996's] "Quit Playing Games (With My Heart)" never broken when it did and the way it did, a lot of artists might not have had the careers they have.
Carter: When we first came here, it was us, it was Hanson and it was the Spice Girls.
Norris: It was pre-Spice Girls, wasn't it?
Carter: It was pre-Spice Girls, but we were like, "Darn it, man, Spice Girls are blowing up the spot and we're still sitting around working our butts off." Finally, we got what we deserved. I think it was lucky timing. Everything goes in cycles, from fashion to music. And when we first came on the scene, in '93-'94, it was Nirvana and Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre. We were completely outnumbered trying to make a mark.
Norris: In this country.
Carter: Yeah. When Nirvana and Snoop were huge, we blew up in Europe, so they shipped us out.
Norris: You played in the round on the Millennium tour. This time, you've got a traditional, end-of-the-arena stage set. What are the biggest differences you've seen in terms of playing?
Littrell: Being in the middle was like a constant circle. We were running all the time, and the show was just like clockwork. When we get the Black & Blue show to that point, it'll be easier. We're still a little bit out of shape, trying to get back into the flow of things. And it's hard to sing 21 songs a night live.
Norris: Is this the biggest set list you guys have done?
Littrell: Yeah. We did 19 on the Millennium tour, but we have to do medleys now because we don't have time to do three or four albums' worth of stuff. We're trying to figure out how the Beatles did it and how the Stones do it.
Norris: So "Quit Playing Games" and "As Long as You Love Me" get put into medleys.
Littrell: Yeah. We want to fit them in, but we're talking about maybe pulling some of them out.
Norris: You play virtually the entire Black & Blue album.
Carter: That's what we want to do. We want to be able to show the fans the new songs.
Littrell: That's exactly what we did on the Millennium tour. We did the whole Millennium album, except for one song.
Carter: It's hard to toss up all those songs. But thank God we've had so many singles.
Norris: "We've Got It Goin' On" is not included for the first time.
Carter: First time the national anthem is not in there.
Littrell: The Backstreet anthem. I didn't even realize it until you brought it up.
Norris: You're not too nostalgic. [laughs]
Carter: We'll do 10 seconds of it and it'll be in the show. We really love that song, but we've been doing it for seven years.
Littrell: You end up hating the choreography.
Norris: You start the show with "Everybody (Backstreet's Back)" and "Larger Than Life," which are fan-oriented songs. Is it important to start off with a tribute to the fans?
Carter: Oh yeah.
Littrell: We've always started with the anthem song to the fans, because that gets them riled up. We want to keep it going with the dancing and keep the intensity up. And then we do the traditional costume change and try to do some low ballads. We try to make our show up and down, up and down, so everybody can stand up for a little, then sit back and listen, and then stand up and dance.
Norris: It's also easier for you to do it that way. There are some costumes that are better for up-tempo songs. You couldn't really dance around in those white coats.
Littrell: You don't want to come out and do all of your up-tempo songs back-to-back, because you would kill yourself. And then there would be mid-tempo numbers and ballads that you just sit around singing and people would be like, "What's gonna happen next?" We were just talking a couple days ago about how the dancing is coming along a little easier, just because we've had more of a chance to do it singing. When you try to put the singing with the dancing, that's when it becomes a train wreck sometimes. But that's what the rehearsals are for.
Norris: The Grammys are coming up. Are you going to make it to the ceremony?
Littrell: It's the 21st of February, right? I think we've got a day open on our schedule. We have been preparing for that, and we would like to be there if at all possible.
Carter: It's tentative.
Norris: You're up for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal, for "Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely." That's got to be nice, because it's a real personal song.
Littrell: It's awesome to be nominated for a Grammy.
Carter: Being nominated is like an award.
Norris: Not too surprisingly, you're up against a tune called "Bye Bye Bye."
Littrell: Wow, who does that?
Norris: Some guys from Orlando. On MTV last year, Kevin was asked, "What song would you like to never hear again?" And he said "Bye Bye Bye." [laughs]
Littrell: Kevin [Richardson] will never live that down.
Norris: Any thoughts on competing with that song?
Littrell: You're competing with everybody. [RealVideo]
Carter: You're competing with the same producers. When they write for 'NSYNC, their stuff is a little more dance-oriented. It's a little less vocally challenging, I guess you could say. It's just two different styles on the radio.
Littrell:Sometimes you hear a song you like on the radio and think, "If there wasn't an 'NSYNC, we could have had that for our next album." Now there's all these different groups, and with success comes popularity. And then people are throwing themselves at you and trying to get a piece of everything. That happened to our producers.
Carter: It's a ruthless business, and people try to get what they need out of it. But I'm happy to just be able to sing and perform for our fans. We're blessed to be in this position. As long as we can keep doing that, we're cool.
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