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It hasn't been all smooth sailing for the Backstreet Boys; they've each weathered their share of tragedy and strife in their lives.

Howie Dorough lost his sister Caroline last year, while Kevin Richardson still feels the pain of his father's death nine years ago. A.J. McLean was reunited with his long-lost father after the group found success, while Nick Carter dealt with very public reports of a falling-out with his own mother. And last year, Brian Littrell underwent open heart surgery to help repair a cardiac defect he had been born with.
MTV News' John Norris got unlimited, up-close and personal access to each member of the Backstreet Boys to talk about these very difficult issues. The guys' candid, revealing, and moving responses.



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Nick:

MTV: Any thoughts on going solo someday?

Nick Carter: Eventually, I might do it. That might be just because I wanna do something different.

MTV: I would think, though, that there must be people that you encounter saying, "Nick, hey, you've got the voice, you've done the group thing, why not go off?" Are there forces around you, encouraging you to do that all the time?

Nick: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. There's tons of forces. You've got to be comfortable in your environment. You've got to feel at one with what you are doing, and I feel at one with what I'm doing right now, so no matter what people say, it doesn't affect me. Right now, I'm just not at the point where I'm feeling like I wanna do something, but there probably will be a point, there probably will, but I don't know when.

MTV: Are you still in the relationship you were in a year ago?

Nick: Mmm, yeah.

MTV: And as you know, there was a lot of talk that that had led to a falling out between you and your mom.

Nick: Well, not really. No, it was more deeper than that. I think that was a scapegoat for a lot of things having to do with my relationship... for other things that were going on. Really, everything right now is extremely cool. I love my family.

MTV: Your relationship with your mom is okay at the moment?

Nick: Yeah, it's good.

MTV: She's been pretty involved with your career from the get-go. Do you now think that maybe it's not such a good idea for family and business to be intertwined?

Nick: I believe that, right now, it's more so, that I wanna be with my family and not [talk] business. That is probably the big issue, what it was. Now it's more just about me wanting to have my family out of the business, 'cause I deal with it so much. I'm living the business. So when I wanna just take a break and get away from it all, I don't wanna have to come back and deal with it all, with all the business and stuff. I wanna be able to just chill, so that's pretty much what it's all about.

MTV: Has it become difficult for you to keep your business and personal lives separate?

Nick: It is kinda personal to me, and at the same time, I'm in the spotlight all the time, and everybody's in the spotlight, so a lot of people know your business. Once you sign on the dotted line, that's what you're obligated to let everybody know.

MTV: Is it safe to say there won't be a "Heart And Soul, Part II" coming out anytime soon?

Nick: Not anytime soon.

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Howie:

MTV: We've been talking to the guys about the meaning of "Show Me The Meaning Of Being Lonely," the song and the video, and we wanted to talk to you about your segment, and dealing with the loss of your sister Caroline.

Howie Dorough: With my sister passing away a year and a half ago, that was something that was, like, the very closes thing for me: the feeling of being lonely, and knowing that I no longer had that one-fifth of my family there, and knowing that feeling of how it felt like when she passed away and I literally had to get on a plane right after her funeral, that day, to go to South America to perform an concert the next day. It was our first, actually first couple of concerts that we ever canceled, in Minneapolis, in the history of the Backstreet Boys.

MTV: Was there ever a question that the show would, or wouldn't go on with or without you?

Howie: We knew when we got started in this whole thing that there would be a lot of things we would have to sacrifice. I figured the guys would probably go on, but it was something that was a big enough impact on everybody that they decided, Let's just take this time off here and reschedule it.

MTV: What was that like for you?

Howie: It was one of those kinds of things that I wish to never happen upon anybody, and it's one of those kinds of things that you don't really [think] about. This is all great, but at the end of the day, like, with certain situations, like Brian's heart surgery, or with a family member passing away, it just makes you realize that nothing is that great more than your own life or a family member of yours.

MTV: Your sister had Lupus, I understand. Was it a sudden thing?

Howie: She had it for 13 years, actually. Her death did come drastically. It was literally a month before that, she was... not even a month. I think it was couple weeks before that, we had finished up our tour in her hometown in Raleigh, North Carolina, and then it was, like two weeks after that. We went to the MTV Awards, and it was right after the MTV Awards, the night before we had won our awarrd, and the next morning, I found out that something had happened to my sister, and possibly, I might want to come into town.

I just thought that, you know, she was just having a bad lapse on the whole thing, and I was just praying to God that nothing was gonna happen. But in the back of my mind: "Well, do I go? I know we have to hurry, I only have one day off," and I was like, "Do I go ahead and go, or do I go on to the next town?" Just something in the back of my mind said, "You know what? Just get on a plane. Don't even think about it." It was about 5 o'clock in the morning when I got the notice.

I just got on the [next] plane out, and I just missed her. Like I said, there was a couple other of my family members that got a chance to see her. I actually missed the first flight out, and I caught the second flight, and me and my father had just missed actually having just a few moments just to hang with her. When I got there, though, everybody thought that everything was okay, that she was just having a bad lapse and everything, but literally, as soon as I got there, she had went under.

I always hold the thought of my last concert with her in Raleigh and just the excitement of being there, and it was, like, so exciting for her to have all her family and friends [there], 'cause she's the only one that lives outside of Florida. It was like a big deal to her, you know, a small town there in North Carolina, all her friends knowing that her brother's a Backstreet Boy and everything. I had, like, a big thing for her, and I think, for her, it's like... I think she kind of held on, knowing that I was there, and then, all of a sudden...

Brian:

MTV: I want to ask you about the "Show Me The Meaning Of Being Lonely" video, because I think a lot of people are actually surprised that you are able to bring something like your heart surgery in to a video like that. Was it a hard decision to make? Or what it like, "Let's go for it?"

Brian Littrell: It was something that we wanted to give to the fans or give to the audience, so to say. Something that came directly from us. Life experiences. And it was a tough decision for me to make, because I was thinking, "Well, what has been trying in my life that sticks out?" Obviously, it was my heart surgery.

I had long talks with the director, because I didn't want it to be too vivid. I didn't want it to be too graphic because it's hard enough for my family to watch it, let alone me. But I wanted to share that, because it was a growing experience for all of us. For each and every one of us.

MTV: Do you remember -- because I talked to you a few months after the surgery, and you were showing us the scars and everything, and you guys were back at Radio City, hitting the road and it seemed all to be all good. But I know since then, you've talked about the fact that you postponed surgery the first time to stay out there on the road, and then you did go back on tour relatively soon after the surgery.

Brian: It really wasn't my choice.

MTV: I was going to say. I mean, but it should have been, shouldn't it have?

Brian: It should have been nothing but my choice, but it was scheduled, and you deal with... I mean, a lot of stuff went down with that. A lot of trying times happened with that with our previous management. The schedule was just laid out in front of us, and that was what got so frustrating, because it was just chop, chop, chop. Had to be everywhere at a specific time, and nothing could stand in the way. After experiencing a delay in my surgery twice, then finally having it, and then eight weeks to the day of my surgery, I was back up on stage in Charlotte, North Carolina.

MTV: Oxygen tank standing by.

Brian: Yeah. I mean, for the first two weeks of the tour I had paramedics and people, because I didn't know.

MTV: It had to have been pretty scary.

Brian: It was very scary. I mean, that put a lot of weight upon our shoulders with coming to terms with making a decision about what was most important. Was our health important? I kinda got picked as the example. I guess to say, that out of all five of us, it happened to be me, it turned out. Everything happens for a reason, and it turned out good. Thank God, you know that everything went well, that we didn't have to take too much time.

I know there's a lot of loving and caring fans out there, and I got letters beyond belief. You know, of gratitude and thankfulness. But I think it shows them a different phase of what our work is like, 'cause they realize that a little bit through me, I think, of how hard work is. You know a lot of people think the entertainment business is such an enjoyable thing and glamorous. It has its perks, but, you know, there's real life behind all that.

MTV: I would imagine that Kevin, having lost his dad and knowing that his cousin had a condition growing up as a kid... I would imagine he was going through it pretty hard when you were having your surgery.

Brian: Yeah. He flew to Minneapolis to see me. Rochester, rather. But he came up and visited me for a couple of days and it kind of hit home when he saw me out walking with my, you know, walker and things. They had me up on my feet two days after my surgery, and I was walking laps around the hallway, and that was tough, because I've always been so physically active, and knowing that something would kind of knock me on my butt like it did... it was tough, but that's kind of when it hit home. I remember looking in the waiting room and seeing him in there -- and he kind of turned a little white -- thinking, "Wow." You know, "It's really happening." But we were going so fast, it was hard to kind of slow down and wake up to what was going on.

MTV: You mentioned your faith, that it's always been important to you. When you went through the surgery, was it at its darkest point? Was it challenged? Were you questioning? Was there a lot of, "Why Me?"

Brian: Not really. It was kind of disbelief, because I felt so healthy going into the surgery. That was kind of the hardest thing to believe was why I had to do this in order to live the rest of my life. And when you weigh those things, I thought, Well, I've got a wife and some kids ahead of me that I would like to see, God willing, besides all of this going on. I'm making a living for myself, but I'm benefiting my family down the future, down the road. But when you weigh those things I thought, Well, no career, no status, or no star status... is worth losing all that.

MTV: Your faith is as strong as ever.

Brian: I think it's stronger now, just because there's more. I've been asked several times when I've been home, you know, people say, "How do you stay accountable to God?" You know, because of all that is introduced with this business.

MTV: I was going to say. Does it challenge you a lot?

Brian: The way I handle situations on the road is like: If you don't put yourself in that situation; if you can think ahead and plan to be elsewhere when you know that something else is going on over here; if you choose the right path rather than the left path, and you don't even set yourself up with putting something that might be strange, that you could see or take part in... you've gotta pre-think those things. I'd rather stay in my hotel room than go out to a bar and be caught with whatever and have somebody say, "Well, you're such a big Christian," and then you had a beer. I'm not gonna tell that I'm not gonna have a beer, because I do, but at the same time, it's like, you put yourself in that company, because you're not just going out to be by yourself. You're going out to be involved with everything that's going in there, and God forbid something happens. It's
not worth it

AJ:

MTV: Any new tattoos?

A.J. McLean: Nothing, yet. I'm looking forward to getting one on this tour. I've drawn it out, got it all mapped out. It's gonna be good, it's just gonna hurt. I'm trying to get it right here [points to left pectoral]. But I'm not sure. It's a little G clef with angel wings and a halo and Christ's face right in the middle, and it will say, "Music is my savior" as well as "Christ is my savior."

MTV: Cool. You were you talking last year about getting the "69" one somewhere on your stomach?

A.J.: Yep, got it on my stomach, right there. That hurt like a son of a gun. I tell you what, I was in tears for that one. It's like, I take three or four months in between each tattoo, so you kind of forget mentally what it feels like to get it done. So I go back in, and it's that same initial reaction. Your body gets numb. You start sweating. You start freaking out. You got to pound down a Coke and the caffeine.

MTV: There was a lot of speculation about, you know, "69" and all the meaning of that...

A.J.: No, it's actually my lucky number. It really is. I mean, there's purely no sexual content whatsoever, to clear that up. It just seems to be the perfect number for me, but no sexual content whatsoever.

MTV: Just in general, would you say that if you guys want to grow up in terms of performance, if you want to be more sexual, do you feel restricted from that?

A.J.: I think we did at a certain point, where we did the previous tour -- not the "Millennium" Tour, but the tour before that -- when we did our solos, and I did the song "Lay Down Beside Me." And then I got down on the floor and did my whole spiel on the floor. That kind of opened doors for us. I was a little nervous when [BSB choreographer] Fatima said, "Why don't you get down on the floor and hump the floor?" without saying it any other way. And I was like, "Well, I don't know if that's going to go over real big with the moms and the dads in the front row." I did it and got the great crowd reaction, and I felt better about it, and that kind of made us all realize, Okay, I guess we can kind of go a little bit further with it.

MTV: Moving on to the "Lonely" video, one thing you didn't do -- of course, Kevin has got the thing in there with his dad -- I know you didn't bring in anything regarding the whole reunion with your father. Was that considered?

A.J.: You know, it's really funny that you say that, because when we were in prior meetings for the actual video shoot, [the director] had a whole setup of how each person's scenes would go. We came up with the whole concept ourselves, with the individual things, and Brian with his heart and Kevin with his dad. But the funny thing is, he had no idea about my father. The original scene was supposed to be me in a desert with nothing around with picture frames floating in the air, going through a time lapse photography, talking about me and my father, and there being a man in the distance coming toward me, and I try to get to him, and then he's gone. And that was going to be my father. Like, "He's in your life, he's out of your life." It was weird how he knew that or had that set up and didn't know anything about my father or anything about my life. But we ended up flipping that around, because Kevin's father and that whole situation has been more publicly known among our fans. People kind of know that Kevin, whenever we do something related to a cancer foundation or something that's related to any kind of foundation, Kevin and Brian and Howie, because they've had losses in their families, can kind of relate better to their sequence in the video. Howie with his sister, that's the whole concept. But me and Nick, we're kind of just random in the video.

MTV: You were four when your dad...

A.J.: I was four when my mom and dad split up.

MTV: Do you remember how you thought of that, or how it was explained to you when you were a kid?

A.J.: My father was never really talked about a lot growing up. The last time that I saw him, from the time my parents were separated, I saw him when I was about twelve years old. Ten, twelve, around that age, and it was for the holidays. It was the weirdest thing, because I at first didn't know who the hell he was. And then my mom kind of clued me in... patted me on the back and said, "That's your father." I was like, "Oh, okay." Didn't see him after that, and then kinda like bumped in to him again, and it was just like...

MTV: Didn't you seek him out, though?

A.J.: Ah, yeah. We were in the studio, and my grandfather came to drop off an envelope to me. It had a return address on it... which was probably about 15 minutes from where I was living at the time. So I decided, Why the hell not? So I went ahead and checked it out, and sure enough, there he was. Backstreet memorabilia up on the wall. He had been keeping up on the whole Backstreet thing, since the whole thing started.

MTV: Did that feel weird knowing that this guy was out there following what you were up to?

A.J.: It was kind of awkward, but he kind of expected me to jump back into it and just become [his] son all over again. I couldn't do that. I was raised solely by my mom and my grandparents and my uncle and my aunt and my immediate family, now. My mom is the most wonderful woman alive, and she had to play the role of both mom and dad for me and just, you know, be there for me in every kind of [way], whether it was me having a guy problem or me having a problem with girls. She was there for everything, you know, and he wasn't. So it's like, I just can't accept that back in my life at the drop of a hat. If it were a gradual thing, yeah.

MTV: Plus, being at a point where you're at... do you have to approach something like that with a certain amount of caution or be suspicious of what someone's motives would be, wanting to be close to you?

A.J.: Yeah. I mean, I was always warned by my family. My family continuously filled my head with, "You're gonna be successful, you're gonna make a lot of money someday, you're gonna be a big superstar" and all this stuff. I believed it in my heart, but I didn't visually believe it. They also said, "Your dad's gonna come looking for you when he sees a little dinner bell ring and he sees the cha-ching," and I didn't believe that either. And, just as things started to pick up, phone calls started coming in, started getting Christmas cards, started getting birthday cards, like, "Wow, man, they were right." And it's like, what do you do? Because that is still my dad. I mean, that is still my flesh and blood. I look at someone like Kevin, who doesn't have a father right now and I do... I'd love to fix things, but you just can't. You just got to let it go and be your own man and be your own person.

Kevin:

MTV: We've been talking to each of the guys about their particular segment in the "Show Me The Meaning Of Being Lonely" video, and I knew you had lost your dad, but I really didn't know a lot of the circumstances around it until I read more of what went into the video. Can you talk about your decision to include the home movies in the video, and how tough a thing that was for you?

Kevin Richardson: My part of the song, "Life goes on..." whenever I sing that part, it just makes me remember how, when my father passed away, how I wanted everybody to stop what they were doing and recognize it and realize it kind of stops, but life goes on. I think that's a realization that I had back then. It's like, when my father died, it made me realize, "Life goes on." Life keeps going with or without you. So I really wanted to include him in the video, or at least the story. I mean, I had some home video footage that I thought about using, but I was like, You know what? I don't want to see [my father] on MTV. But I wanted to include that, and that's just me in a hotel, just reminiscing about me and my dad and watching all the old home movies.

MTV: How old were you?

Kevin: I was 19 when he passed away. It was nine years ago. I was living in Florida, and I got a phone call from my mom that my dad wasn't doing too good. He had had an operation before that, but they didn't want to worry me. They didn't tell me it was cancer. They just said he had a problem with his colon and with his intestine, and they had to take a polyp out or whatever, but they didn't tell me it was cancerous, because they didn't want to freak me out. So she had told me that it was cancerous, and he had been going to chemotherapy. And I was just like, Oh, God. So I moved back home and within about a month or two, he passed away.

MTV: Wasn't he the one who really encouraged you to go to Florida in the first place?

Kevin: Yeah.

MTV: Was there any one point where you decided that you wanted to become a performer? Was there any performer or record that inspired you?

Kevin: When I was 9 years old, we moved to this camp, and there was a piano in like the mess hall where they had, like, activities and stuff, like Ping-Pong tables and stuff like that. It was the first time I ever had access, any time I wanted to, with a musical instrument. So I used to just go down there and tinker around on [the piano] every now and then. And I started picking music out that I was hearing on the radio. My dad was walking by the mess hall one day, and he's like -- he used to tell his friends this -- "I heard the prettiest sound coming out of the mess hall. I was like, 'Who is in there?'" And he was like, "I opened the door, and it was my son on the piano." A good memory of my dad.

But yeah, I just started tinkering around on the piano by ear. I can't read music. I wish I had [learned]. I took some piano lessons, but when I took piano lessons... I mean, she had me playing "Mary Had A Little Lamb," and I'm reading it when I could already play "Jump" by Van Halen and stuff by ear. So I would just buy tapes and records. I listened to Prince all the time. When I was a little kid, when I was like five or six years old, I listened to my mom and dad's Ike and Tina Turner records and the "Saturday Night Fever" soundtrack. I would just lay in the living room with the headphones on and just lay there and listen to it. So music, it's like I've just been trying to follow my heart, and it's just like music is always going to be a part of my life, no matter what I do.

MTV: You mentioned the line, "Life goes on...," and it does, but in different ways. Brian seems to have gone through a reevaluation of what's important as a result of his surgery and the way that management treated it and the way that he had to get back out on the road and this and that. Can you talk about that a bit? Have all you guys reevaluated what's important?

Kevin: I mean, when Brian went through that, it made me reevaluate definitely, because I'm a work-aholic perfectionist, and sometimes it gets out of control. And at this point, right before Brian went in to the hospital, you know, we already had a tour. We've got a tour booked, and we've got to do the tour. And if our management would have planned with us instead of planning by themselves, we wouldn't have been in this situation. If it would have been a team effort, if we would have all planned together, Brian wouldn't have had to move his surgery twice. But he did, and that's sad. An open heart surgery that has to be moved twice? I mean, that's ridiculous.

Here I was: "Well, we got this deadline over here, and release this single, and we got to shoot this video, and we got this tour booked, and we can't postpone it, because if we postpone it, we're gonna lose momentum. We're trying to break it to the U.S., etc., etc." And when I saw him after he got operated on, walking down the hallway with a friggin' IV hooked up to him, that opened my eyes. Yeah. It made me realize what's important. And if you don't have your health, and your family and your happiness, your career don't mean shit.

MTV: And Howie was saying, with his sister, he actually had to ask himself whether he should have left the road and phoned home and seen her.

Kevin: Isn't that weird?

MTV: Yeah, it's pretty messed up when the priorities are like that.

Kevin: Exactly.

MTV: It seems like, and success certainly adds to this, you are able to call the shots now as far as how you approach things.

Kevin: Well, we want to have a balance, you know. We don't want to end up on "Storytellers," all screwed up in 15, 20 years. We want to be in this business for a long time. We want to be writers, producers, label owners, whatever. We've learned a lot, and we want to be healthy and happy, and you have to have a balance.