Backstreet Boys talk about holidays, leaning on each other during hard times, and fond Christmas memories of Aaron Carter

The Backstreet Boys' Nick Carter, Howie Dorough, AJ McLean, Brian Littrell and Kevin Richardson.  (Photo: JCPenney)

Nick Carter, Howie Dorough, AJ McLean, Brian Littrell and Kevin Richardson of the Backstreet Boys. (Photo: JCPenney)

The Backstreet Boys just released their very first holiday album, A very Backstreet Christmas, and it is surprising that it took so long. After all, their boy band mates – New Kids on the Block, *NSYNC, Hanson, 98 Degrees – released their own collections of jingle bell pop many seasons ago.

“We have been pressure – for, er, already 30 years! BSB’s Nick Carter jokes to Yahoo Entertainment via Zoom, sitting on set right before their live-streamed “JCP Live Holiday Spectacular” with JCPenney, which Carter’s bandmate Kevin Richardson describes as “a variety show-meets-gameshow-meets-fundraiser-meets-telethon in association with Feeding America. The quintet will also be making up for lost time with a more traditional TV special, A very Backstreet vacationcoming to ABC and Disney+ on December 14.

“But no, [making a holiday album] was a bucket list of ours,” Carter continues. “We grew up listening to Christmas carols and carols. They were in all our homes growing up, and they are special to us. We’ve talked about it for years. … These classic songs are not only our favorites, but they belong to everyone. And so we wanted to do our best with that. We are very proud of this album. It’s now charted, and this is the first time we’ve had an adult contemporary hit – with ‘Last Christmas’ – since ‘I Want It That Way.’

“And I just want to add that I feel like this Christmas album happened at the perfect time in our lives and where we are as men because I feel like the thought, heart and soul that we put into the record, it wouldn’t have been the same if we were in our twenties,” notes Richardson. “Like, we’re dads now. We have life experience. And I feel like you feel that in the album.

While the Backstreet Boys have evolved into men in their long careers, they have indeed experienced life’s ups and downs – and Carter suffered a huge loss just before the holidays, with the tragic death of his younger brother, pop star Aaron Carter, on November 5. As Nick sits with his bandmates – Richardson, Howie Dorough, AJ McLean and Brian Littrell – he says they “lean on each other” during this difficult time, but he seems happy to share a fond Carter family Christmas memory about Aaron.

“Actually I was telling the guys… we were getting ready to do our ABC Christmas special and we were sharing some stories, and I didn’t get a chance to share this story,” Nick tells Yahoo Entertainment. “But when we were touring Europe, I was about 15 years old, and we were always in Europe for about three, four years before we really broke. [in America]. And every time we were on stage, things were thrown at us, and there were all these stuffed animals that were thrown at us. This is when we first started; we just tried to do our best and didn’t really have much at the time. So I collected all these stuffed animals and put them in bags. It was just a few days before we got home for Christmas, and I put them all in a bag and put them in this bag, and I literally had this huge bag on a plane. I put it in the bin up there and brought it home.

“And that night I was a bit older, so I could help my parents decorate and prepare things, wait for me to help. So I was “Saint Nick” that night. I decorated everything, and I remember putting these little footprints out of the chimney, and I set these cookies down and had a bite out of them. That next morning all my siblings woke up and they were so excited to see all these stuffed animals under the tree. And I actually put on a Santa outfit and came out dressed as Santa Claus, and it was just a lovely time.

Carter empathizes with other people grieving during the holiday season, and since he has a strong support system with his bandmates, he also takes a moment to offer kind advice to anyone feeling lonely or sad. “There are many people in this world who are going through dark times in their lives,” he says. “And I encourage everyone to find someone — pick up a phone, call someone — and just get together with whoever, the people you love the most. It can certainly be one of those times of the year, but just know that there are people out there for you.

The Backstreet Boys have always leaned on and worked on each other through tough times A very Backstreet Christmas was another example of that. “The silver lining during the pandemic was that we had some time to shut down, and so we jumped into the studio together,” explains Carter. “We hadn’t seen each other for about six to eight months. We decorated the studio in mid-summer in Los Angeles to look like Christmas time: We had trees, we had Christmas logs, we had music, we had eggnog, and we had it all there in the heat of summer. And we picked our favorite songs, the things we love the most, and then we started recording them. And it took a while, but I think it’s also good that it took some time because we were able to perfect it too. You know, we’re a band that sings in harmony, so we were really able to get intricate harmonies into all of these songs – make them our own, make them really special.

“People are so hungry for entertainment. They are so hungry to just get together. They want to feel good now. They just want to get together,” Carter continues. “And I think that’s what the Backstreet Boys are about: a fun time in people’s lives. … And that’s what we give them. We give them an escape from all the mess in the world and just to get together.

And now, three decades into their career, the Backstreet Boys are celebrating with their first full-length holiday record, and they’re still bringing in hits. Had they ever imagined this future for themselves when they were just starting out, earning a meager living on the road and laying on cuddles?

“When we signed up for this 30 years ago, we had hoped that we would have a career”, emphasizes Littrell. “At the end of the day, when you’re in the music business, it’s not about a flash in the pan, it’s not about a one-hit wonder, it’s not about flavor of the month, or whatever that is . It’s like sharing your purpose, sharing your life together and building a career. And that’s exactly what we set out to do on April 20, 1993, when we were first introduced to everyone. This journey began, and here we are. I think we love this experience and we love the band even more today than we did years ago. Just sharing our lives together, being a part of each other’s families, growing and nurturing each other and being there for each other – that’s what makes this bond so special. And that’s what makes people, I believe, like JCPenney, call up the Backstreet Boys and say, ‘Hey, could you join us on this special?’ We just want to bring people together. Music brings people together, and that bond we’ve shared for 30 years makes our music even more special.”

Check out Yahoo Entertainment’s in-depth interview with the Backstreet Boys about their holiday album and two holiday specials, the rumor that John Mellencamp was protesting being on the same record label as BSB, and AJ McLean’s memorable and victorious run on another television show, Secret Celebrity Drag Race:

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