Nick Carter on Sobriety and 'Facing the Music and Living to Talk About It' (Q&A)
The Backstreet Boys member and recovering addict talks about the temptations of touring, a return to reality TV and his new book.
Though raised in a destructive household, introduced to fame as preteen and surrounding himself with party people like Paris Hilton, Backstreet Boys member Nick Carter takes full responsibility for his problems.
He says he was naïve, didn’t know what to do during touring downtime, and just “doing like the Russians” while in Russia. He even pokes fun at the title to his 2005 album Never Gone for being inaccurate, because he was “way gone” during much of the recording of it.
But not anymore. Out Sept. 24 by Bird Street Books, Facing the Music and Living to Talk About It is equal parts memoir and self-help book, outlining his battle with alcoholism and drugs, sharing his epiphanies about the reasons – and the repressed memories – that drew him to the substances in the first place.
Carter is frank about envying the grounded religious upbringings of Brian Littrell and Kevin Richardson, severing professional ties with manager Lou Pearlman (known to the Boys as “Big Poppa”), learning from A.J. McLean’s road to sobriety and trying to save his late sister, Leslie, from her own demise.
Carter invites the reader to take stock of their own lives with action items and provoking questions in each chapter. “Now, what about you?” he writes when discussing self-motivation. “What are your strengths, talents, gifts and passions? What can you build your life around? There are a few telltale signs to look for if you haven’t yet identified a strength.”
Carter recently took a break from the Backstreet Boys’ In A World Like This tour to chat with THR about the temptations of touring, his upcoming VH1 reality show and whether he’s completely sober.
Rather than writing a traditional memoir, why did you include self-help language in your book?
I related it to what I’m inspired by. I love books that teach and that I can learn from, and self-help books, in a way, fulfill that for me. They helped me in a time of need, so I wanted to write a book like that, but then give actual stories that were interesting, entertaining and of real life at the same time. Sometimes self-help books come off a little bit aggressive -- "You have to do this; you have to do that." I wanted it to just be a nice, easy read, something people can turn to if they need a little help.
Which sections were the most difficult to write?
Writing about my family, because when you tell the truth about things and then read them back, you’re actually looking in the mirror and reliving these things, having to accept that they’re a reality and something you can’t change. You just face it. Coming to terms with who they’ve been and who they are, and how it hasn’t been perfect and may never be perfect – that was more difficult.
In a way, though, it was cool to get my experiences down on paper so that I can always be reminded about what I’ve gone through. For me, that was fulfilling and helped me evolve to be a better person. I’m happy the book came out the way it did.
What do your fellow Backstreet Boys think about the book?
It was funny -- we were on a flight to do a radio show in Boston, and A.J. looked at me and said, "Hey, Nick, somebody said that you wrote something really …" and then I thought, 'oh, my god, what did I write in the book?' He’s like, "… really good about me in the book!" [laughs] I haven’t given them a copy yet, but I know the curiosity is going to kill them, and they’re gonna read it.
Are you completely sober?
I am completely drug-free. I have had occasional drinks at times, and it’s something that I struggle with because I’m not perfect. But at the same time, I enjoy being clean and sober more. Alcoholism is definitely a struggle for me. I’m taking it one day at a time, working on myself, and I’m winning the battle.
You share that you used to drink on tour buses and hit clubs after concerts. Is it hard to be back in certain environments, especially as you’re on tour again?
Absolutely. I think it’s all about learning from those experiences and continuing therapy, continuing to work on the reasons why someone turns to alcohol. That’s why I wrote this book -- this is just the beginning, the first chapter, really. I’m 33 years old, I’m still living life. What I’ve done up to this point, who I am now, the steps that I’ve taken to get to this point, are tremendous and huge. And thank god I made those moves, but it’s still a work in progress. I haven’t figured it out -- I have issues, I definitely have problems, but I start with acknowledging that I do have a problem and face it head on.
Performing and interacting with fans -- is it different now that you are drug-free?
The way my body feels when I stay away from partying in general, I feel so much better. I can think so much better, I can do more things, set more goals. And when it comes to the experiences with the boys, being on the road, I cherish it a lot more -- performances, playing guitar onstage with the guys, writing new songs. It’s nice to be all there instead of being in a club, having to substitute and try to replace or fill a void.
You reflect a lot about things that came out in your family’s House of Carters reality show. Are you nervous about what might come out this time around?
The cool thing about the book is I’ve been able to be open up about the past and the future, so it kind of goes hand in hand. The show is based on my future marriage with my fiancée, Lauren [Kitt], and us basically making it -- starting over again, creating a new and better life. That’s what our relationship has been based off of -- helping each other evolve. I think it can be very inspirational to the world out there.
I thought about it, and who I am now, versus the person I was before, I’m completely different. I’m almost not afraid -- actually, I’m not afraid to show the world who I am now. I’m not afraid to show that I am weak at times, but I am making it. It’s not easy, and it’s a process, but it’ll be interesting to show the world. It’s gonna be cool.