Backstreet Boys busy with projects

Howie Dorough, A.J. McLean doing solo albums

DETROIT -- Backstreet Boys Howie Dorough and A.J. McLean are continuing to work on their first solo projects even as the group has started work on its sixth studio album.

Dorough said that "A.J.'s about done" with his album, while Dorough is "probably close to halfway there." He's been working with Jon Secada and George Noriega (Ricky Martin, Shakira, Jennifer Lopez) on an album Dorough said will explore the Latin roots of his mother's family, which hails from Puerto Rico.

"I've always embraced the Latin rhythms, the Latin sounds, just the music itself," said Dorough, who even flirted with joining Menudo when he was younger. "It's just such a feel-good music, and I've always looked up to people like Jon Secada, Ricky Martin, Enrique (Iglesias), who have done a good crossover."

Dorough describes his album as "kind of Latin-ish, English, Spanglish. It's just a mixture of my American roots in pop music meets my Latin roots. It's gonna be a good, kind of eclectic mixture."

Release dates for both his and McLean's albums are up in the air, however. "Obviously Backstreet's always gonna be No. 1," Dorough said. "It's a matter of timing, when we feel each of us wants our record to come out so that we're not competing with each other or taking time away that we could be working ... as a group."

The group, in fact, has already started working on its follow-up to last year's "Unbreakable," recording some new material while on tour in Europe. Dorough said the quartet plans to hit the studio after its tour of North America, which starts Tuesday in St. John's, Newfoundland, and wraps on Sept. 6 in Seattle.

"We're looking at getting back into the studio quite quickly," said Dorough, adding that Backstreet Boys may work again with Swedish producer/writer Max Martin, who worked with the group on "I Want it That Way," "Shape of My Heart," "Quit Playing Games (With My Heart)" and other hits.

"We want to hopefully have something ready to go or at least be heavily into it by the end of the year and have something out towards the beginning of next year," Dorough said.