Decades after bursting onto the music scene and inducing boy band fever, Backstreet’s back (alright). The guys are currently on the DNA World Tour, but as 40-something dads, things are different than they used to be. One member, Howie D., is embracing this new chapter of life with the release of his new children’s album, “Which One Am I?” The album, which debuted last month, features a classic pop style with kid-centric, family friendly lyrics, and was inspired by Howie’s own childhood experiences growing up. The Backstreet Boy recently took some time to talk to us about the record, fatherhood, and bridging generations with music.
What inspired you to make a children’s album? Was it a natural evolution for you musically once you had kids?
About 5 years ago, when my oldest son James was 5 and I was trying to connect with him on a musical level, I had a hard time finding music that we could both enjoy together. I didn't understand why, since they were so many great movies out there for kids and adults like Toy Story, Wreck-It Ralph and Minions. Then one day, when I looked out at our audience during a Backstreet Boys show, I realized that a lot of the parents who had grown up with us were now bringing their kids to the shows. It dawned on me: Why not make a record that both the parents and the kids could enjoy together (in addition to our Backstreet Boys music, of course!).
What kind of childhood themes does the album explore?
The album explores themes of challenges that I went through as a young kid, which we felt were still very current and relevant today. The songs address topics such as being shy, worrying, feeling height-challenged, and being in your older sibling's shadow. It's truly a record about a young person finding himself.
Were your sons involved in the process creating "Which One Am I?" Did you get their feedback on different songs?
My kids were very inspirational to me while I was making the record. My oldest son inspired me to write the song “Monsters in my Head.” He woke up one morning, really scared and telling me that he kept having these monsters at night in his head and didn’t know how to get rid of them. I was able to help him understand that these were just bad dreams and he didn’t have to worry. After that I wrote the song, as I loved the title “Monsters in My Head.”
What’s your favorite song on the album?
It's hard for me to pick just one song. I really love the energy of “Monsters in My Head” and “Worry.” “No Hablo Español” speaks dear to my heart since it’s about finding myself growing up as part of two different nationalities. “The Me I’m Meant to Be” is by far the most heart-wrenching song on the album.
Your son James stars in the video for “No Hablo Espanol.” Do you think he’ll be following in your footsteps as an entertainer?
I was so proud to see James play a role in the video for “No Hablo Español.” He truly is a little ham and has the bug to be an entertainer. It's so awesome to see him following in his father's footsteps.
You’re currently on tour with the Backstreet Boys. Now that you’re all dads, how is touring different than when you first started out?
It's so awesome to see all the guys now in the next chapter of our lives and having families. It truly is a different scene backstage. We really love having our families with us as much as possible. They truly balance us and inspire us to be the best dads we can be.
How has fatherhood changed you – both personally and in your career?
Fatherhood has really added a new dynamic to the way I think of things in my work and also in my personal life, I truly believe that having a family balances you out. When we are writing music or planning our work schedules nowadays, we all take our families into primary consideration.
What’s the best thing about being a dad? The hardest?
The best thing about being a dad is seeing all the love and enjoyment I can bring to my kids’ lives because of everything my work has blessed me with. The worst thing is being away from them when touring commitments mean that we can't be together.