Nick Carter may have one up on his bandmates as far as solo discs go, but that's likely to change as the Backstreet Boys part ways for the next six months to focus on individual projects.
"We're going to go our separate ways for a while," A.J. McLean told MTV News recently, adding that his own solo debut is already well under way. "I've been working on it for about two years now, when I've had the time, and I have about 30 or 40 songs written so far. It's my very first record on my own, so it needs to be the best it can possibly be."
This isn't the first time the 28-year-old crooner has dabbled in a solo career. In 2000, at the height of Backstreet's fame, the tattooed "rebel" of the group broke off to perform as his seedy alter ego, Johnny No Name, touring small clubs and showcasing his renditions of tunes from artists like Eminem and Brian McKnight (see "Backstreet's A.J. Goes Solo ... Sort Of"). But he never released an album under the pseudonym, and it's unlikely he ever will.
Those dark days are well behind the rehabilitated singer, who struggles to maintain a clean lifestyle since his 2001 treatment for alcoholism, depression and anxiety (see "Backstreet Boys Postpone Tour As A.J. McLean Seeks Treatment"). Thanks to the support of family and friends, he's been sober for nearly three years.
Never one to do what's expected of him, McLean said his solo effort will probably raise some eyebrows. "It's going to be like funk/soul/rock," he said, citing old-school inspirations like Al Green, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Creedence Clearwater Revival. "I want to go back to the basics. Live instruments, live horns — something you don't hear on the radio anymore. [Right now] it's all about synthesizers and beats, so [I thought], 'Let's try something else.' "
McLean said he wants to keep the focus on his own talents and limit the number of collaborations, but he's willing to bend the rules for a select few. And no, it's not Pharrell.
"I think it would be fun to do something with Enya just to really screw people up," he said, referring to the ethereal-voiced Irish songstress. "I'd love to do something with Peter Gabriel or John Fogerty, or even Lenny Kravitz or Al Green, if I could."
The singer plans to take his time with the project. He hopes to have it completed by June but said that if it's not 100 percent ready, it's not coming out.
"We're just going to experiment and see [what happens]," he said. "That's how we did our last Backstreet record. We went in for a year and a half and came out with something we were really proud of."
In other Backstreet solo news, Carter is about to start work on his sophomore LP, Howie Dorough is prepping a Spanish/English album, and Brian Littrell is set to drop his pop-gospel record, Welcome Home, on May 2. Meanwhile, Kevin Richardson is diving back into acting after a successful run on Broadway in "Chicago."
Despite all the solo action, fans needn't worry about a Backstreet breakup. A.J. said he and the fellas will hit the studio together this summer to work on a follow-up to 2005's Never Gone, the group's first album since 2000 (see "Backstreet Men? The Boys Grow Up On First Album In Five Years").
"We are definitely going to do another record," he said. "We're not going to wait another five years."