To paraphrase one of his group’s biggest hits, Kevin Richardson parted ways with the Backstreet Boys in 2006 because he wanted it that way.
“When I left the group, it had nothing to do with my relationship with the rest of the boys,” Richardson said during a recent phone interview.
“I was just done. I had nothing left in the tank. I was disheartened with the stuff that was going on with our label at the time [Jive Records]. I felt we deserved more creative control. There were some things I wanted to do creatively that weren’t happening. I just needed to step away, and I did.”
Time heals, and seven years later, Richardson, now 41, was ready to rejoin the group he co-founded in 1993. “There really wasn’t any learning curve [in terms of us] working together again,” Richardson said excitedly. “We have spent so much time together over the years. We keep in touch. I see them often. We all just fell right back into place. This was the right time to go back. I basically just had the desire to do it again.”
Doing it again meant reuniting with Nick Carter, Brian Littrell, Howie Dorough and AJ McLean for a new album and a 20th anniversary tour that kicks off with a sold-out show Aug. 2 in Chicago. The quintet, which produced seven consecutive top 10 albums, and sold more than 130 million discs worldwide, is older (Carter is the youngest at 33), wiser and in total creative control of its music on its own label, K-BAHN. The new album, “In a World Like This” (produced by Martin Terefe), was released July 30 and has garnered promising reviews. The Knoxville News Sentinel calls it “a well-crafted execution of solid material, more genuine and endearing than many might have expected,” with “solid arrangements,” “emphasis on harmonies” and “disarming elegance.”
The music world stands still for no one, and BSB, as well as the band’s contemporaries such as New Kids on the Block and 98 Degrees, are battling to retain an audience base that has grown up along with the group, while courting a new generation of music fans who have discovered the latest wave of boy bands such as the Jonas Brothers, OneRepublic and One Direction.
“We were finally able to accept the shoes that we’re in,” Dorough told Rolling Stone magazine in a recent interview. “We’ve also accepted we are what we are — most of our success was a while ago, in the late ’90s and early 2000s — and being able to poke fun at ourselves, like doing the Seth Rogen film [‘This Is the End’], doing the Old Navy commercial. We’re laughing with them instead of looking at them laughing at us.”
The new album was recorded in London and Los Angeles, with the guys penning every track except two, along with their longtime hit songwriter-producer Max Martin.
“We wanted to write and sing about things that are relevant in our lives now,” Richardson said. “For the first time we were in the studio every day for three weeks, writing together. [At one point] I got on the piano, AJ and Brian were on guitar, and Howie was messing with the bass, and we literally wrote a song in about an hour.”
The father of two, Richardson has his priorities in order, both on stage and off. “[Being a dad] has taken all the pressure off me,” he said, “because I get so much joy from my sons [Mason, 6, and newborn Maxwell Haze]. I don’t take it so seriously anymore.
“I’ve got a great family, so who cares if somebody doesn’t like [the new album]. I get to come home to a wonderful wife and kids. I don’t need the validation of the outside world anymore because I’m happy at home. Before I was obsessed about the criticism and the bad reviews. It really affected me because I’m a perfectionist. I’m settled in and in a really good place right now. So everything else we do as a group is the cherry on top.”