It’s not every day a couple of boy band-ers join forces to start a man band, but New Kids on the Block’s Jordan Knight and the Backstreet Boys’ Nick Carter are a couple of above average boys from the bands. After rising to international stardom as teens in their respective groups and in their respective decades, both Nick and Knight forayed into solo music careers (both their most recent solo albums were released in May of 2011) and reality television. Though there were minor hiatuses and interludes for independent exploration, both NKOTB and BSB always come back for more and even formed a supergroup for a tour and compilation album, all under the title NKOTBSB.
Clearly Jordan and Nick found the right stuff with one another, having since created the duo Nick & Knight. They released their debut album this year, a fun adult-pop romp through decades of r&b and pop rock influences, and are currently on a tour across North America. The Knight of the pair took some time out of their schedule to discuss New Kids, his friendship with Nick and what to expect from a Nick & Knight show. Spoiler alert: the answer is a good time.
How is the tour going so far?
It’s going very good. We’re having a great time out there on stage! It’s just a lot of fun. Very busy but very fun.
Going back a few years, what originally led to your group, NKOTB, joining forces with Backstreet Boys for a tour and album?
We just thought it was really good idea to join teams and go on tour. We thought it’d be just a delight and huge moment in pop history to do that. A lot of rock bands do it, but no boy bands ever did it. We thought we would be the first to really do something like that.
Now that you have this project with Nick Carter, how did your relationship with him develop over time and lead to Nick & Knight?
I think me and Nick are just kind of kindred spirits. We’re kind of like the same type of person but in different groups. When we were on that tour, NKOTBSB, we gelled and had a great time on stage. We gravitated towards each other. We had certain verses in certain songs that we sang together. I just think he’s a charming guy! I really like him. He’s a very down-to-earth, open person. I really respect his talent as well.
How long has your musical collaboration been in the works?
We talked about it before on the NKOTBSB tour. We left that idea out there so that when we both had some time, we returned to that idea and built upon it and considered that maybe we should do an album together instead of just touring together. Like, [touring together] was an idea but it wasn’t a very fully developed one. We thought making an album together would be cooler. We could just be a duo. That seemed like something cool.
Since this tour is mostly at clubs and smaller venues than you’re used to, what has it been like to take yourselves out of stadiums filled with screaming NKOTB or BSB fans?
I like performing in small places because I like the energy better. It’s more contained. It’s more right there in your face. You just feel it better. For New Kids, we just did a tour in Europe that was kind of similar to what we’re doing now where there’s the stage, a floor, and a tier above it. It just feels like the people are on top of you, and you’re surrounded by the people in this small place and the energy is just so contained. It’s like a powder keg. You just feel it in your bones. That’s what I really love, as opposed to singing to a sea of people you can’t really see or feel.
When the Backstreet Boys first started, did you ever mentor them in any way or did you feel they should navigate the boy band business on their own?
No, no, when they first started, I wasn’t really anywhere near that capacity to do something like that, mentor them. I did know them before they took off, but just a little bit. I didn’t know them too well. They did just fine without my input [laughs]. They didn’t need my input.
What brings New Kids back so often and brings people like you and Nick Carter together? Is it the fans, the music, or something else?
I would say it’s the fans for sure. The fans’ desire for our type of entertainment is definitely what keeps us bringing us back out there. There’s a demand, and if feels wonderful to love. When people love what you do and they love you and you get to share your talents and share yourself with people who happen to enjoy it, there’s a deep sense of purpose. When I step on stage or when I go on tour, there’s a feeling of happiness and enjoyment that takes over. It feels great. It just feels wonderful.
For this album with Nick, what are some of the influences you both drew from? I get a lot of ’90s r&b vibes when I listen to it.
Certain songs definitely have that old school r&b vibe. “Switch” is one. It has a new school and old school vibe to it and is kind of Pharrell-ish. Pharrell has a sort of throwback-ish sound but he’s really made it new. “Paper” feels very contemporary, almost urban while “One More Time” aims to be more pop rock, kind of quirky pop rock. Almost Maroon 5-ish. There’s a lot of different feels, but old school r&b is definitely there. I always revert back to that kind of sound because that’s what I grew up with, listening to the Stylistics and all these r&b artists growing up. Michael Jackson, Luther Vandross, all these people.
On “One More Time,” that’s the kind of pop song that really catches you the first time you hear it. Your entire career has been about performing these really perfect pop songs, so I was wondering what you’ve concluded for yourself about what makes a really catchy, era-appropriate pop song?
Sometimes you can become too much of a perfectionist or overthink it too much when sometimes less is more. Repeating lines, choruses or chants don’t always work. Don’t try to overdo it or make it too much or more than it should be. People just want to sing along and feel good. It’s about how it feels rather than making it too intellectual. Like “One More Time” is a very catchy song, but it wouldn’t have been my first choice as a single. I love the song “Drive My Car” because it’s got a smooth r&b feel, but we all played different songs to different people, but “One More Time” just instantly caught people. The catchiest one always goes out first, but that’s because it really hooks people and they have more incentive to listen to the rest.
Finally, what can we expect from the Nick & Knight live show?
Expect to be surprised. Expect to feel really great. Expect to see something real when you go. Our chemistry and our friendship is not a gimmick. It’s real, and that’s why we’re doing a tour and that’s why we did the album. It’s real. People are going to feel that when they see the show. Expect to lose your voice by the end of the night and expect to have a blast and want to come see more shows [laughs].
Catch Nick & Knight tonight, 10/10, at the Best Buy Theater.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on October 10, 2014