By Leena Tailor, ETCanada.com Staff.

As he returns to Canada with the Backstreet Boys, Nick Carter’s teasing a “surprise” upcoming Canadian project, reminiscing about performing with Drake in Toronto and sending well-wishes to Shawn Mendes as the 24-year-old popstar tackles mental health challenges.

Mendes, who co-wrote the Backstreet Boys’ 2019 single “Chances,” recently cancelled his tour in order to deal with the mental struggles of being back on the road. Having been with the Backstreet Boys for 29 years, Carter knows all about the mental toll of touring and he’s currently working on launching a mental health initiative. While it’s primarily aimed at youth, the project’s also partially-inspired by Carter’s own strife navigating showbiz from a young age.

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“There’s only so much a human being can take and if you’re a young artist, you’re under the microscope so much more,” Carter, 42, told us during his ‘Chords & Coffee’ solo event at Evans Brothers Coffee in Spokane, Washington, on Sunday. “People sometimes don’t understand that even though you look up to us as artists, we’re still human. We have to find balance to be healthy in order to do the job we do, which is to entertain. And when you entertain, you give so much of your energy to the world.”

“I’m sacrificing being with my kids right now and it tears me up that I can’t be the stay-at-home father I’d like to be,” Carter continued. “We sacrifice so much and give all our sweat, tears and energy to this business.”

Carter previously shared how he consulted with his therapist over Zoom while facing difficult times during the pandemic. However, as a father to three young children (Odin, six, Saoirse, two, and Pearl, one) he has recently felt increasing concern for the struggles faced by youth.

So, after helping raise $100,000 for children’s mental health movement On Our Sleeves (by taking part in celebrity fundraiser ‘Dave & Jimmy’s Celebrity Softball Classic’ alongside his bandmates in Ohio) he has teamed up with the organization to create an initiative aiming to help children better handle the mental hurdles thrown their way in modern society, such as social media.

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“On Our Sleeves focuses on really young kids all the way up to 14-years-old because in that timeframe, they’re so impacted by what’s thrown at them – like social media, which is literally hurting our children,” Carter said. “All I can think about is what I can do to help shield my kids from the bombardment and insanity of social media, so I’m working on an initiative to help target some of those unhealthy things.”

Carter noted he and his wife, Lauren Kitt Carter, keep their kids off iPads and are giving the cute trio more of an “old-fashioned” upbringing with books, movies and quality family time.

“I know we’re not going to get rid of social media, but we have to find a healthy balance and help parents reconnect with their children again, rather than throw an iPad at them and say, ‘Let that raise you,’” Carter said. “Finding balance between the technological world and the real world is so important for mental health.”

Although being away from his children during the DNA World Tour has been trying, Carter’s excited to be back in Canada, teasing that he also has a “very special” surprise project coming up here. “I signed an NDA, so can’t say, but it’s happening soon!”

Following Wednesday night’s Vancouver concert, the Backstreet Boys are now taking their 32-song spectacle to Edmonton, Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Ottawa, Quebec City and Montreal, accompanied by Toronto “Sugar” singer Francesco Yates, who’s opening the show alongside drummer Ragan Crawford and musician Aaron Space as part of ATCK (All the Cool Kids).

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It remains to be seen whether the Backstreet Boys will invite any of their local friends and acquaintances, like Mendes or longtime pal Shania Twain, to their concerts, but few appearances could top the moment Drake joined the group on stage to help belt out “I Want It That Way” in July.

Carter said performing with the rapper after years of blasting his music backstage was an honor.

“For the past 15 years, we’ve been backstage vibing out to his stuff before shows and we’ve gone through all his albums,” Carter said. “So having him come up and endorse us was really dope. It wasn’t something we expected, but it was organic, happened naturally and was great.”

“We love all the music that comes out of Canada,” Carter continued. “And people in Canada are some of the kindest people out there in the world! Honest and genuine. I don’t think America would have discovered us without Canada, so that’s something’s we never forget and it’s really important to us.”

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After completing their Canadian run, the Grammy-nominated group will wrap up the DNA World Tour in Europe, England, South America, Australia and New Zealand. They will also drop their first Christmas album, A Very Backstreet Christmas, on October 14th.

Carter meanwhile also has solo music brewing. He performed solo songs like 2002 single “Help Me,” moving ballad “Do I Have to Cry for You” and Jimmie Allen collab “Easy” during his ‘Chords & Coffee’ event in Spokane, where he also tried his hand at whipping up a latte.

However, he notes solo music isn’t his current priority. “I’m not trying to put things out just for the sake of putting things out,” he explained. “I want to write new songs that have a similar feel to ‘Easy,’ but I’m letting that come to me like ‘Easy’ did. It was more personal and authentic.”

“I also have the song ‘Good Times,’ which Krayzie Bone [from Bone Thugs-N-Harmony] dropped a verse on and it’s a great song, but with all the Backstreet Boys stuff going on, the time frame didn’t feel right to release it yet,” he added. “It’s a bit country, R&B and hip hop, which is the direction I’m going in, so it’s still in the can.”


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Ellen Bullock