Backstreet Boys' Howie Dorough Explains How His Kids Inspired His Solo Album

 Luke Fontana
Howie Dorough

Howie Dorough will be exceptionally busy as the Backstreet Boys bring their DNA World Tour to North America this weekend.

On July 12, as the tour resumes in Washington, D.C., Dorough will be releasing Which One Am I?, a family album that's also the basis for a stage show he'll be unveiling early next year in Nebraska. Co-written with Tor Hyams, who produced the album, and Broadway veteran Lisa St. Lou, the 12-song set blends humor and poignancy as it draws on Dorough's own life. "It's things I went through," he tells Billboard. "Being shy as a little kid, being in my older sister's shadow, worrying a lot, constantly being misjudged by people," which he says happened because of his family's mixed Irish-Spanish heritage.

"It's about a kid just finding his place in life and my journey," Dorough says.

The impetus for the project was listening to kid-friendly music with his sons James, now 10, and Holden, 6. "I couldn't really relate to the music that was out there," Dorough says. "I knew there were so many great movies out there I was able to relate to with my kids -- Toy Story, Wreck It Ralph, the Minions. But I didn't find music that was the same way. And I looked at our audience at the Backstreet's concerts and I noticed that a lot of their fans were bringing their kids out. So I was like, 'There should be music that can be there for both the adults and the kids and speak to both of them.' So I made it a mission to make something I thought I could enjoy with my kids, and hopefully the fans could with their kids as well."

Dorough was surprised that Which One Am I? "took on a life of its own" and developed into the musical, which will premiere Jan. 31 for a two week-plus run at the Rose Theater in Omaha. The production features more songs, and not every song from the album, but, Dorough says, "We still decided to put the CD out 'cause we thought we had a great body of work that needed to see the light of day." He has designs to take the musical far and wide, up to and including Broadway, but it's taking second seat behind his commitments to Backstreet Boys, whose tour current runs into early November with 2020 dates already being planned.

"God willing, hopefully when I have some more breaks with the guys I'll be able to do more with (the musical)," Dorough says. "We feel like the sky's the limit. Obviously I would love to be able to bring it to New York one day. We were recently in Europe and I was doing some of these listening parties with the fans and they were like, 'Of course, you definitely need to bring this musical over here to Europe.' It'd be kind of fun to see if I could take it around the world eventually, but right now I'm a little bit busy with the Backstreet schedule, so I'm not making it a priority off the bat."

The DNA World Tour, of course, follows the quintet's 10th studio album DNA, which was the troupe's first No. 1 album on the Billboard 200 since Black & Blue in 2000. "That was an awesome feeling," Dorough says. "I didn't expect that to come around again in our career, lightning striking in a bottle twice now. We've just gotten lucky. If someone had told me 26 years ago I'd have a second coming of my career, I'd have bet my money on a lottery ticket. It's pretty amazing." The group is feeling the love on tour as well, with strong turnouts throughout Europe and even a two-night stand at the O2 Arena in London.

"The receptions have been amazing," Dorough reports. "We're just taking our fans down memory lane with a sprinkling of new stuff from the DNA album. Just to be doing arenas again is fantastic. It's definitely exceeding all our expectations, and everywhere we've gone they want us back as soon as possible."