The 40-year-old veteran performer whose new solo single, "80's Movie," is due out this Friday, hopped on the phone with Billboard before his elimination to talk about why his pink Croc costume was a dead-on emotional choice and how he thinks his Britney cover was the perfect complement to BSB's recently released collab with their former Jive Records labelmate on "Matches."
Crocodiles have a thick skin, and in the clue packages you alluded to the fact that you’ve had to grow one as a child star coming up in the biz. Why did you choose him and why was he so pink?
People who know me, my friends and family and children, know that I'm extremely sensitive and I'm just a lover, and the color pink just popped up for me from the performance side of things. But also the feeling that pink gives me when I look at it... it makes me happy.
You’ve done reality TV before with House of Carters, I Heart Nick Carter and Dancing With the Stars. How did this compare?
This experience was definitely unlike anything because of the secrecy that had we had to have behind the scenes and then had to add on top of it all the [COVID-19 safety] protocols, tests every single day and the masks we had to wear on top of the masks and how careful we all had to be. At the same time, hiding our identity form one another was also definitely a challenge, but was also rewarding. Before I even decided to do the show we had all been on lockdown for three months and I committed to it, but at the same time it was running through my mind, "How are we going to do this? How is it going to work?" Until you get on the set and experience it for the first time filming in this new world you don't know what to expect.
You came in second place on DWTS. Did that make you want to win this even more?
I say this all the time, but on Dancing With the Stars when I got second place, I was just grateful to be there and come that far. I never set too much of a goal one way or another. I just try to live in the moment and enjoy the experience and wherever it takes me, that's where I land. I was extremely surprised when I landed at two on Dancing and blown away that I even made it top three on this. It's probably because I'm very critical of my talent and who I am as an artist. I'm one out of five in my group and we're a team. I've stepped out before with solo records, and they never really did anything, never took off, and part of me feels like I was a failure when it came to being a solo artist. Then I think, "No, did I want to win?" When I look at my children and my wife, I feel like I'm grateful to be here and feel like I'm a winner because I have two healthy babies that I totally live for.
You’re so recognizable as part of the Backstreet Boys. Was there something fun for you about being an anonymous singer for the first time in your life?
I've been watching the show as it's been going and analyzing my performances and I'll say, "Wow, it wasn't as bad as I thought it was." I've been in my group since I was 11 years old and entertaining people and being a part of their lives and giving them an escape has been my job and I love it. I really, really enjoy being part of my group. Now that I'm stepping out and we've had the COVID thing going on and we’ve all had to be socially distanced... I've had to find a way to blossom and do things on our own. I thought it was a cool opportunity to grow and learn about myself.
So what did you learn? How did you grow?
One thing I definitely grew from was to not be so critical of myself when it comes to being an entertainer and the joy of it. Putting the mask on and performing so people could only hear my voice and them enjoying it... that got me that far and it gave me confidence to say maybe my talent has matured to the point where I can give it a shot from the solo perspective. That’s why I'm recording another solo record now and getting ready to drop a single.
You’re pals with Britney from way back, was it fun to cover one of her songs?
When I was picking the songs I wanted to perform I was like, "Oh God, I'm very eclectic when it comes to music." I listen to rap, rock, classic rock, pop, dance, soul, every kind of music. I've done it all. For fans of our era of music, Britney and us were partners on Jive Records coming up with *NSYNC and we all did it tougher and broke down that door in America. So I thought that was a way to throw people off a bit... that's another one of my biggest issues with being a solo artist. With my voice I can sing in a lot of different ways in a wide range and I felt like maybe I could utilize that and try to trick people on the show. I would see people writing [on Twitter] who were like, "You can't disguise your voice Nick, we know it's you!" I'd read stuff like that on social media and I was like, "No, you don't know it's me!" That Britney Spears song was definitely a way to throw people off. I don't know, maybe Britney saw the performance and she liked it, but right after that we decided to [release "Matches"]. So maybe it inspired her.