Musical collaborations have dominated Billboard’s country music charts over the past year. Now, singer-songwriter and Backstreet Boys member Nick Carter is throwing his hat in the ring with “Easy,” his own pop-country collaboration alongside country hitmaker and reigning CMA new artist of the year winner Jimmie Allen.
“I grew up listening to all kinds of music, including country music,” Carter tells Billboard. “With the direction it’s heading, and how it’s crossing borders and boundaries, Jimmie was one person who I was listening to and I love his music.”
Last year, Carter was in Las Vegas working on the track with producer Vic “BillboardKiller” Martin, when Carter mentioned that he was a fan of Allen’s music and would love to work on a song together. “Sure enough, Vic was like, ‘I’m good friends with Jimmie.’ I FaceTimed with Jimmie and we share a lot of things in common. We’re musicians, entertainers, fathers. He’s a fan of the Backstreet Boys and I’m a fan of his music.”
Allen joined Carter at Studio A Las Vegas in October 2021 to write and record the song, working with Martin, Edward Martin, Jacob Feingold and Vincent Venditto.
“I had the title idea for ‘Easy,'” Carter says. “I thought about what I do when I’m not on the road, just being at home, being a dad and a husband, making breakfast for the kids in the morning and taking them to school. That was another thing Jimmie and I talked about when we first met. He was talking about how he has a new baby and he travels with them on the road. We love our kids and wives and being musicians.”
Allen’s and Carter’s respective families each welcomed new babies in 2021. In April, Carter and his wife Lauren welcomed their third child, daughter Pearl, who joins the couple’s two older children Odin and Saoirse. In October, Allen and his wife Alexis welcomed their second (and Allen’s third) child, Zara James.
Of course, Carter is no stranger to country music—or to Music City.
In 2017, the Backstreet Boys and duo Florida Georgia Line teamed for the song “God, Your Mama, and Me,” which became a No. 1 Billboard Country Airplay hit. That same year, they joined forces onstage at the Academy of Country Music Awards for a rendition of the Backstreet Boys’ classic hit “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back).” Carter’s fellow Backstreet Boys member AJ McLean made his own foray into country with a pair of pop-country singles in 2018 and 2019.
Carter also lived in Franklin, Tenn., just south of Nashville, for eight years. “I love Nashville and I would love to have a house there again,” he tells Billboard.
Meanwhile, Allen is one of country music’s frontrunners. In addition to picking up the Country Music Association’s new artist of the year honor in 2021, he’s up for a Grammy in the all-genre best new artist category at this year’s ceremony. Allen is also one of the format’s most collaborative artists, welcoming artists including Nelly, Tim McGraw, Darius Rucker, Mickey Guyton, Monica and more on his Bettie James EP and its subsequent Gold Edition. He’s also recently collaborated with Elton John on “Beauty in the Bones,” featured on John’s The Lockdown Sessions.
“One thing that is beautiful about the country world is, right now, that is still where honest music is at,” Carter says. “All music has its own special place, but you can hear great, true-to-heart stories in country music.”
Allen and Carter recently met up again to film portions of the music video for “Easy” in around El Dorado Dry Lake near Las Vegas. “We got an epic wide shot of the two of us performing and put the trucks in the background—we’re both Ford guys,” Carter comments.
They are also both alumni of Dancing with the Stars. Carter earned a runner-up finish in 2015, and their “Easy” collaboration came together while Allen was competing on Dancing With the Stars last year.
“He’s so talented and a great person,” Carter says of Allen. “The most important part on that show is that you just wear your heart on your sleeve. ‘Show who you are as a human and embrace dance,’ that’s the only advice I gave him. But he’s so talented and a great entertainer, so I didn’t have to say too much.”
In addition to releasing “Easy,” Carter is readying himself to head back on the road with his Backstreet Boys bandmates for their first full-fledged tour in two years. This summer, Carter and his Backstreet Boys bandmates McLean, Brian Littrell, Kevin Richardson and Howie Dorough will embark on their DNA World Tour, which was previously postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The DNA Tour might look a bit different for Carter, as he and his wife juggle the balancing act of touring and parenting.
“With Pearl, I wasn’t on the road at all, so that was a blessing to be able to be home, and Saoirse is only two years old. I’m having a little bit of anxiety because for me, school and stability for my son and kids is very important. So, I’m asking myself, ‘Do I bring them on the road when we start in June for the summer?’ I saw a lot other guys in the band bring their families. Brian and Kevin would basically do homeschool with their kids. It’s a balance and I have to find out what it’s going to be like because it’s all about what’s best for the kids. At the same time, I am very grateful to be able to still be an entertainer and be on the road.”
Though Carter has released three solo albums, in addition to a collaborative effort with New Kids on the Block singer Jordan Knight, he says his work with the Backstreet Boys has always taken priority.
“I’m grateful for the success with the Backstreet Boys, all the No. 1 albums, the records, the tours,” he says. “As a solo artist, I’ve never had a lot of success, and I’m okay with that. I’ve had fun with it, I’ve put music out, but I was always doing stuff with Backstreet Boys.”
Still, he says more solo music could be on the way, if it resonates with fans. “If people like the song and want more, I would probably start recording more music that is similar. The plan right now is a streaming release and social promotion for the song. But people discovering it on their own, that’s the exciting part. At the end of the day, I have no expectations. It’s a great song and I’ve become great friends with Jimmie and I love his music.”