Backstreet boys

How AJ McLean stays sober and healthy on the road

It’s understandable that AJ McLean doesn’t know where he is in Virginia.

His tour bus broke down after the Backstreet Boys’ scheduled performance at Jiffy Lube Live in Bristow, and he hopped on bandmate Nick Carter’s bus for the next show in Virginia Beach.

“On the first round of the DNA tour, I went through two buses. I may have bus gremlins,” he says.

But even with fully functional vehicles, McLean jokes, “I don’t know where I am half the time. I just go where they direct me.

The Backstreet Boys – which also include Kevin Richardson, Brian Littrell and Howie Dorough – will be on the road in the United States until September.

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A setlist filled with pop nuggets from the late 90s and early 2000s – “I Want It That Way”, “Quit Playing Games (With My Heart)”, “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)”, “Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely” – kept the band’s devoted fanbase in a state of grateful nostalgia.

McLean chats with USA TODAY about his life on the road.

AJ McLean stays sober while attending virtual AA meetings

In December 2020, the “bad boy” Backstreeter celebrated a year of sobriety, an avowed challenge for the singer who has struggled with drug and alcohol addiction since the early 2000s.

Now, he’s “in the best state of mind and shape” of his life (“vocally, mentally, spiritually”) and regularly tunes into virtual AA meetings to continue to “kick ass soberly.”

Night drives, however, require entertainment, and McLean fires up an Xbox for “Madden” or “Trials”, a motocross game he’s “obsessed” with, and fires up Apple TV.

I am a cinema enthusiast. I love TV shows. We just finished season 3 of “The Boys” and my wife (Rochelle Karidis) and I are going to finish “Modern Family”. …Usually, if we are not at the hotel, we arrive at the venue in the morning and have until about 5 p.m. to relax. This is where I’m out there tearing up the (remote control) cars or if it’s early enough I’ll go find a golf course.”

AJ McLean of the Backstreet Boys says he sticks to a strict diet and exercise program while on the road.

The Backstreet Boys turn to the cold to soothe their aches

Given that all of the band members are in their 40s, it’s understandable that their motion-intensive show could cause muscle soreness.

Ice baths are popular among the guys, while McLean leans toward cryotherapy, exposing the body to intense cold for short periods to repair muscles.

But sleep is key for McLean to maintain a healthy mental space. “All the party days are over,” he said. As the group has matured, so has their relationship with each other.

“We five are the closest we’ve ever been. We always talk things out. We’ll use constructive criticism and won’t call anyone out. We talk about it like family because we are. We’re all alphas, but at the same time, we are seasoned (pros), ”he says.

No grains or sugar for McLean, who trains with weights to stay healthy

Meals for McLean usually consist of chicken, lean meat, fish, or “healthy carbs.” There are no post-show meals — especially not the post-concert treats of his 20s, like pizza or burgers.

He works out four or five days a week, concentrating on weightlifting.

“I’m 44. I try to be as health conscious as possible. And being a dad (McLean’s eldest is 9 and youngest is 5) and trying to keep up with the kids when they go out. I want to play with them as much as possible, even though I’ve been with them for two years,” he says.

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Next appointment for the Backstreet Boys: the group's first Christmas album.

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“A Very Backstreet Christmas” arrives October 14, the group’s first holiday offering. Containing mostly covers with two original songs, the album has “the best vocals we’ve ever done, maybe even ever”.

McLean’s nail polish range, a solo album also in the works

An avid nail polish fan since the early days of Backstreet, McLean launched nail polish brand Ava Dean Beauty last year to bond with his daughters through mani-pedis.

The busy Backstreet Boy is also planning his first solo album for the fall. The first single “Smoke” was released last week.

“It’s a bit Prince/George Michael,” McLean says. “Very soulful R&B funk.”

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