Studio Time – Brian
There were things I wasn’t telling the group that I knew I should.
We’d been in the studio all day. Nick was actually starting to go crazy. That’s why he was acting like he was twenty again and practically bouncing off the walls between taking pictures and tweeting. Kevin was attempting to have a serious conversation with Martin Terefe, one of the producers who actually were interested in working with us. We were supposed to meet up with Craig David tomorrow. Not bad for has-beens right? But while Kevin was trying to talk, Howie was tweaking the lyrics on one of the song we voted on keeping. AJ was making another one of his crazy videos outside. And me, well I was thinking.
About what I wasn’t telling them.
See what happens when he gets bored? Normally I’d be jumping on that crazy train. I love causing some chaos with him. But we were going to actually record soon. The vocals. Not just the melodies and such. I was nervous. Studios could hide a lot, sure. But eventually I’d have to perform live so whatever we end up doing to my voice on the tracks I had to live up to, or at least come close to living up to. So it can’t be crazy vocals. (Case in point, listen to the original version of Shattered. I was able to pull those off almost flawlessly one time and they tweaked it to sound even better. There’s a reason we didn’t sing it on tour! Having it requested at soundchecks about killed me.)
But as a whole everything was going well. We all submitted songs we’d been working on and then listened without Kevin saying who wrote it (because of course Kevin was in charge of this, even when there’s no leader he leads when we’re stuck). We’d vote and that’d settle it. Nick had the most songs shockingly enough. At least to me. Howie didn’t look too surprised by that. A lot of them were really deep, more than I expected. That sounds bad but sometimes it’s easy to forget how much Nick can put into music if he wanted to go beyond the safety of love songs. We were looking to break that mold so the variety was actually pretty refreshing.
“Brian are you paying attention?” Howie nudged me with a whisper, chuckling.
I grinned. “I’m always paying attention Howard, that’s what a good Backstreet Boy does or Kevin makes you stand in the corner.”
The glare I got from my cousin was worth it as AJ, Howie, Nick and Martin all cracked up. Sometimes it’s just too easy even when it’s not as true as it used to be. And it got the focus off the fact I was being so quiet. Something I was sure Kevin probably noticed. Here’s the thing, humor is my way of deflecting the issues. Someone points out something, I crack a joke. I hear my voice start getting shaky and I start bouncing around the stage like a Mexican jumping bean. Some fans actually get it right when they say that about me. If I’m being a ham, the focus is there. Most don’t realize it because I’ve been doing it so long they thing I’m just being me. And I am in a way.
Like right now I’m avoiding telling the guys in detail what I’d learned from my vocal coach. There’s a difference, I’m learning how to stabilize my vocals more. They’re still shaky but it’s getting better. The problem is that there’s a limit to what that I can do. I learned all these techniques and everything, but it’s gotten complicated and I couldn’t do what I was told I needed to. I didn’t know what to do either, should I do it or should I wait? We had too much riding on this, this next year. Wasn’t like I could keep quiet with them either. If Kevin didn’t call me out on it, I was afraid Nick might. I wasn’t sure.
Nick and I are close again but we don’t have the relationship we used to. I can’t read his mind anymore.
“I think we need a break.” Kevin announced. Wait; was it Kevin who said that?
I think all of us were staring at him too because he started laughing immediately. “What, I have to be a workaholic all the time?”
This is how we all start eying the door; the others are probably thinking about how to get out the back entrance. Believe it or not our little studio was found out pretty quickly. I blame AJ’s twitter bombs. We’d picked it specifically because it was small and easy to miss. We have a lot of fans in London and they’re not stupid. Enough videos showing off the surroundings and there they were after Day One. It was actually kind of funny because AJ just couldn’t figure out how they found out. I mean it! When he was there looking confused I couldn’t stop laughing. Love the guy, but sometimes he’s completely clueless.
We’re lucky they haven’t found the house yet.
I think it’s because we banned AJ from doing videos outside the house when we’re there. I’m not going to have poor Q (yeah we didn’t bring much security, aren’t we smart?) trying to do guard duty twenty-four hours, seven days a week for the rest of the month. The last thing we need is a mob of fans that grows bigger each day knowing where we live. It’d be a flashback to the nineties in a bad way. Sometimes I miss our fame from those days but what I’ve never missed are the moments fans would find our homes. That always scared me.
Fans think nothing scares us.
A lot think my wife was lying when she said part of my vocal problems were nerves. She wasn’t. I mean, we were both in denial, I admit it. Because it wasn’t the only problem. But when I started hearing myself sound off, I’d get nervous like I used to when we first started. There’s a reason my eyes were closed a lot when we sang back in the beginning. It could get overwhelming, no matter how many times you find yourself performing in an arena, or on a TV show, whatever. Because you know, you know if you make mistakes it’ll be heard by countless fans who expect you to sound flawless. So yeah, nerves can make a bad thing worse.
Like how I’m not telling them what the vocal coach has been telling me practically every time I see him.
“We could go around London, act like tourists.” I suggested. Anything to get out of the studio right now.
“But we’re coming back to record.” Nick added firmly, causing AJ to laugh.
“Yes boss.” He rolled his eyes. “Because we’re gonna listen to you.”
“Fine, we won’t come back.”
I chuckled, stretching a bit as we all started making our way towards the back. As we go down the hall, we could hear the fans outside chattering away by the open windows. Thankfully they don’t see us. Q’s leading the way. I think he’s glad for some fresh air too. Sometimes the studio can make you feel claustrophobic. Or maybe it’s me. It didn’t used to feel this way. I hate that it doesn’t feel like home anymore. I don’t know why but I expected it too, because we were five again.
But this is now, not then.
Back then, we’d argue more over petty things. Like who got more leads. Wait, we still do that. Nick and I already had a little debate on this new song about who should get the two major leads. Nick thinks it should be him and Kevin. I told him it should be AJ and Howie. I don’t want to suggest myself anymore. It’s weird because back when we first started, it was always me and AJ on the songs. Nick’s voice changed and then once puberty went away, Nick started getting them too.
“Are we clear?” Howie asked, peering around the barely opened door.
“Yeah, let’s go before they realize you’re gone.”
We hurried out to the van that was parked out back. Q went around to the front to mislead them into thinking we were still inside getting ready to leave that way. There was only going to be a few moments and then we’d be swamped for requests for pictures and autographs. Something we love to do since it gives back to the fans who stuck by us, but some are here every day asking again and again. That’s a little much! Once we’re all in and on the road, with Howie driving (thank god cause Nick drives like a maniac and Kevin drives like a granny, I sigh a little with relief.
With any luck we’ll end up being slackers and I can put off the inevitable another day.
“Where we going?” I asked, glancing outside at the window. A few fans caught on and snapped pictures as we drove off.
“Let’s get some food.”
Nick laughed. “Hey I wasn’t gonna say that. I was gonna say Fish and Chips thank you!”
“Fuck that, let’s find us a Mickey D’s and then go there.”
“Don’t you get sick of that?”
I laughed. “No, I wish he would.”
Howie smirked at all of us. “I’m driving so I’m deciding where we eat.”
“When did D get to be in charge?” AJ asked, smirking.
“When Kevin decided we’re adults man.”
“Hey, I notice you’re not as shaky.” Leave it to Kevin to bring it up when I think I’m in the clear.
“What’d the vocal coach tell you?” Nick asked, leaning forward. “I hated some of the shit mine told me.”
I almost forgot Nick went to one after Kevin left the group. I shrugged nonchalantly. “She’s given me some exercises.”
“AJ, you should consider one. They’re usually evil but they help.”
“Yeah, look at the difference it made in Nick, and with your smoking…”
“What’s wrong with my voice?”
Notice Howie’s staying quiet. This is why he never ends up arguing. People think he hates being in the background and you know, sometimes he probably does. When stuff like this starts happening? Honestly I know he loves it. He doesn’t get dragged in the drama; he just helps smooth things over after everything starts blowing up. It’s always been his role and it hasn’t changed. I love and hate him for it. Especially now that it’s around me. I remember when I’d just watch it happen with D. I miss that.
“It’s not wrong; it’s just getting rougher man.” Kevin placed a hand on his shoulder. Of course that calmed AJ down.
“I’ll think about it.” And not do it. Watch.
“So what exercises did she give you Bri?”
I sighed, wishing Nick would just leave it alone. “Plenty.”
“So, you think you’ll be sounding on spot once we’re performing live?” I love Kevin, hate his perfectionism.
I shook my head. “It’s gonna take time.”
“How long?” Nick pursued. “We have that thing on Good Morning America at the end of August.” We’d just scheduled it; we had an interview in a few days too.
“I need surgery alright?!” I finally snapped at him. Not that I meant to be angry but I was frustrated and it felt like all they were doing was rubbing it in. Like how all we had going was about to fall apart because of me.
Kevin frowned; those eyebrows of his furrowed together like one giant caterpillar. “You need surgery?”
Howie pulled over in a little side alley and cut the engine. “Why?”
“She says it’s something with my throat nodules.” The same thing that destroyed Julie Andrews’ voice when she had surgery. Comforting right?
“How long will your voice be out Rok?”
“About six months.” I paused. “And that’s if the surgery doesn’t do permanent damage.”
Everyone went quiet then, realizing the same thing I had when I first heard the news. When the coach said that might be it, I went to see a doctor. She confirmed that my career, my passion, might be finished. Nick took a deep breath like he was getting ready to say something he didn’t want to say.
“We…can work around this.”
I blinked, staring at him. “What?”
He glanced at Kevin before continuing. “We give you less solos, keep having someone always backing you live. We basically hide it.”
My eyes narrowed. “Or we can take a break.”
“During our twentieth anniversary?” Howie pointed out. “After hyping it up the way we’ve been doing?”
“After the album and the tour is done, we can take a break.” Kevin promised. “If you’re okay with it. If you’re not, we can stop it now. You can do the surgery. This is about you Bri; we don’t want to force you into it. This year is supposed to be about how we’re standing strong after everything.”
I really thought about it for a moment. If I did the surgery now and I couldn’t sing again, I’d be furious with myself for not doing this and going out with a bang with the group. Then again, what if this made it worse? “No, you’re right.” I found myself saying. “We can work around it.”
Sometimes, you had to take one for the team. I had to take a backseat for the first time in my career.
But I wondered in that moment, if the team was really looking out for me, or themselves.