Last year was the year of Backstreet Boys, with the boy band celebrating their 20th anniversary, filming their upcoming documentary and receiving a coveted star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Their reign has continued into the new year with the group just announcing a second leg of their North American "In a World Like This" tour, kicking off in Moncton, New Brunswick on May 3rd.
“We want to hit some spots we didn’t get to last time,”says band member AJ McLean. (Full tour dates at bottom of article.)
But behind the professional success, McLean, 36, faced personal battles through his first year as a proud daddy and tells The Huffington Post Canada that his baby girl Ava, who saw him through his rough patches, will continue to help him strive to be a better person in what is setting up to be his biggest year yet.
You just celebrated Ava’s 1st birthday. What was going through your mind as you looked back at your first year as a dad?
It’s funny, I was telling my wife the other day how I was more freaked out about her turning one than about her being born. It’s just gone by so fast. I feel like she was born last month and now she’s a year and growing so fast. She’s such a smart kid and learns every quickly.
How was the party?
The best first birthday party I’ve ever been to! My little girl loves The Beatles and Stevie Wonder so we listened to music and she was dancing around. By 4.30 p.m. she was passed out, then she woke up and we opened presents. She got a bunch of amazing clothes and our best friends got her a Volkswagen bug. We put her in it and she figured out how to hit the gas pedal, but didn’t know how to take it off – so she just kept going forwards and backwards!
You’ve always been open about your struggles with alcoholism. How has it been since you became a dad?
You know, it’s been rough. I still have my good days and bad days. I’ve been sober for awhile, but it’s been rough with my schedule, travelling and stress. But I finally have a sponsor after trying to do it on my own. It’s not just about doing it for my little girl – if all I worry about is being sober for my family and forget about myself then at some point I’m going to break down or get overwhelmed and start drinking again. I have to do it for myself first, then I can have the energy and strength to be a good father and good husband.
What helps you in your moments of struggle these days?
Whenever I feel like having a drink, I call my sponsor, look at videos and photos of Ava, go to the gym or head out golfing.
It’s an everyday struggle but at some point when I have enough time under my belt it will just be second nature and I wont think about having a drink ever again. As of today, I don’t want to have a drink. That’s as far as I can think about it.
How do you deal with being away from Ava while touring with the Backstreet Boys?
Thank God for FaceTime and Skype. My wife has kept me up to par with everything. She sends me videos and everyday there’s something new, so even though I haven’t physically been there, I’m up-to-date with Ava’s new achievements.
What were her first words?
She says “Dad” and “Hi”. The other day we were watching a show she likes and someone said, “Dragon”, then she said it. She also says “Ozzy” which is my dog’s name. He’s her bestie. Whenever he’s around she couldn’t care less about mommy or daddy. Her latest thing is cracking herself up. There’s nothing more amazing than a baby’s laugh.
Starting a family can both test a relationship and bring you closer. How has it affected you and Rochelle?
We were a little wary about whether it was going to separate us and for the first six months, it was definitely a lot more work. We had to put more effort into spending quality time together. Fortunately her family lives out here so her mom can watch Ava while we have date night once or twice a week. God forbid, if it was just her and I and we’d have to hire a nanny. It happens a lot with celebrities especially when they’re busy and travelling.
I look at Instagram and see Kim and Kanye on tour and doing all this stuff but you never see their baby. I don’t want that for my little girl.
I’m a very hands-on dad. Rochelle’s like, 'You’re so good with her, you always want to play her with, hold her, tuck her in, change her diaper. Let me do something!'
I’m all about Ava and I want to keep it that way until she gets a little older … then we’ll probably get a nanny to travel with us on the road.
As of now, we’re doing it on our own and it’s a lot of work but it’s so crucial in the first couple of years to predominantly let her be with her parents.
Q&A Continues After Slideshow
Has becoming a dad made you look at your own relationship with your parents differently?
I was raised in a single-parent home with my mum and grandparents and I had the best childhood. They did the best they could with what they had and I think I turned out okay. I got a lot of traits from my mum and grandparents and I recently reconnected with my biological father. It has been really interesting learning about this whole other side of my family and how much I am a lot like my father.
Ava also helped inspire your upcoming jewellery line Ava Jaymes Originals. How did that come about?
My wife was making the invitations for her baby shower, so we were in this arts and craft store and I saw one of the girls making a bracelet. She showed me how to do it then I bought a ton of beads and made 50 bracelets that night! It was so much fun. I did it every night then my buddy Mark and I decided we should sell them. I’ve always wanted to get into the fashion world and make clothing, jewellery and shoes and it’s finally coming into fruition. My wife’s working on a baby line then we also have Skullee Rose clothing, the Alexander Jaymes line and I’m going to start Golden Goat, which will be more like Abercrombie & Fitch.
You’ve also been in the studio with Daniel Powter for a solo record?
I’ve done stuff with Daniel – he’s great! I’m also working with Morgan & Prophet who wrote five songs on the latest Backstreet Boys record and I’m trying to work out a deal with RedOne.
What else is in store for 2014?
We leave mid-February for our European tour, then most of 2014 is work. I’m going to do the solo record and have been talking about getting into modelling, acting and a bit of everything. It’s going to be a busy but awesome year!
Canadian Backstreet Boys Tour Dates:
Saturday, May 3 Moncton, NB Moncton Coliseum
Sunday, May 4 Halifax, NS Halifax Metro Centre
Tuesday, May 6 Kingston, ON Rogers K-Rock Centre
Wednesday, May 7 London, ON Budweiser Gardens
Thursday, May 8 Hamilton, WP FirstOntario Centre
Sunday, May 11 Winnipeg, MB MTS Centre
Tuesday, May 13 Moose Jaw, SK Mosaic Place
Wednesday, May 14 Lethbridge, AB ENMAX Centre
Friday, May 16 Calgary, AB Scotiabank Saddledome
Saturday, May 17 Edmonton, AB Rexall Place
Sunday, May 18 Dawson Creek, BC EnCana Events Centre
Tuesday, May 20 Vancouver, BC Rogers Arena