Jordan Knight: New Kid on the Block Cautions Justin Bieber, One Direction and the Wanted
by Leena Tailor
With almost three decades in the boy band spotlight, Jordan Knight has surfed the highs and weathered the lows that come with being a global pop icon. But while his greatest piece of advice for the latest wave of boy bands is "just have fun" the singer knows all too well how fun can spin out of control. Having been in the shoes of hysteria-inducing, young pin-ups like The Wanted and One Direction, at an age where alcohol and drug temptations are at their heights, the New Kids on the Block singer believes it's up to band members to look out for each other.
"That's one of the great things about being in a band as opposed to a solo artist," he tells AOL Music Blog ahead of his upcoming solo tour. "For us it was good at that age because we had each other's backs. If one person started going crazy we'd pull them back. So what I would say to these new bands is watch out for your friends -- if they're getting too crazy be a good friend and pull them back to reality."
The 42-year-old singer/songwriter recently spent time with The Wanted at Hershey's MixTape Festival, where the young Brits joined NKOTB on-stage to perform "Glad You Came." The experience brought back memories of Jordan's days bursting onto the scene as a teen heartthrob.
"It's cool to see the new generation at it," he said. "It brings back the feelings I had when I started. Everything was fresh and new. You have the world at the palm of your hands. I get to relive that feeling through them.
"And it's great to see a British band come here and the girls love them because they have accents and they're British!"
While he believes it's just as difficult for today's "young whippersnappers" to navigate the music industry as it was for NKOTB, he says avenues like YouTube mean a lucky break can come cheaply and "at any moment."
Of course, with that moment comes a whole new world of fame and fortune. For NKOTB, their late '80 explosion saw them topping the charts, plastering bedroom walls around the world and spawning cartoons, merchandise and record sales earning $850 million in 1990 alone.
While the band weren't extravagant spenders, Jordan urges stars like Justin Bieber and One Direction -- who have come under fire for splashing out five-digit figures on cars for friends and girlfriends -- not to feel bad about wealth.
"A lot of people feel guilty and want to give money away to friends, family and everybody. It's a sudden surge of power and everyone wants a piece, but don't let it define you -- and don't feel guilty about having it. Just be responsible.
"And with everything else, just have fun. Be a boy until you need to be a man. Don't take it all too seriously... but don't throw it all away by getting too crazy."
Jordan's words may be drops in an ocean of advice today's chart-toppers have been showered with, but the Boston native has firsthand experience with how life can fall apart after reaching the heights of fame.
At 30 -- five years after NKOTB parted ways and shortly before the birth of his first son -- he stumbled into alcoholism while struggling to come to terms with adulthood.
"They say a person conflicted is a person addicted. And I was definitely conflicted... between growing up and being responsible, and staying irresponsible," he says.
"It started to become a real problem. I was drinking everyday. Alcohol makes you happy when you drink, but the rest of the time it ruins your life and makes you depressed. You become a slave to it and you stop being creative and thinking of other people. You become selfish."
Relationships were damaged and it was six years before a painfully-dreadful hangover saw him wake up one day and go cold turkey to save himself -- and his family.
"Most of the decision was because of my son. I didn't want him to see me in that state anymore. I said, 'No more. I can't do it. He's not going to see that growing up.'"
Attending a few AA classes, most of Jordan's recovery involved reading about addiction and surrounding himself with sober people.
"If you make a decision not to drink you have to deal with your life," he says. "You slowly get stronger and build emotional and mental muscles to live a good life. Those muscles get very weak when you have an addiction."
Six years sober, he says he will always be "recovering," but hasn't fallen back on the bottle. And while NKOTB's 2008 reunion and life back on the road may frequently corner him with old temptations, he has no desire to drink.
"When there's so much at stake it curbs your enthusiasm! I don't want anymore hangovers," he says. "I don't want to walk into the dressing room before a show and feel ashamed.
"I open mini-bars at hotels, grab water and don't even think about the beer right in front of my face now. I never thought I'd be able to do that.
"And I never thought hanging around people who are drinking would be possible. I used to look at people who didn't drink and think, 'It must be so boring.' Now I'm like, 'Thank God I don't drink!'
"But I don't think there's anything wrong with drinking -- as long as you can control it."
Looking back at almost 30 years in the limelight, he says sobriety has been the single biggest obstacle to getting to the "good and balanced" place he has reached personally and professionally.SOURCE: AOL Music blog
With another NKOTB album in the works as well as further solo plans, he now has two sons, with wife of eight years Evelyn, to keep him busy when he's not working. Eldest, Dante, is now a teenager -- there are no girlfriends yet, "although I haven't checked his text messages lately!" -- while Eric, five, has inherited Jordan's passion for music.
"He loves listening to me play the "Beverly Hills Cop" theme song. It's so random! He pulls out the keyboard and goes, 'Daddy, play the song!'"
Asked about his proudest moment as a father he says everyday brings new milestones.
"Today Eric drew a bunch of pictures and put them on every single door in the house. It was so artistic and creative. To think, 'What made him put them on every door?' It's cool to see that.
"He doesn't have inhibitions. He feels free and happy and that makes me feel good."
While Eric may be too young to fully understand his dad's fame just yet, it's what he hopes his sons learn from his journey when they're older which today's boy bands can perhaps take most heed from.
"Hopefully they'll learn that you can be a normal person and still do this kind of stuff..." he says, pausing. "Hopefully I'm normal enough that they'll see that."