Aaron Carter wants to get the party started again.
Eleven years since his last album and 13 since his last big hit -- "Aaron's Party (Come Get It)" -- the former teen star, actor and reality TV personality has re-embraced music with this year's After Party Tour. Some new releases are planned, starting with a single in, he hopes, the near future, and the now 25-year-old Carter hopes to in short order to reclaim some semblance of the promising career he had during the late 90s and early 00s.
"I embrace what I've done in my past, what made me who I am," Carter says. "That's what made me who I am. I'm not gonna deny it. People love it.
"Y'know, I went from being the lowest of low to having all this crazy (stuff) going on around me, wondering if I was ever going to be me again -- and then actually realizing I never will be me again. I'm gonna be an improved version of what I was growing up and have a lot more experience to use."
The good news is that, on a small scale, it appears to be working. Carter says he's been stoked by the strong turnouts for the After Party shows, as well as the ebullient response for singles such as "Crush On You," "Crazy Little Party Girl," "Oh Aaron," his version of the Strangeloves' "I Want Candy" and "Not Too Young, Not Too Old," a 2001 duet with his older brother Nick Carter of the Backstreet Boys.
"It's so intense to be able to do these songs and have people lose their minds again, just like they did back in the day," Carter notes -- with the exception that he's getting more lingerie thrown at him than he did during his adolescence. "All of a sudden I went from being Aaron Carter to being Tom Jones!" he says with a laugh.
"It's almost like (the fans) are seeing a ghost or something," he adds. "For a lot of them, I was their first album that they ever got, the first (music) they really knew, and when they see me their reaction is...just so crazy, so intense.
"I'm honored by that, and I want to do my best for them. I know it's going to be hard to get people to believe in me again. They think I'm not dependable or I'm gonna fall off the wagon. But I've really got my life figured out. I know who I'm gonna be for the rest of my life. Now I have to show that to everybody."
The Florida-raised Carter's star turn included four studio albums -- including the triple-platinum "Aaron's Party (Come Get It)" in 2000 -- three DVDs and acting in both TV shows ("Lizzie McGuire," "Sabrina, the Teenage Witch," "7th Heaven") and movies ("Fat Albert," "Ella Enchanted," "Supercross") as well as highly publicized (and overlapping) relationships with actresses Lindsay Lohan and Hilary Duff. Dueling lawsuits with former manager Lou Pearlman and his Trans Contental label weighed down Carter's momentum during the mid-00s, while the unsuccessful "House of Carters" reality show with his five siblings and a 2008 arrest for possession of marijuana also contributed to his declining fortunes
Carter did rally with a fifth-place showing on "Dancing With the Stars' " ninth season, which led to a less successful spot on the Food Network's "Rachael vs. Guy: Celebrity Cook-Off." Ultimately, however, Carter feels that "reality TV did absolutely (nothing) for me," adding that a number of promises were made about involvement and control over the shows, particularly "House of Carters," that didn't come true. "It was just a big mess," he says.
So was Carter's own life, and in January of 2011 he went to the Betty Ford Center "to heal some emotional and spiritual issues he was dealing with" according to then-manager Johnny Wright. Carter emerged after a month to start playing concerts again, and then in November of 2011 take a role in an Off-Broadway production of "The Fantastiks."
"My story has yet to be told," notes Carter, who's not yet ready to tell it. "There are a lot of things people don't know that happened to me that I had to deal with behind the scenes. I kept a good composure, knowing the fans were watching me, but one day I'll (reveal) everything, and people will understand a little more about what went on."
Since "The Fantastiks," meanwhile, Carter has rededicated himself to music. He's recorded and filmed a video for the new single, "City LIghts," which he describes as "pop/R&B. It's me. I'm a pop star, not a rock star, not a rap star -- actually, I'm a rap star too, rap and pop music." He also has an album in mind and has been "in the studio experimenting with some stuff," hoping for a new label deal and a release later this year or in early 2014.
He knows it might be a long, and hard, road back, but Carter says he intends to see it through, no matter what obstacles he faces.
"I'm not going to be fake," he proclaims. "I'm going to be real with everybody, and if they don't like it they don't have to buy into my product and my brand. It's their choice. I'm not forcing anybody.
"I'm not gonna be a puppy on somebody's string anymore. I'm a 25-year-old man now. I want to continue learning and embrace my mistakes, find the things I'm not always perfect at so I can be a better man and then be better at what I do."
Aaron Carter, Nikki Flores and Petrel perform on Thursday, March 21, at the Magic Bag, 22920 Woodward Ave., Ferndale. Tickets are $25. Call 248-544-3030 or visit www.themagicbag.com.
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