The 44-year-old singer and actor found fame in the late 1980s in boy band New Kids On The Block. He is now recording with the reformed NKOTB.
How different is the music scene now to when you started out in the 1980s? In the music world there seem to be fewer opportunities for establishing yourself as a recording artist – you have a better chance of becoming famous or maintaining a pop career now if you are on a television show like American Idol or The X Factor. Radio stations play so little music and MTV barely plays any music videos, so the window for artists to fit into has just become so much smaller. You can be a lot more famous now in the music business but to really make a living and have a career is tricky.
How does performing live compare with 20 years ago – are you still able to fling yourself around stadiums with the same amount of energy? When I was younger and performing, everything was such an adrenalin rush. I would run on stage and be hyperventilating in the middle of the first song, singing too loud and not pacing myself at all. At 20 I could do that. I would still have enough energy to make it through the rest of the show but, at 43, I have to take a different approach. I’m like a veteran in a sport now. But in some ways, pacing myself and stretching for an hour before every show and slowing it all down, I’ve learnt to be a better performer. These days, I really take my time and treat a concert more like a movie.
How have your fans changed – have they become less crazed than when they came to see you as teenagers? They’re sometimes just as crazy and they scream as loud now as they did when they were teenagers, which is amazing. I took my son and his friends to see Justin Bieber and there was a lot of screaming. The other parents were like: ‘This is so loud.’ I said: ‘That’s nothing.’
You’re also an established actor these days, with a regular role on Blue Bloods. Do you think television has changed a lot in recent years too? Television has changed a lot but I think it’s the opposite situation to music – there are so many cable networks producing shows, and so many opportunities for actors to work in great-quality stuff. When I first got into acting, a lot of the actors I was competing with, my peers, said they didn’t want to do TV. I always wanted to do TV, though, because I was looking for the opposite of the rock-star lifestyle, which was something consistent – checking in every day and sort of punching a clock seemed fascinating to me.
You’re playing a police officer in Blue Bloods but didn’t you have a rather misspent youth, like some of your brothers and band members? Most of my interaction with the police when I was young was when they were arresting my family members. Fortunately, I was rarely in their cars myself. I was the good son, I guess – I didn’t like being in trouble. I still knew all the cops from my area because they had arrested all my brothers, so when I walked down the street they would watch me to see if I had a knife and check what I was up to. Luckily, I was usually going to baseball or something else productive. As for playing a cop, I think now that I am in my forties I’m playing the role I was born to play and I can finally be convincing as a policeman or detective.
Your character, Danny, has become progressively smarter as the show has gone on – has he had some styling advice? Well, my suits have become progressively tighter over the seasons, as the network has encouraged me to wear nicer, less sloppy suits. Now they are really, really tight. And I have a rather big bum to begin with – it’s true – so my trousers are really tight now. One night on set I was making a Vine video clip and I said my trousers were so tight you could break a board over my ass. It just so happened that one of the set decorators had a board standing by and they broke it over my ass. They are public Vines – you can watch them.
You have a restaurant, Wahlburger, in Massachusetts with your brothers – is there anything your family can’t do? I’m not a good cook. I can cook a bowl of cereal but my brother Paul, and the rest of my brothers, are really talented. When we were kids, other people would always call us all Wahlburger, so we figured we’d get the last laugh and open a burger joint and call it that. Truthfully, Paul has a hugely successful restaurant in Massachusetts and he came to Mark and me with the idea of opening a burger place. He lives in a town where there is no burger joint, only a McDonald’s, and he wanted to open one to serve that town and to make a quality product. Once we put the name on it, though, it just took on a life of its own.
Blue Bloods is on Thursdays at 9pm on Sky Atlantic.