The Backstreet Boys singer, who's battled his own demons, tells PEOPLE he wants to help the troubled teen

By K.c. Blumm
January 27, 2014 10:50 AM
Imeh Akpanudosen/Getty; Kevin Mazur/AMA2012/Wireimage

Justin Bieber is going through a very public rough patch as he not-so-successfully juggles worldwide fame with coming of age. But one person who gets it is A.J. McLean, who quit high school to join the Backstreet Boys in the ’90s.

The father of one has fought his own battle with substance abuse and tells PEOPLE he’d like to help Bieber, 19, who was charged with DUI on Thursday.

McLean – who honeymooned in Bora Bora at the same time as Bieber’s manager, Scooter Braun – plans to contact Braun and “see if I can reach out to Justin and see if we can have a sit-down, take him under my wing, and tell him what it was like for me at that age, and maybe see if he will actually hear me.”

The 36-year-old, who spoke to PEOPLE at the Friends ‘N’ Family pre-Grammy party in L.A. on Friday, says that he and his fellow Backstreeters had the benefit of being surrounded by “really supportive people who didn’t ‘Yes’ us to death.”

“Who knows who he’s surrounding himself with that are egging him on, no pun intended,” McLean says.

“One of the first things I would say is one of the tattoos that I have on me that says, ‘What are you doing?’ ” he explains. “Are you trying to prove something to yourself? Are you trying to prove something to the press and the media? Are you trying to flip everyone the bird and say, ‘I can do what I want!’? Or are you trying to ask for help and you’re not going about it the right way? This could be a cry for help for all we know.”

“Hopefully he’ll want to sit down and we can have a little chat,” McLean says. “Obviously he has to go through what he’s going through, and hopefully he comes out the other end a better, stronger human being.”


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