July 21, 2003 08:56 AM

Backstreet Boy Kevin Richardson has announced that next month he and a childhood friend, songwriter Keith McGuffey, are opening a music academy in their hometown of Louisville, Ky., which they hope will boost local business and help aspiring singers, songwriters and producers, the Associated Press reports.

“When me and Keith (sic) were growing up in central Kentucky, there wasn’t any real outlet for us,” Richardson, 31, tells AP from his home in Los Angeles. “If we wanted to get information about the music industry, we had to travel.”

The academy, tentatively called the Music Workshop and set to open Aug. 1, is aiming to provide classes for anyone desiring to tweak the knobs on a soundboard, strum a guitar or learn the ins and outs of royalty negotiations. Eventual plans call for a full recording studio.

Classes will cost $300-$450 per session, Richardson said.

Meanwhile, in other boy-band news, the brotherly pop trio Hanson — Isaac, Taylor and Zach — best remembered for the sugary hit “MMMBop” six years ago, have recorded their first album in three years, called “Underneath,” reports Reuters.

They will lay the groundwork for its release early next year with an acoustic tour that begins Aug. 9 in Baltimore and wraps Aug. 28 in Los Angeles.

As for what the guys have been up to, Isaac, now 22, has lost the baby fat (as they all have); Taylor, 20, is married with a baby boy; and only Zach, 17, still lives at home with his parents and four younger siblings.

As Zach told Reuters about growing older: “I felt like I was 15 going on 55 for a while. … I don’t know if I’ve got an identity crisis, but I think it just goes with the territory.”

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