We realize boy band members can come in for some mockery. But the man in this picture isn’t just the seller of 130-plus million albums worldwide. He’s a re-engineered guy who in the past few years has hit the gym, dropped 65 pounds, and beaten Justin Timberlake in an arm-wrestling match. (He also datesfit chick.) So the week his new solo album, I’m Taking Off, drops on iTunes, we talked with the 31-year-old about video games, hair care and how guys are suckers. Dude’s got some surprisingly good advice.

MADE MAN: What item do you never leave home without, and why?
NICK CARTER: My computer. I’m a geek at heart. I always take my computer with me wherever I go. I actually have a couple with me now, a PC and a Mac. You look at me, you’d think I have my own network. I’ve got like 15 computers in my house. I’m constantly finding new information and Googling stuff. And I love playing video games when I have time. My favorites are Portal 1, Portal 2, World of Warcraft and Battlefield. I love Battlefield. I’m also a big fan of Duke Nukem.

MM: What’s your drink of choice after a tough day at work?
NC: A large bottle of water. Maybe two. And then if we’re talking alcohol, something I’d really like after a tough day is red wine. Because I think a glass or two of red wine is really good for you.

MM: What grooming, style or fitness thing can a guy do in the morning to look good all day?
NC: Here’s the thing. I’ll wake up and sometimes I won’t do anything to my hair. Maybe I’ll add a little bit of pomade. But my advice is, never go too much with the hair products. Less is best. I think you kind of have to let your hair do what it naturally wants to do. Too perfect is always unattractive.

MM: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received about women, and who gave it to you?
NC: There was this one guy. I think he was like the uncle of one of our security guards. This was years ago, when I was like 16 or 17. We were in Brooklyn. And I remember we were sitting in this car, and he leaned over to me and said, “Nick, don’t ever tell a girl you love her.” Since then I’ve broken that rule, so I’m not sure if it’s good advice. But guys are suckers, they don’t listen to advice anyway.

MM: What can I’m Taking Off teach guys about being better men?
NC: My album comes from the sensitive side of a man. It’s about expressing yourself and not caring what people think. Because when you just let go, the best stuff comes out. With guys, it’s a fine line. You can’t be too hard, too old-school. But you can’t be too sensitive. Well, most guys can’t be too sensitive. But you have to be open with yourself. You can call it happy music if you want. I just think of it as positive pop music.

MM: What do you do when you’re tired, to pick yourself up?
NC: I’ve actually been really tired lately with all the rehearsal and travel, and trying to find new ways to get energy. So I went online, got this audio book on meditation by Glenn Harrold and started meditating. The book is 55 minutes. Within the first five minutes, I was so geeked. I had to step out of it. It was unbelievable. If you can find a way to meditate, it’s the best thing. Your brain needs a relaxation period to function properly.

MM: Speaking of books, we hear you’re a reader. Got any favorites?
NC: Kevin Richardson, an ex-member of our group, gave me a book by Norman Peale about positive thinking. I didn’t read it for like seven years. Finally I picked it up one day and got a lot out of it. For nutrition, I’ve read The All-Pro Diet and The China Study. I’m like eighty-five percent vegetarian now. Books are great. You find the right books, they can change your life. It’s just like a computer getting installed with new software.

MM: Any parting words of wisdom?
NC: The way I look at it is, I’m not wise. I want to be wise. And I strive for wisdom. So I’d say, do the same. Never think that you know everything.