At 16 I was still figuring out what I wanted to be when I grew up. I never thought showbiz would last for me. I’d already had some hit records – my first when I was five. Long haired Lover from Liverpool came out when I was eight. By the time I was 16 I had my own advertising agency, which sounds bizarre, but my family had a TV studio and I wanted to do my own thing. So I was running that, working with a lot of crazy clients like Yamaha and Coca-Cola. And I was in the TV show Fame. But I was still figuring out what I wanted to do. I loved music so I was still recording but no one really wanted to hear from me – I was kinda like Bob the Builder, this child star. I had the notoriety but no one cared. That was hard.
I was into pretty girls and fast cars. It was hard, really getting to know a girl. I dated a lot of girls around the world but I was quite shy and insecure, like most entertainers. So I never really pushed the romance thing until I knew I’d found my soul mate.
I first met my wife when she was babysitting for my brothers’ kids. I thought she was stuck-up and she thought I was too groovy because I wore leather pants and drove a De Lorean. Then later we ran into each other at our church and I ended up taking her to a movie. She was different to other girls I dated. She knew who she was, and she wasn’t into the whole showbiz thing. She knew who we were obviously but she was more into classic rock. But so was I! We’ve been married 25 years and we have four kids.
I always loved showbusiness because it was all I knew. And I love what it does, makes people forget their troubles for a few hours – that’s a cool business to be involved in. Sometimes being in the public eye gets tiring but you know what? It’s so easy to get out of showbusiness. [Regarding Justin Bieber’s comments that he won’t pose for any photos with fans]. If Justin Bieber wanted to get out he could. I have no patience or time for anybody who doesn’t have time for the people who made it happen for them. That is just the most selfish, self-absorbed comment that anybody could ever make. I understand where he’s coming from but I don’t respect it. People would kill for the opportunities he’s had, to even have their records heard.
When I look back at the 16-year-old me, I see that he was very independent but a little lonely. My mom and dad went off on a mission for our church, my brothers were still touring, Donny and Marie were doing their own thing – so I was kinda left behind, Billy no-mates, trying to figure out what to do. I lived on my own, though I wouldn’t recommend that, it was quite lonely.
Maybe my parents were worn down after nine kids but I had a lot more freedom than I’d ever give my kids. It was quite scary. I moved to California, where I was born – I’m the oddball in my family, they were all born in Utah – and ended up at a ridiculously young age brokering entertainment deals for other celebrities. I made my own money, and really – those were the best times of my life. You’re offered everything out there but you have to ask yourself, well, who am I? What do I really stand for? That’s why those teenage years are so critical.