Aaron Carter wants you to call him

The teen pop star is still growing up

College, for a lot of people, is a really great opportunity to shed the child they grew from and take on a new adult persona. Aaron Carter never went to college. "I never needed to go to college because I always had a profession," he says.

At age seven, he had a recording contract. "I have always been able to make a living off of what I do."

Many remember Carter for his monstrously popular flurry of Disney-friendly pop hits such as "That's How I Beat Shaq" and his cover of the Strangeloves' "I Want Candy," both of which dropped before he could legally drive. Carter toured with Britney Spears and the Backstreet Boys (of which his older brother Nick was an integral member). He held a Guinness World Records title by age 10 as the youngest recording star to have four consecutive Top 10 hits. Carter attained a far-reaching branch of celebrity at a young age. His parents handled everything before he turned 18, acting as managers. Until they didn't. "They divorced and I was left there kinda stranded on my own, trying to figure out how I'm gonna pick up the pieces again," Carter says. "It's just kinda taken me this long to figure it out and get it back together."

That process involved a lot of searching and struggle, including work on Broadway and reality television, substance addiction, and bankruptcy. However, now at 26, he's healthy and focused on his role as an entertainer. Carter has been hyping his latest pop banger, "Ooh Wee," a song he performed live on "Good Day L.A." over the summer. He started "Aaron Carter's Wonderful World Tour" in mid-September; it runs until February 2015.

He's working on a fresh album with a title that remains unannounced — his first since 2002's Another Earthquake. "The effort I put into it, that's what's going to make it so special," he says. "I actually care about it. I'm not just doing it because."

Carter's professional hustle is evident, but unfortunately doesn't end with all the obvious, musical legwork. Still, the general public recalls him as the floppy-haired twerp in orange overalls, running 'round a cul-de-sac with Shaquille O'Neal in the video for "That's How I Beat Shaq." It's an identity to which he owes everything, but it won't stop gnawing at his heels. "A lot of times the public won't treat me like a person," he says. "They just want to take a picture with me real quick."

For whatever reason, people have trouble understanding that children, no matter how famous they get, eventually grow up.

Carter's hardest grind is to be taken seriously as an adult artist. "It's hard," he says. "It takes effort. A lot of me convincing them I'm just a normal person, stuff like that." He's quiet on the other end of the phone before adding: "I guess I'm not normal. When it comes down to it, because I've been doing it so long, I don't feel like I'm not normal."

Celebrity aside, Carter maintains a stranglehold on his social media presence. His Instagram account is protected, despite his roughly 162,000 followers. "You know, I don't trust a lot of people," Carter says. "I'm a little more private about my life. ... I don't like random people judging all my stuff."

However, some of Carter's recent tweets invite fans to call or text, and list an L.A.-area phone number. "Yeah, it's my cell phone number," he says, although it's different from the one from which he called for this interview. "I can control it a little better than Instagram. ... That's just a way for me ... to contact fans and be in touch."

And do his fans ever take the open invitation? "It doesn't stop ringing, and I don't stop picking it up," he says. "I always pick it up."

The attention shows folks haven't forgotten about him as an entertainer or as an artist — and he doesn't intend to allow that to happen. "I'm a fire sign, and it's definitely given me the confidence to be a leader, have faith in myself," he says. "Never give up, even when people poke fun or wanna put me down or want me to be the topic of their negativity. ... I'm going to do this until the day I die."

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