Less than a month after the tragic death of Aaron Carter, his friend and manager Taylor Helgeson is responding to criticism that he didn't do enough for the 34-year-old singer, who had struggled with addictions to drugs and alcohol for much of his too-short life.
"It seems like people are more upset that we didn't publicly expose him. Why would you do that? To somebody you care about? If you really want to help them, you talk in private," Helgeson tells Yahoo Entertainment. "And Aaron had real friends, real family. We talked much in private. We did a lot of work. You know, 2017, we had to take him to treatment. We did that."
Helgeson had been friends with Carter for years, and he worked with him on his 2018 album, Love, by co-writing some of the songs and touring with him. He said that Carter asked him to help manage him in the last year.
"We know what we tried. We know what we did. I sleep easy at night knowing I tried my best for my friend until he died," Helgeson says. "And if it was a cartoon and we could have tied him to the ground and dragged him to the treatment center, then we would've done that. But it's not, it's real life. And there's a helplessness that comes with watching somebody go through addiction."
He took particular issue with comments from Melanie Martin, Carter's on-again, off-again fiancée and the mother of their 1-year-old son, Prince. In response to comments Helgeson had made about Carter's demise, she accused the manager of having "had a hand in his relapse."
"This man did nothing to help Aaron. He enabled him so much," she wrote. "All he did was put a wedge between Aaron and I for the party to start. He tried to take over and brought him things that should have NEVER been brought to anyone. Let alone an addict."
Martin charged Helgeson with having "overworked" his client and continuing to use him to get paid for interviews. (Yahoo does not pay for interviews.)
Helgeson says there were enablers around, but he was not one of them. He said that when Carter asked him to manage his career, Helgeson had insisted that he find a more stable home life. Both he and Martin had accused each other of domestic violence.
"It caught me off guard to see those comments from his ex," Helgeson says. "This was kinda mind blowing." Especially because, Helgeson says, he had insisted Carter take some time off.
Personally, Carter had voluntarily enrolled himself in outpatient rehab, in an effort to regain custody of his son, who'd reportedly been placed with Martin's mother on court order, and he was planning to reconnect with estranged family members, including his brother Nick.
Then he missed a studio session and a show.
"And that was so unlike him. That was concerning. That was different. That was behavior we'd never seen before," Helgeson explains. "Somehow he'd always managed to show up and, in the last month, two months, it changed. It changed a lot."
Helgeson saw his friend for the last time at a recording studio, where they were going to work on a sequel to Love, two days before his death.
"I hadn't seen him for a few months until I saw him then. I could just see by his face, how bad he was doing. Instead of having a recording session, we ended up… I wouldn't call it an argument," Helgeson says, "but we ended up having a talk. And he had to leave the session. You know, it wasn't hostile. It wasn't anything like that. It was just, you're not OK right now."
And that was it. Helgeson says he misses Carter very much, but he doesn't blame him for his addiction.
He wants people to know that his friend was more than whatever they think they know.
"He was a giver. He was an incredibly generous person. And he loved people. He really loved people. And I think some of his downfalls were… he was open and really wanted that love back that, you know, when anybody would criticize him or make fun of him on the internet, he took those things really seriously. It really, really affected him,' Helgeson says. "And that's where you'd see some of that behavior of him kinda lashing out back, because he'd be so hurt. It wasn't that he was angry, you know. He was a very sensitive person, but also just an incredibly giving and generous friend. I mean, you couldn't ask for a better friend than Aaron."