Backstreet Boys' AJ McLean Opens Up About Solo Country Album

AJ McLean might be best known as a member of the Backstreet Boys, but he is also launching a solo career, not in pop music, but country! After performing his current single, "Night Visions," McLean sat down with PopCulture.com to discuss why he wants to delve into an entirely new style of music.

"To me, what really kind of grabbed me, was the fact that, yes, it's got a country element to it, but it also has a pop element to it, and it's a nice bridge," McLean explained. "And then, once I put my vocal on it, it kind of metamorphed into this song that it is right now. I mean, it definitely is a nice bridge for me coming out of the pop world into the country world."

In the song's accompanying video, McLean, who co-directed the video, also took on the role of an actor, playing a dark and complex character.

"It was the very first time I got behind the camera with my longtime friend and partner, René Elizondo," McLean recalled. "When we wrote the treatment, we were definitely trying to write something emotional. This song has definitely got that kind of, pull on the heartstrings vocal, pull on the heartstrings lyric. But, we wanted to kind of take it to the next level. And, I don't do anything small by any means, so, we decided to go the extra mile and make it kind of a short film.

"We were a little bit scared at first about having breaks in the song, and having these moments of acting and stuff," he continued. "But, something that we were really focusing on was, having music still playing underneath the actual dialogues. You never feel like you're being taken out of the song. And, those moments to me, are very key moments in the actual storyline before we hit the actual twist."

Fans might think going from a popular pop group to a country artist is a stretch, but the 40-year-old says it really isn't that much of a deviation, at least for him.

"I've been a fan of all types of music since I was a kid," said McLean. "My mom raised me on southern rock, country, anything from Three Dog Night, CCR, to Dolly Parton, Garth Brooks. I'm an overall fan of just music. But for me, one of the biggest things and biggest draws to go country is, country music tells stories. And I love the fact that country music, doesn't matter if it's a female artist, a group, a male artist, every song is so relatable to everyone. And, again, it tells stories. And, I wanted to tell my story."

McLean didn't want to take on another project as much as he wanted to show fans another side of who he really is.

"When you're in a group like Backstreet Boys, yes, we have amazing music," McLean remarked. "Thank God. We've been so fortunate to have, to be working with some of the best writers and best producers of our generations. But, again, pop music is feel good music. It's not necessarily, kind of telling a story per se. But, country music to me does tell stories. And it really just grabs you. So, again, being in a group for 25 years, I don't feel like anyone truly is gotten to know my story. And hopefully now, they will."

Even though McLean is releasing a country album, the singer insists he has no plans of leaving the former boy band. In fact, his fellow band members are nothing but supportive of his new venture.

"We've all said that, if any of us want to step outside and spread their wings, that we all support one another," McLean revealed. "Whether it's in film, TV, solo projects, directing, writing movies, whatever it is. I think the guys were a little bit shocked at first, that it was country that I chose. But, they've all heard most of the songs. They all love the music. And, they all support it. So, I'm excited to have my boys also in my back pocket."

McLean and his fellow Backstreet Boys have been longtime friends with Florida Georgia Line, even performing together several times. So it was only natural that McLean turned to Brian Kelley and Tyler Hubbard when he decided to go country.

"To find out that they were fans of us when they were six years old, blew my mind, first of all," McLean acknowledged. "We're huge fans of them as well. They're the nicest guys ever. I think the only advice that I really got, mainly from BK was just be yourself. Stay in your own lane. And, they to me are the black sheep of country. They really just do their own thing. They've stood their ground. And they are trailblazers. Hence, why they won the [Billboard] Trailblazer Award. They really are truly, kind of visionaries as far as changing the way country is perceived, both, by bringing in hip hop artists, and pop artists, and EDM artists.

"So, when BK told me that, I was like, 'You know. I think that's what I'm gonna try,'" he continued. "Just to stay in my own lane, which is pretty much how Backstreet [Boys] always worked. We've never tried to be anything that we're not. We never tried to be like any other group. We've always just been us. Take us or leave us. And that's kind of where I am."

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McLean is tentatively hoping for a Spring release of his country album. Download "Night Visions" on iTunes.

Photo Credit: Getty images/Kevin Kane