Backstreet Boys singer AJ McLean is going solo, with his very first country album. The 40-year-old just released "Back Porch Bottle Service," the debut single form his upcoming new record. But McLean, who appeared with Florida Georgia Line in their 2016 hit, "God, Your Mama, and Me," says, in many ways, country music has been luring him in all along.
"Growing up, my mom played anything from Southern rock to country," McLean tells PopCulture.com. "That was just kind of what I grew up on. Then I moved into like more urban, R&B stuff, all that kind of stuff, pop and whatnot, but once we did 'God, Your Mama and Me,' it definitely sparked something in me, and it really inspired me. One of my favorite things about country music is that country music tells stories and it appeals to anybody of any type of fan of whatever genre of music.
"If you're a hip-hop fan, if you're a death metal fan; country appeals to everybody," he continues. "I really want to tell my story, be more vulnerable, talk about my kids, talk about my amazing wife, and just this awesome life that I've been blessed to have and share it with everybody."
McLean's new project will embrace the country music sound he loves, while still staying true to the pop music that he has been part of with the Backstreet Boys for over 25 years.
"It's me," explains McLean. "It's got a little bit of all the different types of music that I was inspired by. It's got a little rock, it's got a little R&B, it's got a little pop, but melodies and lyrics are still in that country vein. It's my country, I guess you could say; it's my take on country. My two favorite acts right now are Chris Stapleton and Sam Hunt. So if you were to kinda take Sam's production that's kind of pop urban with Stapleton's soulfulness, that's kind of the vibe that I'm doing."
While it may seem a stretch for a member of one of the most successful pop bands in history to release a country record, the Florida native says this has been a dream of his for years.
"This has been a long time coming," McLean maintains. "I've cut three different albums from 2005 until now. One was like Southern rock, one was R&B, one was pop. I kept telling the fans, 'Don't worry, it's gonna come, it's gonna happen.' It never did because my timing and schedule just didn't let me do it. Then after the whole thing happened with us and FGL and I got that spark, I just spent nine months out of last year coming back here to Nashville, putting my feet deep in the Nashville scene and working with some amazing writers out here. It's just been a blast."
Still, Backstreet Boys fans have nothing to fear. Although eager to find his place in country music, the singer insists he has no plans of leaving the iconic group.
"We always say that if anybody wants to branch out and do anything that we're always gonna support each other and let each other fly," says McLean. "I think at first they were a little bit shocked that this was the direction I was gonna go in but two of the boys are from Lexington, Kentucky so they're good old country boys. Even though people don't think Florida is the South, it doesn't get much more South than Florida so I'm also a good old Southern boy."
With a country career and his continuing run with the Backstreet Boys, who are also working on a new album, McLean is arguably one of the busiest people in music right now – and he wouldn't have it any other way.
"I don't know anything else except to entertain," he admits. "That's what I grew up doing, I grew up in musical theater, been singing since I could walk and talk. I'm not gonna lie, I love the attention. I love to perform. I love to see the reaction from fans and to hopefully, in that 30-minute set or that two-hour set, take people away. Whatever you're dealing with in your daily life, if you're having a crappy day at the office or whatever the case is, for that 30 minutes or that two hours, you can just let go and just have fun and forget about trouble and money and whatever else and just have fun.
"That's what I want to bring," adds McLean. "Look, I know I'm gonna be taking on a lot, trying to balance this, that, and the other but I enjoy it. I'm a bit of a workaholic."0comments
Download "Back Porch Bottle Service" on iTunes.
Photo Credit: Instagram/aj_mclean