(Photo Credit: Leighanne Littrell)
Baylee Littrell was just a 7-year-old on the tour bus when he had his first songwriting idea and excitedly called over his dad, Backstreet Boy Brian Littrell, to share it. A decade later, it was déja vu as the 17-year-old raced to the back of the bus to wake up Brian at 4 a.m. for help with what would become his first self-penned release. Heartbroken over a breakup, the young musician put his pain into words in a powerful ballad, “Let Her Go,” which became a family affair and closes out his debut album, 770-Country. Baylee is staying connected with fans through the pandemic with his new “Homemade Originals” series, which premieres on July 31. Your Teen Magazine talked to Baylee and Brian, 45, about heartache, working together, and which other Backstreet Boy has become a key support in Baylee’s career.
Q: Baylee, when did you first realize your dad was a celebrity?
Baylee: I was around 9 in CVS and saw a gigantic bin of CDs with Millennium and other Backstreet Boys CDs. I was like, “Dad, what’s this?” and he said, “That’s me.” I thought he was lying, but he said, “I told you we were a pretty big deal.”
Q: Years later, the two of you now have an official duet, “Come Kiss Me,” on 770-Country. Brian, how does it feel to have a song with Baylee?
Brian: It’s like a feather in the cap as a dad to not only be close to the project but also be on it. It’s a love song, but the way it turns in the bridge, it’s like we’re singing to each other about the journey of life because he’ll grow up one day, get married, have a family, and do the things I did as a young man. “Come Kiss Me” is that journey song of looking into the future.
Q: Baylee, your dad also helped with “Let Her Go.” How did that come about?
Baylee: I was sitting on the [tour] bus thinking about my breakup at 4 a.m. and started strumming some chords and next thing I had an idea. I wrote the first verse and chorus, and thought, “Wait, I want Dad to hear this,” so I woke him up. We started structuring the song and throwing lyrics back and forth.
Brian: He went through this horrible breakup and started writing how he felt. It’s [about] being in a relationship and trying to do the right thing, but slowly realizing maybe this isn’t the right thing. When you’re willing to accept that letting-go factor, it makes you a better person. I think one of the best gifts an artist can give is pouring out their heart in a song, and that’s what “Let Her Go” is.
When Backstreet Boys fans say, “You guys have been the soundtrack to my life: My first love song was, ‘I’ll Never Break your Heart’ and I love to party to ‘Backstreet’s Back,’” you see how songs have influenced people. Hopefully [fans] will say the same things to Baylee one day.
Q: As a mentor and a parent, what advice did you give Baylee going into the album?
Brian: The best advice that I could ever give Baylee is just to be himself through and through. Throughout this process, we were able to work with a lot of amazing producers and writers in Nashville, who really teamed up with us and helped us along the way, but at the end of the day, Baylee has to come through with the talent. He has to back up what he says he’s going to do, and he’s been able to do that so far.
Q: It must be cool to have your child inherit your musical passions and come to you for songwriting advice.
Brian: These are some of my fondest memories of putting together the album. He’s done that several times at home – he’ll text me from his bedroom: “Dad, are you up? Can you come into my room?” He’ll be playing a song and ask what I think. Any dad would be thrilled to have their child come to them for advice. These are memories I’ll cherish for a lifetime.
Q: Baylee, your mom, Leighanne, co-produced “Let It Go” and helped with “Come Kiss Me.” She must have developed some musical expertise after 19 years married to a Backstreet Boy! How supportive has she been?
Baylee: She has the best ears in the entire world. She’s not only the best manager and mom, but she has amazing ideas in the studio, from harmonies to phrasing. She can write, too. If me and Dad are ever writing, she’ll jump in with ideas and we’ll be like, “Where did you come up with that? We’re taking it!” Some families have book club—we have writing club!
Q: As a Backstreet Boy, you’ve seen how fame can negatively impact people. What have you taught Baylee in terms of dealing with that side of success, especially right now as things start to really take off for him?
Brian: I think the best thing we can do with Baylee is hold him tight and know that family is going to be first no matter what. That comes a lot from my wife, Leighanne, just being that inner strong person that she is. She has such a connection with our son. They’re cut from the same cloth. So, family is always going to be first no matter what happens.
Q: What feedback have you had from the other Backstreet Boys?
Baylee: I want to thank AJ [McLean] because Uncle AJ’s been there since day one, listening to my first takes and demos. When his song, “Boy and a Man,” came out, we were listening to it, excited to start this journey. He loves country music, and I understand why he’s trying to get into it because the atmosphere is amazing—a big family vibe. It connects people. And it connected me and AJ, so I’m super excited to see his country career blossom and hopefully mine will keep blossoming too.
(Photo credit: Bobby Klebanoff)