He toured the world with the Backstreet Boys, belted out Michael Jackson and Mariah Carey as an opening act and appeared on Broadway in “Disaster!” all by the age of 13, and now Brian Littrell’s son, Baylee, is celebrating his 16th birthday by dropping his debut single!
ET has the exclusive first listen of the talented teen’s catchy new country track, “Don’t Knock It,” written by Nashville songwriter/producer Corey Crowder and appearing on Baylee’s forthcoming debut album. “It’s a fun, upbeat song, and it’s kind of like all my favorite songs put together,” Baylee says of the track, about a Southern boy trying to win over a city girl. “You can’t listen to it without tapping your feet. It’s one of those songs you just want to jam out to.”
Releasing on Friday, the budding musician will celebrate by performing the song live on Instagram from a birthday bash on Saturday. To mark the official launch of Baylee’s music career, ET talked to the young singer about growing up on the road, dealing with fans, which of his dad’s bandmates is like his “uncle,” and how Florida Georgia Line ignited his musical dreams.
ET: You grew up in the music industry and would introduce the Backstreet Boys to the stage when you were only around five. How much did that impact your foray into showbiz?
Baylee Littrell: I never really got into music until around first grade. I was in a band/theater camp over summer and it was right when Michael Jackson passed away, so we did a Michael Jackson tribute and I sang, “I Want You Back.” That’s when everything happened — I fell in love with music, started singing every day and even started writing when I was that little.
What were you writing about at such a young age?
I was writing cute, little poems and almost love songs! I was on tour with my dad and in bed one night and just sat up, got my little notebook out and started singing. I said, “Dad, I’ve got an idea,” and that was the first song I ever wrote at 7, 8 years old. I would sing with my parents and everybody. I wasn’t shy to start out — as I got older, I became more self-conscious, but at 10 years old, my dad went out on the In a World Like This tour and they let me open up for them, so that was the first time I did it seriously in front of a large crowd. I was scared but excited and it was the first time everything clicked and I realized, “Man, this is my release. This is how I can get away from my worries or bad things.” Not that there are many bad things when you’re 10 years old, but it was basically a fun release.
When did you realize you might want to pursue music as a career?
I got off of Broadway in New York and my dad was working with Florida Georgia Line on their record, so I started listening to new country music for the first time — I had listened to the old stuff with my grandparents, but that was it. I started writing songs, then listened to Florida Georgia Line’s album and was like, “This is something I really want to do. I want to get back out there and sing!” That record and the guys’ song with them, “God, Your Mama and Me,” really sparked everything. It’s one of my favorite songs.
Have you been able to meet Florida Georgia Line?
I haven’t been able to go with my dad on any of the trips yet, but I look forward to meeting them hopefully soon. They’re awesome, super sweet, personable guys. Tyler [Hubbard] and my dad have been friends for the past two years and he’s a really cool dude.
How supportive have your parents, Brian and Leighanne, been? It seems they’ve struck a good balance in being encouraging and supportive, without being overbearing or pushing you into showbiz.
The one thing my parents told me was, “No matter what you do, we support you. If you want to be a football player, we want you to be the best football player you can be. If you want to sing, that’s great — be the best singer you can be.” They never pushed me down this road and actually held me from it for a little bit just because they didn’t want to be pushy. They’ve always steered me in the right direction and been supportive — I play sports and they’re there every game, front and center. When they found out I wanted to pursue music, my mom did everything she could to make it happen and she still tells me, “If it’s not what you want to do, we don’t have to do it. You make the call.”
So many teens find their parents annoying or shun the idea of following in their footsteps, so it’s cool how close you are and how enthusiastically you all support each other on social media. Has Brian also helped you on the musical side of things?
My dad’s truly been the best vocal coach and teacher. Without my dad’s guidance, I don’t think I would have the ability to write as many songs as we do — we write together almost every week. My parents are incredible and I love them to death. They’re my favorite people in the world! A lot of my friends get aggravated with their parents, but I can’t say one thing I’m aggravated with my parents about!
View this post on Instagram
Today is another blessing from the Lord I get to live another day and I get the chance to see 16.. This year’s been a crazy journey and the first footsteps to achieving my dreams and I can’t imagine doing it without my amazing,loving,hard working parents by my side. By incredible mom has worked so hard to help me get to where I am today and my dad‘s been the best teacher anyone could ever ask for. So today is a day to celebrate both of you❤️ I can’t wait for the day the both of you can see my kid turn 16…..
Brian has obviously had the biggest impact on you, but how have the other Backstreet Boys influenced or supported you?
AJ [McLean]’s always been pretty involved in my life — I call him Uncle AJ! He’s always been supportive, so music is another thing that me, my dad and AJ can connect with. He’s been like an uncle on the road, always there for me, and he always sends me birthday messages — the whole family will call and sing to me. And, my cousin, Kevin [Richardson], saw two shows when I was on Broadway with Disaster!, so he was super-supportive with coming out to cheer me on. Kevin loves country and my dad loves country, so that’s another reason I discovered it. Kevin’s coming to the party and I wish AJ could make it too, but I’m excited and thankful that Kevin gets to be there.
A lot of young musicians go through struggles with fame and success. What are some of the challenges of being a teenager entering showbiz?
Gaining support and hoping your friends can understand you is hard. Sometimes I have to tell them I have to work and they’re like, “You have a job?” Then it’s like, “You have to understand this is my choice. This is what I want to do and it’s fun for me.” My best friend, Nate, has had difficulties understanding why I can’t be there to hang sometimes, but he’s also really supportive. And, then my relationship with my girlfriend [is affected] as well because it’s like, “I’ll be in the studio from this time to this time and that’s my schedule this week.” Relationships are the hardest thing to get through sometimes.
Speaking of ladies, you have a beautiful girlfriend now and look very happy, but was it strange when you were younger and getting all this female attention from Backstreet Boys fans?
When I was younger, it was harder to understand. I was like, “Why would they want a picture with us?” It was hard to wrap my head around, but my parents taught me, “It’s as simple as this — they want to take a picture. Be nice, they’re our fans and they love us, so let’s show them the appreciation they show us.” They are our fan base, but they’re our family too, so you have to make every picture or autograph a joy. It’s something I’ve become used to.
And, now you’re set to expand your fan base with “Don’t Knock It.” How did the song come about?
It was written by Corey Crowder, a producer in Nashville with Tree Vibez, which is Florida Georgia Line’s writing group. It was the first song I heard from all the demos that I fell in love with, but they said, “This one just went on hold for Mason Ramsey.” So of course, when you can’t have it, you want it more! I was recording months later and they said “Don’t’ Knock It” was available, so somehow, by the grace of God, we got the song.
When and what can we expect from the record?
I’m going to finish recording in January/February, so probably February/March for the release. I didn’t help write “Don’t Knock It,” but I have written some songs on the upcoming record, so I’m very excited!
See more on Baylee and the Backstreet Boys below.
More From ET: