Baylee Littrell, the 16-year-old son of the Backstreet Boys’ Brian Littrell, has had a hat hanging in his bedroom in Alpharetta, Georgia for the past two years. And it belongs to Florida Georgia Line’s Brian Kelley.
On the eve of his debut country album release, 770-Country, Littrell told me why that hat was kind of his watershed moment.
When Baylee was just 14, he was at a Florida Georgia Line show at the Verizon Amphitheatre — now known as the Ameris Bank Amphitheatre — in Alpharetta, just north of Atlanta. “I got to go see Florida Georgia Line back in 2017. We were there in the pit in front of the stage, and BK saw me in the audience and he threw me his hat. I wasn’t sure if he knew who I was, I was just in shock. It was hilarious. I was like, ’NOBODY TOUCH THE HAT.’
“I seriously have that in my room next to my bed ever since. That honestly was when I was like, ’Man, I am starstruck.’ In that one moment, I felt completely alive. It had to be fate.”
(That was the same year that the Backstreet Boys celebrated their love of music with Florida Georgia Line at a CMT Crossroads.)
And that’s the night a country star was born in the 770 area code. But when it came time to write and record the new country album, Littrell did have to make a few trips to the 615 area code of Nashville. He was also there for Wednesday night’s (Nov. 13) CMA Awards with his mom and dad, who have made a few stops in Nashville themselves.
Had so much at the @CountryMusic Awards last night. Was so cool to hang with some of my favorite artists and musical inspirations like @randytravis, Devin Dawson and @MorganWallen pic.twitter.com/PMdIByRusf
— Baylee Littrell (@littrell_baylee) November 14, 2019
Littrell, who is academically a senior in high school, is schooled at home because of the unpredictable nature of being in an entertainment family. Which means his Georgia roots are part of the reason he’s more country than anything else. “I’ve been home-school for over half my life. My dad is my musical director. My mom is my manager. And I’m based at home and on the road. And growing up in Georgia, you couldn’t help but be influenced by country music. Between my grandparents and my mom, I always had Haggard, Cash, Strait, and Jones in my ear. And I always loved it. Even with dad being in pop music, I wanted to be myself, and he was the one who encouraged me. I was gonna end up taking the safer route, and not do country music. But country was my passion, and my dad said he wanted me to do what I wanted to do. To us, there was never a Plan B.
“And it’s all because of Georgia.”
While he is home-schooled, and has a bright future in country music, Littrell told me that he still plans on taking the college entrance exams soon. “I got that SAT prep book, and it seriously weighs about five pounds. I keep staring at it thinking, ’How am I ever gonna pass that?'”
Then again, college may not be in the books for Littrell. His dad was only 18 when he started the Backstreet Boys with AJ McLean, Howie Dorough, Nick Carter, Kevin Richardson, and that seemed to work out okay for him. (And a little social love from his dad won’t hurt.)
Plus, when Baylee came to Nashville for songwriters, some of Music City’s best showed up for him: Devin Dawson, Seth Ennis, Tyler Hubbard, Gary Baker, Corey Crowder, Steven Lee Olsen, and Daniel Ross all share the credits on the upcoming 13-track album, out on Friday (Nov. 15). His dad even joined him on one song, “Come Kiss Me,” that is equal parts 90s pop vocals and old-school piano-heavy country. In other words, a song with something for everyone.