Brian Littrell spent the last 13 years associated with the sugary sweet melodies and slick dance moves that have made generations of boy bands famous, but he's changed his focus to give glory to a much higher calling. Since his start with the Backstreet Boys he's always wanted to set himself apart from other musicians, "if they want to call me a little different, that's okay," Littrell muses.
Littrell has separated himself from the pop-star masses, not through scandal or controversy but through his faith, releasing his first solo album, Welcome Home.
The move may seem a bit surprising to those used to seeing Littrell in his pop star incarnation. For many pop stars sitting pretty with their fancy cars and million dollar homes, making a record that appeals to such a niche audience doesn't necessarily make sense. However, for Littrell the reason is simple, his faith has always helped guide him, "it's something that's helped keep me grounded, and keep me directed in the goals that I find important in life," and he adds, "the glory doesn't have to be about me".
Littrell began singing as a boy at a Baptist church in Lexington, Kentucky. As he grew up he was ready to pursue his post secondary career at Bible college before a call from his cousin Kevin took him on a detour to join the Backstreet Boys; and what a detour it turned out to be.
The catchy tunes and smooth dance moves of the boy band era in the late nineties gained Littrell and the other boys a multitude of teenage fans and though he's always appreciated the fan base he says he knows they may not necessarily follow him into this venture, "I know not everybody believes what I believe," he says, "and that's okayÖmy focus really from the beginning hasn't really been Backstreet Boys fans. My focus is the Christian market and people in the Christian world that wouldn't necessarily listen to the Backstreet Boys."
Much of the record itself is full of lyrics illustrating Littrell's walk of faith that you definitely wouldn't find in a Backstreet album, "you'll find inspirational music, you'll find gospel music with gospel choirs, just down home Southern gospel when you think about singing in church Ö as well as mainstream contemporary Christian music that can be translated into the pop world of pop music today."
What all the songs have in common is that they are much more stripped down than some of the pop songs he'd recorded in the past. He says that he learned from the most recent Backstreet record Never Gone that he's become more of a fan of "real" music, "what I call 'real' music is, live instruments being played in the studio, it has a warmer or more warm sound."
Compared to the more electronic sounds of keyboards and samples that were big in the nineties when the Backstreet Boys were at their peak the sound of Welcome Home incorporates the more mellow sounds of the acoustic guitar, "that's one of my favourite instruments," Littrell says, "I think it just has a certain kind of emotion to it when you hear it on a record".
Though emotion comes from the instruments on the record it also comes from the fact that Littrell has put much more of himself into it," I have an opportunity to start over and tell my storyÖthese are all experiences I've dealt with directly in my life," he says, "and it's a personal part of me, you know I'm sharing even more than if I was sharing in a Backstreet album".
Even if you don't have a chance to hear Littrell's new sound on his record he hopes to share his songs with you on the road, "I'm extremely excited to get out on stage again and tell my story," he beams. Littrell is currently out on an American tour that will go into the summer, but playing in small intimate venues will be quite the change from his past tours with the boys, "I'm not going to have the dance routines," he laughs, "and the hat routines and the chair routines and the dancers and all that stuff, it's just going to be me and my guitar and my band".
Though he's got no dates outside of the United States on his itinerary just yet he says that he's working on it, "we're just now putting the schedule together for all of what we call the international press junket," he says, "Japan is calling for me, various places in Europe are calling for me," and of course Canada is calling for him too! "I would love to get up there," he says when I ask him if he has any plans to visit his neighbors in the north, "Canada has been nothing but supportive of the Backstreet Boys," and adds, "I'm going to be up there very soon. I promise."
In spite of his focus and excitement about Welcome Home, don't worry ladies, he won't be leaving his day job any time soon. He and the other boys will be back in the studio this summer recording a new album. But he hopes that his foray into the Christian market will give Backstreet fans a new perspective, "I hope they respect me for the person that I am, not necessarily the Backstreet Boy that I am, the person that I am."
For more information please visit: www.brianlittrell.com.
Writer: Michelle Garcia