AJ McLean’s bag of tricks is more diverse than filling a role in harmonious five-part singing and choreographed pelvic thrusts.
When the pandemic sidelined McLean’s boy band, the Backstreet Boys, he set to work on a golf apparel line and a nail polish line. He has also recorded solo material.
And now that Backstreet is back on the road, McLean is busier than ever.
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The singer and entrepreneur has opened up about all his endeavors before the Backstreet Boys’ extensive summer tour – which stops in Riverbend on July 26 – kicks into high gear.
Question: The Backstreet Boys tour kicked off with four shows in Las Vegas. How did that happen ?
Answer: They went fantastic. Before the first night, I pulled my production manager aside, looked him in the eye, and said, “Why does it feel like this is the very first show , not the first concert of (the tour). But the very first show. And he said, “You know, it’s kind of like that for me too.” There was this happy anxiety for all of us, and being able to see the faces of the fans without a mask, to feel a different energy from the audience that we’ve never felt. You could see the desperation in the eyes of the audience for wanting to attend live concerts and being so happy to be back. It was moving for us. It was emotional for the crowd. A few of us choked during the show. It was one hell of a ride.
Q: So one of the positive consequences of the pandemic is a more rewarding concert experience in 2022.
A: Oh, absolutely. I’m sure you can ask that of any artist who is finally back on the road. There is a different feeling to these crowds. I’ve seen videos of Silk Sonic shows in Las Vegas. I’ve seen videos of Billie Eilish and other artists who are on the road. You can see a difference in fan energy compared to what you might have had before the pandemic. Maybe it’s a new appreciation for their favorite band and how much they really miss them and how much they miss having that two-hour break from everything going on in their daily lives.
We see a lot of couples. We see a lot of girls’ nights out. We see a lot of mothers nights. We see a lot of guys coming into bands that might have been prying Backstreet Boys fans back then but laughing at us, but now that they’re older they’re like, ‘Yeah, I always do you like. I just didn’t want to tell my buddies. But it’s great.
Q: I think I counted 58 North American dates this summer, and that’s before going to Europe in the fall. Is 58 Shows pushing the boundaries for you?
A: You would think, but no. We actually added 12 shows to the original lineup. Because we now have a lot more control over our routing and planning, we’ve paced things really well. There are no longer four shows in a row. I think that, at most, there are three in a row with two days off. This show has a good pace. It’s not that difficult. Yes, there is a lot of choreography, a lot of dancing, but there is also a lot of staging and moments of relaxation and intimacy during the show. It’s a very well paced show.
Q: Did anyone in the band need to be convinced that the best course of action after the pandemic was to go on tour? Many people have reconsidered their career paths during the pandemic. Was this a problem for the Backstreet Boys?
A: No. We wait patiently. We were right in the middle of this tour when the world stopped. We were in Latin America. We barely left Brazil when the borders were closed. We look forward to when we receive the green light to resume. We’re the kind of artists who really don’t know how to back down, especially for a show of this magnitude. If you recalled it too much, I don’t think you would have the same impact or emotion. We just got ready, got ready.
Q: Was Golf Over All Things the type of project that could only have come about because of the pandemic, where you have the time and the inspiration?
A: Yeah, I think that was it. I have played golf all my life. I’ve wanted to do a golf apparel line for quite some time now. And, yes, the pandemic has allowed me to focus on that as well as my nail polish line, Ava Dean, which is doing great, by the way. I couldn’t be happier. I was also able to work on my solo music. I’m about to finish my first EP. I’m currently working on the second EP, which will probably hit the top of the year next year. I did three TV shows. I’ve been busy.
Q: Are you going to tour the solo records?
A: I would love to. Of course, I have to wait until we’re done. But it’s definitely a plan. I can’t wait for the world to hear it. It’s quite remarkable. I think I have outdone myself. I’m proud of the work we’ve done so far and I’m excited. I can’t wait for the world to see the single. We just shot the music video. It’s going to turn heads, and I’m excited.
Q: You have the day off before the show here. Do you stay in your hotel room or on your bus, or do you like to go out on the town? Maybe find a golf course?
A: I will definitely find a golf course. It is the number one priority. Try to find a good healthy restaurant. Maybe go see a movie. I am a big movie fan. Maybe have a nice dinner with some of the guys. Myself, Howie (Dorough) and Brian (Littrell) really did a lot of dinners together. We did it almost every night in Vegas. We all hang out together too. On our days off, we always try to do something. Brian and I are the biggest golfers, so we’ll be on the golf course for the sho. And if there are games going on, we might have to go see a game.
Q: Do you have a golf relationship here, or is this story going to be a shoutout to anyone who wants to hook you up?
A: Let’s make this the official shoutout to anyone who wants to take us out to Cincinnati’s most prestigious golf course.
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When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday July 26
Where: Riverbend Music Center, 6295 Kellogg Avenue, Anderson Township.
Information: 513-232-5882; riverbend.org.