Though the son of Brian Littrell, one fifth of one of the most popular bands in music history, Baylee Littrell has long had a reverence for country music. He’s turning that passion into a budding career as a country artist with his new single “Boxes” premiering exclusively on Sounds Like Nashville.
Between his father’s more than 20-year tenure as a member of the Backstreet Boys and his roots firmly planted in his parents’ native Georgia, Littrell grew up surrounded by music. The young singer still recalls writing his first song when he was six-years-old, excitedly waking up his father one night while on the road during the Backstreet Boys tour to share the song with him. “He looked at my mom, and he was like ‘all right, our six-year-old son is writing music.’ That’s kind of when everything started,” Littrell tells Sounds Like Nashville.
Though the 16-year-old was raised listening to pop acts like Mariah Carey, he was exposed to a healthy diet of country greats like Randy Travis, Tammy Wynette, Patsy Cline and Johnny Cash through his grandparents. “I would pick going to my grandparents’ house over hanging with my friends,” he says. “They were the real reason that I was into country music. That’s what I listened to all the time.” While his grandparents introduced him to the legends, Littrell discovered modern artists like George Strait, Tim McGraw and Blake Shelton. “Country was the staple of everything,” he describes. “It helped build my character.”
In spite of his passion for country music, Littrell initially planned to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a pop artist. While opening for the Backstreet Boys during their In a World This Like Tour in 2013, the then 10-year-old would open for the opening act, singing cuts by Carey and Pharrell. But when his dad and BSB cohorts began collaborating with Florida Georgia Line, scoring a No. 1 hit with “God, Your Mama and Me” in 2017, his vision shifted back to country music. “I started listening to Florida Georgia Line and I was like ‘this is kind of something I could do.’ It’s a happy medium of what I grew up on, but it’s catchy, it’s new,” he explains.
The duo’s 2016 album Dig Your Roots and its title track marked a turning point for the aspiring singer. During a visit with his grandparents, they reaffirmed his connection to the genre that inspired him throughout his childhood. “They were like ‘you got to dig your roots and be who you are as a person,’” Littrell recalls of their advice. “And I thought ‘I got to use this.’”
While talking with his parents a couple months later about what musical path he wanted to take, he was still leaning towards pop, believing there wasn’t a market for a 16-year-old in country music. “They said why not? You could be the first,” Littrell recalls, officially setting his sights on country music. His first single was released in 2018 titled “Don’t Knock it,” a modern pop-country track penned by hitmaker Corey Crowder. His follow-up single “Boxes”is in this same vein. Written by another one of Nashville’s top songwriters, Steven Lee Olsen, the song is centered around the idea of being in a relationship with someone who meets your criteria. “You check all my boxes, one to 22 you got it, going down my list it’s obvious you’re what I wanted,” Littrell sings over a radio-ready melody. “It kind of speaks the truth, when you think about what person actually checks off all your boxes,” Littrell explains of the track. “’Boxes’ is just reaffirming my stance for where I am. I feel like it’s a powerful song.”
“Boxes” has been cited as a favorite amongst Littrell’s friends and family and he reveals he wants to build his upcoming record around the “edgy” track. Currently in the process of creating his debut album, Littrell is taking the skills he learned watching his father make albums and applying them to his own process. In addition to outside cuts, Littrell is hoping to feature original songs on the project he calls a “dream” and “fantasy” to make, one that will reflect his diverse musical influences from Florida Georgia Line to Journey. “This album comes from the heart and I hope that everyone can at least relate to one [song]. I have a feeling they definitely will,” he shares.
Working on the milestone project brings to mind a distinct memory for Littrell, trying on one of his dad’s jackets backstage at a show when he was six-years-old, knowing then he had desire to be an artist. “He was like ‘one day you will be able to do this’ and I remember that moment thinking ‘when is this day gonna come?’” Littrell reminisces. “And now, little did I know I would be here. “
Littrell is set to hit the road as an opening act on the Backstreet Boys’ DNA World Tour this summer. “Boxes” becomes available on all platforms on Friday (May 10).