With his career at a whirlwind high, thanks to his upcoming solo record, Long Road, and the new Backstreet Boys DNA album and tour, AJ McLean has faced many nights away from home lately -- and not everyone is happy about it!
The 41-year-old musician revealed the heartbreaking text he received from his 6-year-old daughter, Ava, which ripped his heart out last week.
“My oldest, about five days ago, had Mommy send Daddy a text saying, ‘Can you stop being a Backstreet Boy and just be my dad?’” McLean told ET Live's Sophie Schillaci and Cassie DiLaura at the 54th Academy of Country Music Awards in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Sunday. “So take this out, step on it, stab it, burn it and then do it again!”
“Mommy gets to be home, which I try to explain to my girls -- ‘Be thankful Mommy and Daddy are both not working,’” he added. “Mommy gets to be there, but Daddy always, always comes home.”
It’s not the only parenting moment which has made the “Night Visions” singer (who also has a 2-year-old daughter, Lyric, with his wife, Rochelle) emotional in recent days. On Friday night, McLean kicked of ACMs weekend with a party, where he performed a deeply personal song titled “Give You Away” from his upcoming record.
“He started crying as soon as he introduced it,” a concertgoer told ET. “It was super sweet!”
“I’m a pretty emotional guy for sure,” McLean admitted to ET’s Nancy O’Dell at the ACMs. “[The song’s] about my daughters -- about the day I have to give them away on their wedding day. I did it on Friday night and barely made it through … bawled like a baby. I love my girls.”
“I broke down before I even sang the first line and I barely made it through the song but I did,” he added to ET Live.
While Ava -- who McLean proudly shared won her first dance competition over the weekend -- may not be thrilled about the days her dad has to spend away from home, there are some perks that come with being the daughter of a Backstreet Boy. McLean says his girls love it when he comes home with nail polish from various awards show gifting suites. Then there’s the fact that he can help score Ava awesome seats and meet-and-greets with some of her pop idols, like Taylor Swift and Gwen Stefani.
And McLean’s time away from home doesn’t look like it will be decreasing anytime soon. He told ET that while it’s still “mind-boggling” to realize his country dreams are fully coming to fruition, he “couldn’t be happier.”
“When I was here last year doing this exact same thing, I was talking about wanting to do a country record, and I’m back now this year with a country song on country radio, ‘Boy and a Man,’ and it’s just so surreal that it’s actually happening,” said the singer, who premiered the tearjerker ‘Boy and a Man” video, in which he’s shown remarrying Rochelle, with ET in March.
“For me, country music tells stories, and I wanted to tell my story,” he added about why he wanted to go country. “People only know the Backstreet Boys side of things, but there’s so much more to me, my home life, my children, my amazing wife, my ups and downs, my life, and just trying to make great music relatable to everybody. So, this is like a final chance to be myself, truly be myself and I do really feel at home here.”
Looking back at his biggest influences in country music, McLean noted Garth Brooks was his idol growing up, while he used to crush on Dolly Parton. He has also previously talked about his love of Shania Twain, whom he once confessed was the celebrity he’d take a hall pass for.
It was Brooks flying around the venue during concerts in 1993, which McLean revealed was the inspiration for similar stunts by the Backstreet Boys during their early days. McLean was hoping to tell the country legend that, as well as casually ask the icon about a potential collaboration, at the ACMs.
“That would be amazing,” he said. “Garth, if you want to do one song with me, I would be forever in your debt my friend! You are a country legend, seriously.”
The Dead 7 star is also considering collaborating with country stars Cassadee Pope, Lauren Alaina, Jimmie Allen, all of whom appeared at his ‘Friday Night Party’ at Gilly’s at Treasure Island on Friday night.
“To me, in the pop world, there’s a lot more competitiveness,” he explained. “Who has the best album sales the first week, who has the best tour. Here, it’s like, ‘Let’s get 10 of us and go on tour. It’s about family and camaraderie. It’s a nice breath of fresh air, to be honest.”
Of course, he’s still deeply immersed in the pop world with the Backstreet Boys and their new DNA record and upcoming world tour, which kicks off in Lisbon, Portugal, on May 11, after the quintet performs the final shows of their Larger Than Life residency at Planet Hollywood’s Zappos Theater in April.
“He’ll be opening up for us, his four uncles on the DNA Tour in the U.S.,” McLean proudly said. “He’s been around us since he’s been born. He’s only been around music and he’s a music fan. He loves country music, and he’s going to be huge.”