AJ McLean Releases First Official Country Radio Single: 'It's Been a Long Road, but Here We Are'

Backstreet Boys' AJ McLean will release his first official country music single entitled "Boy and a Man" on Thursday

AJ McLean is officially making his mark in the country music world!

The singer-songwriter, who will be releasing his first official country radio single Thursday and debuting his first country-influenced solo album entitled Long Road this spring, opened up to PEOPLE about the inspiration behind the song, the decision to go country, and the incredible journey he's had to get to where he is now.

"It immediately grabbed me," McLean, 41, said of his single "Boy and a Man," written by Dave Fenley and Rob Crosby. "It's that growing up type of story — a becoming of who you're going to become. For me, personally, I've always tried to be old-fashioned. I try to always be a gentleman especially when my wife is concerned, from opening the door for my wife to getting up to make her coffee in the morning — always putting my family first."

"'Boy and a Man' is that growing up story about finding that one true love even when you're super young and never wanting to let that person go and really just hanging out for the long haul," he added. "I wish that I would've met [my wife] Rochelle back when we were kids, but that's not what destiny had set out. It's a beautiful love song. It has such a great message."

The famed Backstreet Boys member, who just released a tenth studio album titled DNA and announced an upcoming world tour with bandmates Nick Carter, Brian Littrell, Kevin Richardson and Howie Dorough, explained why he decided to explore a solo project — a country solo project!

"I think each of us has always wanted to try and step out of the group and spread our wings," he said. "We've always supported each other and let each other go and not stifled each other. Each of us has taken a stab once or twice, but as far as going in the direction I'm going, it started back with Florida Georgia Line. Doing "God, Your Mama, and Me" really introduced us into the world of country and that was the kick starter for me to get that inspiration. I've been a fan of all types of music my entire life."

He added, "The reason why I gravitated more towards country — country music tells stories. It's so raw and real. I just want to tell my story. I want to be able to tell people about me, my family, my beautiful wife and children and just feel the music. I want to make songs that everyone can relate to."

Tyler Shields

McLean, who released singles "Back Porch Bottle Service" and "Night Visions" last year, said his career has really come full circle and explained how his album title Long Road really embraces that message.

"My wife was truly the inspiration behind the album title," the musician explained of his wife of seven years and mother to their daughters Ava, 6, and Lyric, 23 months. "When we first released "Back Porch Bottle Service" as kind of a feeler track, she had posted a commented on my Instagram saying how proud she was of me, and she basically said, 'Baby, this has been such a long road coming for you to finally get here.' When I read that, I was like, 'Wow, that really does ring true.'"

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"Long Road is basically that whole journey to getting to this moment," McLean said. "It really has been a long road, but it's been a really great journey. This is just the beginning. Once the album is out, that's when everything officially starts. It's been a long recording process, and going through songs and remixing and re-singing songs and letting songs go, but to be honest, once the album is out that's when the official journey starts. It's been a long road, but here we are."

Long Road will debut in Spring 2019.

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