Category Archives: INTERVIEWS

Celebrity interviews taking you a step closer to your favorite and rising stars since 2001. A culmination of interviews done for former publications StarShine Magazine + Half Full Magazine + now That’s My Jam! Radio.

JAX Drops Debut EP “Funny” Today + Discusses American Idol, Battle with Cancer

JAX - Funny EP
“Funny” available now on iTunes.

New Jersey native, JAX won the world over on season 14 of “American Idol” with her sassy rock style, talent and likability.  While she placed 3rd in the competition, J.Lo stated she could have won the whole thing.

After the show ended, JAX was ready to jump head first into her music career, but that didn’t happen when she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer at 20-years-old.

She had her thyroid removed along with radiation treatment and is back to great health.  JAX took that scary situation and wrote about it on her debut EP, Funny, which drops today on iTunes!

The 6-song EP features JAX’s sultry vocals, poppy hooks and intoxicating melodies.  Read what JAX has to say about the EP in my interview with her!

Hi JAX! Thanks for letting me pick your brain. How is 2017 treating you so far?

Hey! Of course! Looking forward to it. 2017 has already been a blast. January is a crazy month!

Congratulations on the upcoming EP! How would you describe the sound and vibe of the songs on Funny?

I think the lyrical tone is honest, vulnerable, and incredibly sarcastic. I refer to the overall sound as “confused pop”. I think it has some rock and electronic elements…And on tracks like Funny even some hip hop. But at the end of the day it’s clearly a pop record and I hope it brings good energy to everyone listening. I always thought pop music was the universal language.

Photo by Cortney Armitage
Photo by Cortney Armitage

I know you endured some serious health issues. What got you through those dark days?

Writing and exercising! I trained for a marathon once the doctors told me I could work out again and I basically lived in the studio aside from that. Writing has always been my go-to outlet when I’m going through something. Running and creating were the most cathartic healing methods for me on a physical and emotional level.

“Stars” is your first single. What does that song mean to you?

“Stars” was the first track in the writing process (among a few others that never made the EP lineup) where I wrote and sang about what I was going through health-wise. It was the first moment I could appreciate the strength that came out of a dark time for me and I wanted to share my story…because I know I’m not the only one.

What was it like working with Nash Overstreet from Hot Chelle Rae?

LOVE Nash. He’s the coolest. He also brought this gem Sidnie Tipton on board in the studio who is just as rad as Nash. We had the most natural session and then went and ordered ramen. So Cal 😜

There are plenty of people that are skeptical of the “American Idol” process and results. How has the show helped and hurt you?

I think it was an incredible platform and learning experience regardless of the results. I made some of the best friends I’ll ever have on the show and I got to embark on this wild journey of television, which I had zero experience in coming onto the show. It was definitely a trip and there are emotional ups and downs in every intense experience. I would do it all again in a heartbeat.

Now that the EP is out, what’s next? Touring? More recording?

YES. I can’t wait to see what this year has in store. Definitely working on some shows and I’m always in the studio banging out new material.

Describe what a JAX concert is like.

Being on stage is by far my favorite part of this whole things. I have a pretty special connection with the fans and it always gets pretty intimate. It’s pretty surreal to me still that people come out to see me…It’s seriously humbling. I love to break it down at the piano because it gives me some space to breathe and converse with the audience…Feel out the crowd. Every crowd is different. At the end of the day I just hope people leave the show with a smile on their face, feeling like they had their own personal connection with the music and show.

If you could tell your fans one thing collectively, what would it be?

Weird. Is. Beautiful.

Listen to the Funny EP on Spotify!

For more on JAX:
www.jaxofficialx.com
www.facebook.com/jaxofficialx
www.instagram.com/jax
www.twitter.com/jax

Featured photo by Cortney Armitage.

The Girl and the Dreamcatcher: Dove Cameron & Ryan McCartan Talk EP, Descendants 2 + More

Although The Girl and the Dreamcatcher sounds like the name of my next novel, it’s actually a musical duo consisting of Dove Cameron (Disney’s Descendants, Liv and Maddie) and fiance Ryan McCartan (Liv and Maddie, Rocky Horror Picture Show).  And yes, their personal story also sounds like the plot of a romance series: girl meets boy, they dislike each other, but are forced to work together and eventually fall in love, making sweet music together.  However, for Dove and Ryan — this isn’t a role they’ve been cast in, it’s their reality!

Available on iTunes
Available on iTunes

Last week, TGATDC dropped their first EP, Negatives, with their musical and personal chemistry apparent in every song.  Already receiving high-praise from the media, Negatives is heating up the iTunes charts quickly and their music video for “Make You Stay” went to #3 on VEVO’s Top New Music list.

Negatives consists of 6 infectious pop hits, but not your typical bubblegum or hot club songs we’ve come to expect from Disney stars of the past.  While danceable and upbeat, Dove and Ryan’s music surpasses cliches with electro-pop beats and incorporating themes like,wolves, the moon and stars — tieing in the dreamcatcher name.

“You know how I get when the sun goes down,” sings Ryan on “Glowing In The Dark” while other tracks “Cry Wolf” and the powerful “Monster” could be songs on the soundtrack for “Twilight”, but are beautifully done and relatable.

It’s incredibly hard not to fall in love with Dove and Ryan’s voices and how well they complement one another.  Seriously.  Listen and repeat this EP!

I sent the engaged couple some questions earlier this week and am happy to share their answers with you!

Sandy Lo: First, I LOVE the name of your duo. How did you come up with it?

Photos by Paul Smith
Photos by Paul Smith

Dove Cameron & Ryan McCartan (The Girl and the Dreamcatcher): Thank you so much! It was a big team effort to find a name that fit us as well as this one does…we are both such imagery based artists, we wanted to find something evocative and painted a mood for the listeners! Plus, we both had recurring themes of dreamcatchers in our lives.

SL: Congratulations on your EP, Negatives. What was the journey to release it like?

TGATDC: Again, thank you! We couldn’t be more thrilled. Negatives was a 2 year journey filled with long writing intensives, lots of ground work and long days, but ultimately some of the most fun we’ve had in our lives! Having it be out in the world for other people to feel what they feel about it is surreal, and something that we could never have prepared for.

SL: What sounds and themes were your main influence making Negatives?

TGATDC: Negatives is filled with lots of air, but also walls of sounds, ultimately resulting in a building of tension for the listener that we both really respond to. We wanted to write about real life circumstances that may not be as pretty or as “pop relevant” but that everyone could feel in their core as a place that they’ve been. Music should make one understand oneself better. And that’s what we had hoped to do.

SL: Does being a couple make it more challenging to work together?

TGATDC: Being a couple makes it easier and definitely harder to work together. Easier, because you get to spend so much time with one another, you never have to miss the other, and there is no lack of communication. Harder, because you’re spending almost 100% of your time with one person! There is bound to be some friction. And sometimes, work can bleed into home, which can make you feel like there is no escape from work.

SL: Describe your first impression of each other and how that might have changed over time.

TGATDC: We did not like each other at first. One of those “attraction being mistaken for annoyance or upset” kind of situations. If you know anything about our story, that obviously changed very quickly.

SL: Dove, can you give us any teasers about “Descendants 2”?

Dove Cameron: I can’t tell you much about D2, but I can tell you it is very different from round one! Lots of different locations and images in this one…and lots more drama.

SL: Ryan, any more acting projects you can talk about coming up?

Ryan McCartan: “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” comes out October 20th, and I have an indie drama called “The Standoff” coming out in September. Check ’em out!

SL: Can we catch you on tour in the near future?

TGATDC: We hope to tour in the future! Keep an eye on our socials…

SL: What song on the EP was the most personal one for you?

TGATDC: Honestly, they were all personal to us. They wouldn’t have made the EP if they weren’t! As artists, probably “Gladiator”, because it took the most time and effort, and we fought the most for it. As people, probably “My Way”, or “Cry Wolf”. Lots of personal stuff in there.

SL: What’s next for you guys personally and professionally?

TGATDC: Now that “Liv and Maddie” has ended, we’re playing a game of catch up, in a huge way, both professionally and personally. It’s definitely a time of transition, learning, building and growing! It’s like graduating high school or college. Just a whole lot of a lot. Lot’s to do with furthering the band while Dove is away at “Descendants 2” and Ryan does press for “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”. The life of two actor/musician performers who are also engaged is a bit of a “play it by ear” life!

SL: Is there anything you want to say to all of your fans out there?

TGATDC: To our DreamCatchers: We love you more than we have words to say! Thank you for skyrocketing Negatives to #2 on the iTunes pop charts, and for your never ending support of everything that we do! We hope that we are making you all as proud as you make us every day! Keep catching dreams.


Follow The Girl and the Dreamcatcher:

twitter.com/tgatdc

instagram.com/thegirlandthedreamcatcher

facebook.com/tgatdc

98 Degrees’ Jeff Timmons Teams Up with Boy Bands in SyFy’s “Dead 7” + Shares Exclusive Photos

When I heard the news that Backstreet Boy Nick Carter had written and was starring in a zombie western that had him joining forces with other ’90s boy banders, I was ecstatic and couldn’t wait to see the awesome ridiculousness that would ensue.

Like most ’90s kids,  I am a huge Backstreet Boys fan and I chose their side against *NSYNC.  However, there was one group I never had to draw a line with–98°.  The Motown-signed act stood in neutral territory and aside from BSB, they were the only other male group on my walls. (Jeff Timmons was my favorite, of course!)

As an adult, it seems I’m not the only one who has gotten over the boy band battles that existed in the ’90s.  Nick Carter’s film, “Dead 7” unites members of BSB, *NSYNC, 98°, and O-Town so we can all live in perfect musical, zombie-killing harmony.

Recently, I chatted with my friend, and 98° heartthrob, Jeff Timmons about the jump from music into his first acting role.  “Originally, it started off with me having this very small role of like the sheriff, or something like that, who gets killed in the beginning,” Jeff explained when he was offered the role by a mutual friend of his and Nick Carter’s.  He only had a few pages of lines, so he thought he had it pretty easy.

“Then they hit me back and said, ‘you know what? Nick changed his mind once he heard you were involved.  He wanted to give you a much bigger part of playing his brother.’  That’s flattering, of course, but at the same time, it’s a little bit intimidating because it’s a bigger part and I haven’t acted before. I don’t want to make a fool of myself, but look, it’s all lighthearted.  It isn’t like this is a blockbuster film, but I do suspect it will have a cult following, for sure.  I was very honored and excited about it and it ended up being one of the best experiences of my life.”

While filming “Dead 7” in small, beautiful Butte, Montana, Jeff and the cast, which also included Joey Fatone, Chris Kirkpatrick, Howie Dorough, A.J. McLean, and Erik-Michael Estrada, had nothing to do but hang out and bond.

“There are a lot of parallels between the lifestyles of all of us,” he said.  “It is sort of a very unique fraternity that you belong to and we have experienced things that 99 percent of the people on the planet have not experienced.  We all just were a bunch of guys happy to still be doing twenty years later what we set out to do when we were young men. It was a dream come true for all of us. It was a blessing.”

As for any old rivalries, Jeff says he never felt that on his end.  “We were an R&B group at first and with Motown and then Universal, so the whole boy band rivalry thing never really crossed our minds. We were too busy just trying to make it on our own,” he laughed.  “With the transition of the labels and the ebbs and flows of the music industry and people breathing down your neck waiting to take your place, we just wanted to keep going. When we crossed paths with those guys [BSB and *NSYNC], there was a mutual respect at all times—there was never a real rivalry. Within our group, we had more rivalry than we did with the other groups because it was such a competitive climate for us, that we just wanted to do our best.”

As for Jeff and his bandmates, Nick Lachey, Drew Lachey and Justin Jeffre, they still get to keep going like they had hoped for.  Jeff couldn’t say too much, but hinted around at a possible 98° reunion in the near future!

Aside from taking the plunge into acting and working on some solo music, Jeff is producing a T.V. show called “Drone” for Discovery Science as well as working with Air Vues, which specializes in drone footage.  Splitting his time up between L.A. and Vegas, Jeff is also a partner with the Men Of The Strip brand, which had their own E! documentary spotlighting the all male revue show that will be holding residency soon in Las Vegas.  A Men Of The Strip reality show is also in the works.  With all of these ventures, somehow Jeff still remains a devoted husband and father, often posting photos of him and his family on social media.

While Jeff couldn’t confirm a 98° reunion yet, or a sequel to “Dead 7″, he did say he and the cast would love to do another project together.  Jeff is excited to be attending the premiere in L.A. with his wife and parents, and can’t wait to see the finished film.

“My character is kind of a wuss,” he told me when I asked about a favorite scene.  “I do act like a badass and kill some zombies and stuff and have my moments, but the majority of the time, either my girlfriend, played by Carrie Keagan, or my brother, played by Nick are always fishing me out of sticky situations. I personally like those numbskull scenes the best.  Any of those scenes where I’m getting my ass saved by one of them, those are my favorite ones.”

“Dead 7” was directed by Danny Roew and is brought to us by The Asylum, the same team behind the “Sharknado” series.  Jeff was kind enough to share some of his personal behind-the-scenes photos from “Dead 7”.  Take a look and make sure you catch “Dead 7” premiering on the Syfy Channel Friday, April 1!

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Debra Wilson (Apocolypta) and Jeff Timmons (Billy) on set.
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Zombie selfie!
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Jeff Timmons (Billy), Lauren Kitt-Carter (Sirene), and Nick Carter (Jack) on set of “Dead 7”.
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Howie Dorough (The Vaquero), Carrie Keagan (Daisy Jane), Joey Fatone (Whiskey Joe), Erik-Michael Estrada (Komodo) and Jeff Timmons (Billy).
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Jeff Timmons and “Dead 7” director Danny Roew.
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Singer Jon Secada (Sheriff Cooper) and Jeff Timmons (Billy).

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Traveling Barista Sandy Lo Catches Up with Former Customer, Country Crooner Aaron Parker

Aaron-Parker-0714-300x200It’s been a while since I worked at the Starbucks on 21st Avenue in Nashville.  In the 2 years that I was a barista at the extremely busy location, I formed many bonds with other partners and customers.  From drag queens to photographers, to big name celebrities, to plenty of singer/songwriters just trying to get a hit song in the small, but busy city–I served them all and had great conversations.

Many of those conversations were with Southern Alabama boy, Aaron Parker.  With mischief in his eyes, a crooked grin, sweet Southern accent and laid back McConaughey-esque nature, Aaron is quite a charmer.  He’s not one of those good-looking guys who flirts with all of the girls just because he knows he can.  He is someone who came into Starbucks, would order his double espresso and sit at the bar to take a break from the hustle of writing and recording songs and playing shows on the road.

Aaron Parker is someone who is easy to talk to and enjoys genuine conversation.  We spent time talking about career goals–his as a country singer, mine as a novelist, and just about everything else in our lives.  He would tell me about his amazing girlfriend (now turned wife), Faithe, who also came into Starbucks when she wasn’t busy being a boss in her own career at Marbaloo Marketing.

I never really got to listen to Aaron’s music, mostly because he hadn’t released anything yet, but my friend, songwriter and then barista, Steph Jones, had played a rough cut of a song they had written together.  I wasn’t surprised it was awesome.  I seem to attract wildly talented folks into my realm, and I am grateful to be inspired by each and every one of them.

Since our days at Starbucks, Aaron has released not one, but two EPs!  With a style that’s both throwback and fresh, Aaron’s music is exactly the type of country I enjoy, and I had to tell him.  Without a barista-customer relationship any longer, I decided our paths needed to cross elsewhere, like in a phone interview so I can share Aaron Parker and his music with all of you!

Check out Aaron Parker’s music video for “I’d Go Right Now”
http://cache.vevo.com/assets/html/embed.html?video=QMGR31542554

Sandy Lo: I was listening to your first EP earlier and I love it. That’s actually the type of music that got me into country music back in the early 2000s.

Aaron Parker: That’s awesome. Yeah, I was really influenced by that era—I still am. You know, the heart and the lyric and the thought process of how that music was formed. It wanted to be timeless and that was the outlook of it from the beginning.

Sandy Lo: Yeah! You’ve been touring a lot and I know you feel out of place when you’re not touring. [Laughs] How has your stage show evolved over the years?

Aaron Parker: Well, you know I’ve always been on stage since I was real young. I wasn’t like a Mickey Mouse Club kid or anything, but I was definitely always doing some type of theater in my local town or singing. So being onstage has always been something that was comfortable for me, personally. But I always try to push the boundaries for myself by staying uncomfortable onstage and not allowing myself to become comfortable was my goal the last whole year. So it has evolved in that I added new band members. We got a lot of new production coming in that’s going to be cool for 2016. It’s definitely a country music show, but it’s a rock show. It takes a lot from the early 2000s country music that you saw in the arena stadiums, and we’re just doing that in the clubs.

Sandy Lo: Really cool. With some of the newer country that’s out, it’s kind of that party country/crossover stuff. How do you feel about it?

Aaron Parker: I respect a lot of the guys for their work ethic and what they’re doing. That’s the cool thing about music. It really is whatever your interpretation of it is and I hear a lot about from different fans—because you know, I do wear a hat, so I’m automatically plugged into the traditional outlook, which I think is good. I really am honored when someone reminisces to a traditional spot with me and what I do, or even in my look—even if they haven’t heard the music. That is the country, like you said, you grew up on and I grew up on.

What I do know is that I kind of had to take a step back from it, and what I truly love as far as country music goes, and I’m sure all those guys love it as well. And I thought, “you know I bet Johnny Cash was probably talking trash about Tim McGraw.” [Laughs] “I bet Willie Nelson was probably talking trash about Joe Diffey or something.” It’s funny because all of the guys I love, which is Tim McGraw and Kenny Chesney and Garth Brooks, and all of these guys from the late ‘90s and early 2000s… I mean, I know someone had to be like, “That’s not country music, that’s just not country music.” You know, that Waylan-era of guys.

I just think it’s cool. Music is evolving. Music is doing what music does. The cool thing about it is, you know Adele is always going to come back to save us. [Laughs] I’m stoked about that because no matter what we do, she’s going to be there. I’m just here to make great music; to do my version of country music and hopefully the people like it. I think there are a lot of people out there whose lives haven’t changed, even if their music has. The dads that were going to the steal mill when I was growing up, a lot of times their sons go to work at the steal mill, too, or go to lay sheet rock, or working on cars like my dad. A lot of times their sons don’t leave town and they’re still living the same lives as their parents, in the small towns at least. Their day-to-day song hasn’t changed. I mean, I know everyone wants to go out there and get drunk. I do love my share of tequila, but I think there is a place for those heartfelt songs and well-written lyrics.

Sandy Lo: Now, you’re someone who has left their hometown and I don’t think you’re doing what your dad did, [Laughs], how do you relate to your audience?

Aaron Parker: I have to go there. I have to go there whenever I go in the writing room. I have to forget what I want to hear today. Sometimes I think as writers, as artists, we get too caught up in our own story. You have to remember that the audience is not there to hear about your trek to Nashville. They don’t really care about you getting in your truck with your bed in the back and your guitar. I mean a lot of people I sing for don’t play guitar. A lot of people I sing for, like we talked about, still live in the same small town that they grew up in. That is the mass amount of people. We, Sandy, us nomads—you traveling the world and me leaving town—we are the minority. Understanding that and understanding real life; taking myself out of my daily regimen and in the studio and photo shoots and doing shows and really go back to the bare essentials, which is looking forward to Friday night. In my hometown, that is what it’s about. You can still talk about Mom, and church, and loving one woman, and going out Friday night and getting a little tipsy. It’s all the same, nothing has changed.

Sandy Lo: Very true, and I’m sure getting married and becoming a dad has helped.

Aaron Parker: Sure, it’s a lot more balanced—well, it’s practicing balance. You’re a lot more cognitive that you need balance in your life, shall we say when you become a dad. It’s definitely given me another level of inspiration.

Sandy Lo: What can we expect from you in 2016?

Aaron Parker: A lot of touring. Probably another EP. I found that putting out more music has helped me immensely in the writing room because it cleans my slate. I’m not holding onto any—and you as a writer can probably understand this—you’re not holding onto a lot of potential. You’re actually putting it out into the world and letting the public listen and letting them judge it. Love it, like it, hate it—you’re putting it out there and letting it play. That and a lot of touring is what I’m looking forward to.

Sandy Lo: Sounds good! I look forward to it as well and following what you’ve been up to outside our Starbucks conversations.

Aaron Parker: [Laughs] That became an every day occurrence! My wife and I looked at our Starbucks bill one time and it made us cringe. We were like, ‘do you know how much Starbucks makes on us each year? It’s insane!’

Sandy Lo: Yeah, and you didn’t even get a full drink. You got double espressos!

Aaron Parker: I know. What was it like $2.79? That over 365 days, I was like ‘my gosh’! We could do a lot of things with this money, but I really enjoyed you and Steph Jones! It’s really cool to see… you know, Steph is doing great in L.A.

Sandy Lo: She’s doing really good! And you guys wrote songs together.

Aaron Parker: Yeah, yeah. She wrote “Heaven On Wheels” with me.

Sandy Lo: I went into 21st the other day and there were like two people there I used to work with and some customers I recognized, so the vibe’s changed a bit.

Aaron Parker: Yeah, we actually moved so we have a different regimen.

Sandy Lo: Yup, I hardly go to Starbucks now.

Aaron Parker: Ah, I got me one of the Aeropress coffee machines. I feel like it takes forever, but it doesn’t take like French Press long. But it takes enough time where I’m like ‘I just want someone else to make it and then give it to me.’

Sandy Lo: [Laughs] Well, that’s it for the interview. Definitely going to try and make a show soon.

Aaron Parker: Yeah, I’d love to see ya. It’s been too long.

Find out more about Aaron Parker: www.aaronparkermusic.com and listen to his music on Spotify!

A Backstreet Boy Christmas In Alpharetta

Left to Right: Sandy Lo, Brian Littrell, Leighanne Littrell, and photographer Kindell Brinay Moore.

There is something nostalgic about Christmas time that brings us back to years of traditions and memories—whether good or bad. This year will be different for me. I have never spent the holiday away from New York and away from my family. While I am sad, I am also lucky that I have so many good friends to spend the holiday season with in Nashville.

To make this month a tad easier, and even a bit familiar, was the opportunity to attend a charity event with a Backstreet Boy. Christmas in Alpharetta took place this past weekend as an event for the Ronda Lee Culley Foundation, which benefited the Children’s Miracle Network.  “[Charity work] is super important to me,” Brian Littrell shared with me in a brief interview.  “It’s a blessing to us, to be able to give back, to raise money and create awareness.  I’m a heart patient.  I’m a father.  I’m a husband.  I’m a lot of things other than a Backstreet Boy, so being able to give back is why I do what I do.”

Alpharetta, Georgia residents, Brian and wife, Leighanne are often donating time, items and money to charities, especially to ones involving children. The first part of the event took place at a pop-up shop for Leighanne Littrell’s fashion line, Wylee. BSB fans shopped, sipped delicious sangria, made by Leighanne’s sister, Suzanne, and mingled.

Once Brian showed up, everyone seemed to stop and hang on his every word. Fans became so enthralled, while Kindell Moore, my best friend/photographer, and I tried to shop around them. As we weaved in and out of the oblivious crowd, Brian was all they cared about at that moment.

As a fan myself, I understand this enthrallment, but all my years of being a journalist have graced me with patience and a low-keyed nature when it comes to celebrities—even ones I adore, like Brian. Kindell and I received our press passes, purchased some items (I love my new coffee themed tote, perfect for me—the traveling barista!), and just observed.

Aunt Johnnie telling stories! What a character 🙂

At one point, a silence fell over the room as an older woman approached Brian. Kindell turned to me, “Why is it so quiet?” I laughed and whispered, “Because they’re all trying to listen to Brian’s conversation.” I managed to pick up that the woman was related to Brian’s band mate, Howie. A cousin, or so I thought I heard. No one seemed to believe this and thought I heard wrong. It did seem random, but we later found out while she was not Howie’s cousin, she was his aunt. See, I’m not so crazy after all!

Leighanne stepped out of the back room and instant recognition appeared on her face when she saw me. Impressive, since I last saw her four years ago! She hugged me and introduced herself to Kindell before gushing about hers and Brian’s 13-year-old son, Baylee. She just found out from his agent that he would be starring in a Broadway show. After the New Year, the Littrells will be moving to New York City for 6 months! You could literally see the excitement and pride in Leighanne’s eyes as they teared-up slightly.

After the pop-up shop, there were a couple of hours to kill before the dinner started. Upon entering the Hilton Garden Inn, we entered a bathroom only to quickly exit. Every stall was taken, each with clothing draped over the doors, along with a half naked girl standing in the middle of the bathroom. Yup, the Backstreet fans had taken over. Luckily, we found another, and very empty, bathroom.

While we waited for the guests of honor to show up, we enjoyed some cocktails, mingled with others, talked fashion—after all, it was a semi-dressy event and Leighanne is a fashion designer. A few of the guests were dressed in things they bought from the Wylee shop earlier that day.

We were encouraged to begin eating since Brian and Leighanne were running late. It’s cliché for celebrities to be late to events, but I have grown an understanding of it. They give so much of themselves to events like this, constantly chatting with eager fans that I would imagine they need some time to decompress.

When they entered the room, Brian looked over at us and our plates with a wide-eyed expression.

“You guys are almost done?”
“Well,” I started. “You were late,” I laughed.

In true Brian form, he made a funny face that portrayed a mix between embarrassment and anger, but followed with a cheeky grin and a laugh. So far, that had been the only thing I had said to him all day.

Brian and Leighanne were seated at a dais along with other people close to them… Joe, their bodyguard, Suzanne, Wylee head designer, Miguel, and Howie’s Aunt Johnnie, who is a children’s book author and all around character.

After dinner, the party moved into the auction room and all hell broke loose! No, the fans didn’t go crazy and attack Brian. Instead, Leighanne, who was tipsy to say the least, entertained us—and her husband—with her antics.

Shots and kisses were being auctioned off!

She had the bartender, whom she re-named Woodstock, bring the bar from the other room. Leighanne then began auctioning off $30 shots and a kiss on the cheek from Brian. I’m sure this was not how the auction was supposed to go, but no one was complaining. The night carried on like a variety show with Brian and Leighanne being a blonde Sonny & Cher! They goofed off, sang pieces of songs, made shadow puppets on the wall, and somewhere in between all of that auctioned off autographed merchandise.

LaVonne Hagensen Loumiet, and her daughter, in honor of her best friend who passed away, started the Ronda Lee Culley Foundation. Ronda was a huge Backstreet Boys fan and the foundation supports multiple causes close to the band.

Lots of laughs for a good cause!

The event ran overtime, but everyone was having such a good time. I wasn’t in some rush to do my interview and get out of there. It was nice to be in such an intimate setting and see Brian just having fun.

It truly felt like a Christmas party with close friends, and maybe even family to some of us. After all, Brian has been in most of our lives since we were kids and vice versa.

He became misty-eyed as he made a speech in acceptance of the award the RLC Foundation presented him. It was truly wonderful to see how grateful he is to his fans and for all that he has. He and Leighanne are two of the warmest and most humble people you will ever meet.

Finally, it was time for the meet & greet photos. One problem, the photographer cut out early! Kindell came to the rescue and stepped into the position. As for me, I had to act fast on interview time with Brian, which didn’t go quite as I had planned. Wylee’s head designer, Miguel interrupted and while I had enjoyed his feisty personality during the auction, I was a little bummed he tried to rush me.

Sassy Miguel. Still love him!

I understand how it goes, though. This wasn’t my first rodeo. Usually folks around a celebrity are extra-protective and think they need to be firm in order to move things along. I stood my ground and Brian apologized for the rush. He answered all of two questions, but the interview wasn’t important really.  Though I did manage to find out in my oh-so-brief interview that BSB have six songs recorded from the new album and they hope to release it in the summer of 2016.

As a writer, sometimes you get more answers from observing than asking questions. The answer I got that night was Brian Littrell is the perfect example of Christmas spirit. He gives in every way he can and receives with an immense gratitude. His love for his wife, his family, and fans, shows on his face.

In an entertainment industry full of over the top images and a world of overexposed bad news, it’s nice to be reminded of the good. I’ll always remember my Christmas in Alpharetta.

To make it even more memorable, I did manage to tell Brian how BSB had inspired my writing over the years and gave him a copy of “Dream Catchers”. He didn’t say much, but he gave me that cheeky smile he is known for.

“Will you sign it for me?” He asked.

That was the perfect response. What an incredible honor to give my idol an autograph!

I hope everyone’s holiday season is filled with love and happiness. To share a piece of this day with you, I am giving away an ornament autographed by Brian Littrell along with my novel “Dream Catchers”!  On December 16th, go to my Instagram: @AuthorSandyLo and find out how to win!

Photo Gallery

Photography by Kindell Brinay Moore.