Ashley Parker Angel
At just 24-year's old, this former O-Town member's been 'There & Back.'"There & Back." Who knew three words could sum up a career so well? But that definitely says it all about former O-Town member Ashley Parker Angel, who stars in his own MTV reality show named just that.
Being followed around by cameras is nothing new for the 24-year-old -- he began his career more than six years ago on "Making the Band," another MTV reality show that offered a behind-the-scenes look at the creation of O-Town and its subsequent, albeit brief, success. This time around, though, he had a lot more riding on the whole experience.
"It was definitely make it or break it," Angel tells billboard.com, "which made the stakes very high."
Indeed they were.
In 2002, when O-Town disbanded, Angel found himself lacking credibility as a musician and virtually broke. But he hung in there and things started to look up when he landed a record deal with Blackground Records, and an MTV show chronicling the whole process.
So far, the gamble has paid off.
Last week, his first single, "Let U Go," entered the billboard Hot 100 at No. 17. The song is also No. 15 on the Pop 100 and No. 8 on the Hot Digital Songs chart. His debut solo album, "Soundtrack To Your Life," will be released May 16.
"It was a long road to get to this place," says Angel. "I was, 'That guy from O-Town,' and there's definitely a certain stigma attached to coming from a 'boy band.' I would roll into these meetings [with executives] with an acoustic guitar and try to really show them there was this other side to me."
That dedication paid off, and he soon forged an unlikely partnership with Blackground, whose roster includes such artists as Timbaland and Toni Braxton.
"We clicked in a way that's really surprising to most outsiders, because definitely from an outside perspective it is like, 'wait a second.' It's kinda funny on 'There & Back' to see me go into Blackground. I'm definitely the black sheep," he laughs. "They knew that I was an odd fit for them, and vice versa. Sometimes you just find an amazing partnership in the most odd places, y'know?
"The great thing about them was they refused to be pigeonholed," he adds. "I feel the same way about my journey [as] a solo artist. They really understood what I wanted to do, and the fact they hadn't really done a project like this was kind of exciting."
Although it took nearly two and a half years for Angel to complete his album -- and it was an uphill battle the whole way -- he never had any doubt that it was all going to come together in the end.
"I have no plan B," he says. "If I'm doing something, I throw myself in head first. That's part of the reason why I've been able to be successful. It can definitely be scary at times, because the music industry is very crazy."
So far, though, Angel has orchestrated an impressive comeback. "There & Back" became one of MTV's highest rated shows this season, he was a contestant on NBC's "Celebrity Cooking Showdown" and he's planning to hit the road this summer. All that and he recently became a proud papa.
"It's been a juggling act. I was just getting out of the car holding a baby stroller in one hand and like a diaper bag in the other. Just trying to make it work -- trying to be a new dad and a rock star at the same time -- it's a lot to do," he says with a laugh, adding, "I'm trying to have [son] Lyric with me as much as possible. We did a radio promotional tour and had a tour bus, so I brought him with me and converted one of the bunk beds into a crib. I want to be there for all those really cool, amazing first moments in his life."
It's up in the air whether there will be another season of "There & Back," which ended right when Lyric was born and Angel's first single was released to U.S. radio stations.
"People come up to me all the time and want to know the rest of the story," he admits. "I'll tell you, though, it's been nice to have our lives back. I've got a family now, so I kind of have other factors coming into this decision other than just people wanting to have this great window into my life. I have a new baby and I wanna make sure I do the right thing as a parent, so I'm on the fence about it to be honest.
"It would almost be so much easier if I was playing some character," he continues. "It takes a huge leap of faith to do a show like this. You give up all control; you really let them come into your life. I don't think most people realize how hard it is. It can be scary because you're really putting yourself out there to the world. I mean, if people don't like the show how do you not take it personally?"