AJ McLean Talks His New Role on Disney's 'The Lion Guard' and Backstreet Boys' New Album

Disney Junior/Paul Hebert
AJ McLean recording a voiceover for The Lion Guard.

Backstreet’s back, but this time in 2D animation.

AJ McLean of the Backstreet Boys is taking on a fun new role on the second season of Disney’s The Lion Guard, a spin-off series of The Lion King that follows the adventures of Simba and Nala’s second-born cub, Kion. McLean is voicing the character of Kuchimba, a golden mole who is blind, but thinks he is a ninja. His name, fittingly, means “to dig” in Swahili.

When one of the main characters falls down into the dark mole tunnel with no way to see the potential dangers, Kuchimba uses his soulful singing voice to assure her the dark isn’t so scary after all.

Billboard sat in on a recording session with McLean and The Lion Guard’s Emmy-nominated songwriter, Beau Black, as they lay down the tracks for Kuchimba’s song, “Nothin’ to Fear Down Here.”

“Everyone at times gets a scare/ But don’t you let that fear take over/ When you could be dancing here without a care,” McLean belts in the studio, before hearing his voice pitched up a bit to match the squeaky tone a golden mole’s voice might have.

McLean and Black have been friends for 10 years, and Black said the Backstreet Boy was destined for this collaboration. “He’s a walking cartoon in the best possible way,” he joked.

The singer wholeheartedly agreed, telling Billboard, “I’ve been doing voices since before I could even walk. I’m almost 40 and I still watch cartoons on my own time. Now, especially, being a father, I know everything about every Disney princess you would ever want to know.”

McLean now has two daughters: 4-year old Ava Jaymes and 1-month old Lyric Dean. While Lyric isn’t quite old enough to understand The Lion Guard, Ava is a big fan. “She loves animals, so explaining this to her has been interesting,” McLean joked.

Black, who has been writing songs for the show since the beginning, said the concept behind “Nothin’ to Fear Down Here” was to match McLean’s voice. “I definitely wanted to do something that had a kind of R&B-type sound, but [to] turn it into a children’s song. It all just pops in my head.”

McLean added that the collab inspired him for the future, “This is something I would love to make a permanent [part of my career] -- writing music for TV and film, [doing] oices… I’m an entertainer, and we don’t know what to do with our hands unless it’s something creative. This is such a dream come true for me.”

As for now, A.J. still has a busy schedule with the Backstreet Boys. They’re playing a set at Wango Tango and finishing up the summer leg of their Las Vegas residency. He even has a nail polish line coming out.

Most excitingly, McLean says the Backstreet Boys are working on their tenth studio album, with hopefully a single to release this summer. What can fans expect? “It’s definitely going to be a throwback to what we’re known for. Five-part harmony, and just a great pop record with great songs,” McLean assured.