Angel says he faced “absolutely vicious attacks” from one former bandmate — but adds it’s “all water under the bridge for me.”
Ashley Parker Angel reunited with three of the guys from O-Town for the first time in ages at Ryan Cabrera’s recent wedding — and while he says he doesn’t like “holding on to grudges or band drama,” there’s clearly still a little beef with at least one of her former bandmates.
Angel, Erik Michael Estrada, Trevor Penick, Jacob Underwood, and Ikaika Kahoano were thrown together on the MTV reality show “Making the Band” back in 2000, before Kahoano left and was replaced by Dan Miller. After a couple of hits — including “Liquid Dreams” and “All or Nothing” — the guys disbanded in 2003 and pursued solo careers. MTV wanted to keep working with Angel, however, and gave him his own follow-up reality series, “There and Back.”
Appearing on Hollywood Raw Podcast with Dax Holt and Adam Glyn this week, Ashley opened up about what it was like behind the scenes when they went their separate ways — and was asked whether he thought there was any jealousy from the other guys when he landed his own show.
“Anybody that’s ever been on a team or a band, or a group of some kind and you share these incredible experiences, there’s this close-knit brotherhood that occurs. When O-Town broke up, we were all on the same page that it was probably time to try something new because our record label dropped us when MTV didn’t pick up a fourth season of the show,” he explained. “And at the same time, music styles were changing. The boy band bubble was kind of bursting and we were the last to kind of make it in there. I remember us all being very excited to pursue separate endeavors.”
“To answer your question, it’s interesting because if you watch, if you watch ‘There and Back,’ there was one guy in particular in the band that did not show up … and it was the closest friend I had in the band,” said Angel, who didn’t name names. Looking at the episode breakdowns on Wikipedia, it seems Jacob, Trevor and Dan all made cameos — while Erik’s name does appear on the show’s IMDB page for one episode as well.
“All of the other guys showed up to support me and were really cool about it. And there was one member in the band that was very not cool about it, to be honest,” Angel continued. “I never, never wanted that. Especially when it’s a close, best friend. I love all the guys in the group, but this was like my best, my BFF in the band.”
Though he said most of the guys were “really supportive” of his own series, Angel also said there did end up “being a real disconnection between me and what was formerly my best friend in the band, to be completely honest.” He added, “And that always sucks because for me, I never wanted that to be the case.”
In 2014, the band reunited with Trevor, Jacob, Dan and Erik, while Ashley decided against it to pursue a career on Broadway in “Wicked.” They’ve been performing as a quartet since.
“At the time, I booked my second lead role in Broadway and the timing was so awkward because I didn’t know what they wanted to do with it, or if they were gonna do just one show, a couple, a tour and it was gonna be over whatever and I had this contract to do a Broadway show, which was also a dream of mine,” Angel recalled. “So, I always try to keep it open and fun, open ended.”
He said that while he would always promote their new music while doing interviews for “Wicked,” he saw that when the other guys would do interviews — “especially with one member” — he realized “there was just a lot of slights, a lot of backhanded comments, a lot of unsupportive comments and that sucks, because I never really wanted that.”
“There have been some absolutely vicious attacks publicly against my character as a person, with this one member of the band who has not taken it well and has decided to also be pretty nasty at times,” he said, adding, “I never went there.”
Angel ended up having a random reunion with three of the guys — including the mystery former BFF in question, he confirmed — at Ryan Cabrera’s wedding earlier this month. While Dan was out of the country, Jacob, Trevor and Erik were all there and the foursome appeared to have a great time catching up.
“It was the first time we’d all been together like that … it was the first time four of us, including me, had been together in that kind of, you know, at that kind of situation,” he said. “It was actually really awesome. I feel like in some ways you pick up right where are you left off.”
“Even though we don’t hang out all the time anymore, our lives have gone in different directions, that thread is still there,” he continued. “So it was like, for me personally, really awesome to hang out and connect on that level where everybody could relax and enjoy themselves at a party. It was an awesome fun weekend. And it sort of felt like the walls came down a little bit and I was even able to, you know, I was able to reconnect with all of them, which was really interesting.”
He added that he and his former best friend talked and “it was good.”
“A lot of even what I’m talking about is like, it’s water under the bridge for me. I want to forgive and forget and move on. I don’t like holding on to grudges or band drama,” he went on. “I’ve always wanted things to feel really good. I hope they felt the same way. Because hanging out at the hanging out at Cabrera’s wedding, it was a first time it felt like we had a chance to just have fun together again, as guys that used to be in the band.”
Angel also didn’t totally rule out reuniting the guys at some point down the line and said he plans to support the group at a gig they’re doing in a couple weeks.
“I mean, as of right now, I’ll be honest, there’s a bit of bad blood between … we would need to clean that up,” he added, before (seemingly) joking, “Because I’m almost a little nervous that if I got on stage, he would try to trip me or push me off stage, maybe it would be a setup.”
In addition to posting thirst traps on Instagram, Angel is also a fitness coach these days and recently launched his own fitness app.
Ashley Parker Angel was the victim of a robbery over the weekend, after revealing his car was broken into.
The 40-year-old O-Town singer took to Instagram on Tuesday, revealing a new snap and opening up about the robbery.
While some of his personal items were stolen, he made it clear his ‘unstoppable spirit’ can never be stolen.
‘I WAS ROBBED,’ the singer began in his Monday afternoon Instagram post, along with an angry-face emoji.
‘My car was broken into this last weekend. Lots of things were stolen, including my lap top that had years of important memories that were not backed up,’ he continued.
He went on to ask his 242K followers, ‘Have you ever been robbed?? It feels violating on a level that’s hard to describe.’
He also referred to his new career as a lifestyle and fitness coach, adding, ‘As a coach, I recognize this as an opportunity to control my FOCUS.’
‘Today I’m choosing to focus on what I DO have and not what I lost. You can steal my shit but you can’t steal my UNSTOPPABLE SPIRIT,’ he concluded.
The singer – born Ashley Ward Parker – rose to fame as a teenager when he was featured on the ABC series Making The Band, where he was selected to be part of the boy band O-Town.
Their self-titled debut album was released in January 2001 and debuted at #5 on the Billboard 200 album charts, going on to sell more than 3 million albums worldwide.
The group also released 02 in November 2002 before the group disbanded in 2003, with Angel and others forming solo careers.
He released one solo album – 2006’s Soundtrack to Your Life – before venturing into the acting world, appearing in films Amelia’s 25th, The Dog Lover and Tell Me I Love You’ and appearing on Broadway in Hairspray.
Angel announced on Instagram in February that he was venturing into lifestyle and fitness coaching with the High Level Performance Academy.
‘I realized I’ve accomplished everything I dreamed of (and more) in my entertainment career… ‘ he said in his Instagram post.
‘That’s why I launched into my 40th year with a new PURPOSE and CALLING in life to pass down every single thing I’ve learned so YOU can finally look and feel your best using the same techniques taught to celebrities and movie stars for decades,’ he added.
Redding-born Ashley Parker Angel went from the Shasta College stage to MTV reality show fame to the Broadway stage.
All that happened in the 30 years since he accidentally set the Buckeye Elementary School football field on fire.
Angel was 9 years old when he set off a model rocket at Buckeye, where his mother taught music. “The launch was successful, but the nosecone that was supposed to open shot straight back down and exploded in the field,” he said. It started a fire that burned the field and a pine tree in the neighbor’s yard.
He ran home to call 911 so fast, and was so terrified, he was gasping for breath while speaking to the operator, he said.
The field was still charred black when he started third grade at Buckeye a couple weeks later, he said.
Now 39, Angel lives in Los Angeles, his home since the Broadway musical “Wicked” wrapped up its national tour in 2018.
Angel launched a television production company last year, but all projects are on hold during the COVID-19 pandemic, he said.
This year is the first chance he has had to chill in a long time.
The youngest of five children, Angel was born on Aug. 1, 1981. “My mom loved Ashley Wilkes from ‘Gone with the Wind.’ She named me after him,” he said.
He credits his parents for his love of music. Pianist Paula Angel started her son on the piano at age 2. Angel’s stepfather, Angel Construction owner and acoustic guitarist Ron Angel, turned him on to the guitar when he was in middle school.
The acting bug bit him at 14. His mother took him to an audition after answering a Record Searchlight ad for voice actors, he said. He walked away with his first acting job, a lead role in role-playing video game, “Lunar the Silver Star.”
While a student at Central Valley High School (CVH), Angel worked steadily as a voice actor and lifeguard.
Lifeguarding at WaterWorks Park was his “dream job,” he said. “I had to work my way up, starting as a janitor. I got my lifeguard certification at 16. We had to really keep an eye out for heat stroke and heat exhaustion.”
During his senior year at CVH (1998-1999), Angel took classes at Shasta College, landing the lead role (Danny Zuko) in the theater arts department’s production of the musical “Grease.”
His drama teacher, Rebecca Olsen, helped him launch his career, he said. Under Olsen’s management, he spent August 1999 sending head shots to casting directors.
A month later he auditioned for what became his first big role: A part in the original cast of the ABC/MTV reality series “Making the Band,” and a member of boy band O-Town.
The show’s creator Lou Pearlman (Backstreet Boys and NSYNC) saw it as an unscripted contemporary version of “The Monkees,” Angel said. “When we got our record deal, we were signed by (Rock and Roll Hall of Famer) Clive Davis.”
Angel followed the show’s success with another MTV reality series in 2006. “There & Back” followed Angel’s efforts to launch a solo singing career while carving a life with then-partner, Tiffany Lynn.
Our son, Lyric Lennon Parker Angel, was born on the show, he said.
A Broadway career followed, during which Angel played teen heartthrob Link Larkin in the musical comedy “Hairspray,” and Fiyero — Elphaba/Witch of the West’s love interest — in “Wicked.”
Now based in Los Angeles, Angel returns to Redding regularly, he said, most recently for his birthday in August.
I went kayaking with Lyric, 15, at Whiskeytown, he said.
It’s one of his favorite spots, he said. I was a lifeguard there, too.
A romantic comedy set in beachfront Malibu, and the vibrant Hollywood music scene…
Tell Me I Love You tells the story of three talented young musicians (Ben, Ally, Melanie) roommates, bandmates and ex-lovers who pull off a hilarious scam to pay for their first album. However their past romantic affairs, emerging sexuality, and highly unique concept of “family” disrupt societal conventions. With a hit album on the way and music industry stardom right at their fingertips, they must each decide what true love is, and what they each mean to each other.
The OneKind Creative Podcast Episode 13: Ashley Parker Angel. From O-Town boyband star, to Reality TV star, to Broadway star in Hairspray and Wicked, to Fitness Influencer, to Founder of High Level, listen as Ashley shares his journey and branding strategies for other aspiring actors, musicians, and all around creatives.
Diehard pop fans want nothing more than to feel close to their favorite artists. Twenty years ago this month, ABC and MTV fulfilled that dream with the creation of Making the Band. The reality show is probably best known for its second iteration when Diddy modernized the program with R&B groups like Danity Kane, but in 2000, it was all about boy bands. Lou Pearlman, a manager and con man fresh off successfully creating Backstreet Boys, *NSYNC, and LFO, decided the next step in the lucrative teen pop business was to give fans what they always wanted: day one access, so that they, too, could feel like they participated in the creation of their beloved groups. And it began with O-Town.
After hand-selecting members in a countrywide search, Pearlman assembled O-Town with Ashley Parker Angel, Erik-Michael Estrada, Trevor Penick, Jacob Underwood, and Dan Miller, who replaced Ikaika Kahoano. The success of the show’s debut season inspired the network to continue the series, documenting the entirety of the band’s existence, including their discovery of Pearlman’s financial crimes and rumors of his alleged sexual abuse. O-Town broke up after only three years (a short run, even for the most flash-in-the-pan boy bands) but left the world with two memorable singles—“Liquid Dreams,” and the ballad “All or Nothing”—and a shockingly prophetic show that would influence future reality TV programming.
To mark the 20th anniversary of Making the Band’s premiere, I called up O-Town’s frontman Ashley Parker Angel to talk about the show. Our conversation below is condensed and edited for clarity.
JEZEBEL: On Making the Band, O-Town became television stars before you were music stars, and becoming a music star was the entire point. That feels like a really modern way to pursue a pop career. I guess in 2020, it’s social media instead of TV.
ASHLEY PARKER ANGEL: Me and my acting manager, when the audition came through, we thought [Making the Band] was a scripted TV show. We thought it was going to be scripted the same way the Monkees was a scripted show about a band, and then the Monkees obviously used that TV show to launch a legitimate recording career. Having talked to Lou Pearlman once I actually made the band, I’d come to find out that the Monkees were his inspiration. He wanted to make the next iteration of that, and who better to do that than the guy who just created the two biggest superstar boy bands of the day? *NSYNC and Backstreet were just dominating.
At the time, we didn’t have tons of reality TV. The ones that did exist were like Real World or Road Rules. It wasn’t the most popular format. O-Town was essentially two worlds crossing: the world of reality TV shows and the world of boy bands. Those two worlds emerged into Making the Band as an experiment. Nobody knew if it would work. They would even refer to us as lab rats throughout the whole process. The first season was a full 22 episodes, and by the time 20 episodes had aired and it was a hit TV show, we still did not have a record deal.
Because of the success of the TV show, we were able to get the interest of Clive Davis. Cameras flew with us to New York. We signed the deal the week before the finale was going to air. They very quickly edited in the footage of us signing. If you look at what’s happened now with American Idol and The Voice, I think Making the Band really proved that that format could not only be a successful television series, but it can actually launch a legitimate recording group that could have legitimate hit songs on the radio.
And then other people caught wind. Simon Cowell ended up being in one of the early meetings we had with Clive Davis. Very quickly after that, he goes and does Pop Idol. We’d always heard on the record label side that Simon Cowell had been really inspired by what happened with Making the Band and O-Town—so he started Pop Idol, that becomes a huge success, and then, of course, Pop Idolbecomes American Idol.
Pop music has a storied history with reality TV—like everything you were saying about American Idol and The Voice, but also One Direction 10 years later. They were made on The X-Factor UK, and they lost. The experiment with boy bands and reality TV has continued.
Right. And it doesn’t always work. Just because you have a TV show doesn’t mean it’s going to translate to actual radio play. ABC tried to launch a show based on Making the Band called Boy Band. Nick Carter was a judge on it. Timbaland was a judge on it. There was a big primetime push. And then nothing. Those guys are not around. I don’t think they were able to mount a successful single.
I did, too. As I watched it, I was like, “Oh, they’re doing Making the Band but with a new spin, those superstar judges, which is going to add that American Idolelement.” But it just didn’t pop.
I was listening to a podcast recently with Paris Hilton and she was talking about The Simple Life, which debuted in 2003. She argued that unlike reality television today, reality TV of the early 2000s wasn’t as manufactured or fabricated. Do you agree with that?
I tend to agree with her comment. Yes, there are things being manipulated behind the curtain when you’re in that world. Yes, good reality TV producers see where the conflict is happening, and they massage your life from behind the scenes to make sure those conflicts occur, but those conflicts are real. They’re capturing real life. Obviously, you can do a lot in editing, but primarily [Making the Band] was a very real situation we were all going through.
We had cameras living with us in the house we were living in as O-Town. We had hidden microphones in the house. In Making the Band, if you had a conversation in the middle of the night, these huge production lights would pop on and some guy, another guy with a boom microphone, and a cameraman would rush in. It didn’t matter what time it was. They would film everything. You couldn’t leave the house without telling them because they wanted a camera crew on you. As it went on, however, even by the third season of Making the Band, there was a lot more soft scripting going on. A lot more of producers saying, “Hey, we need you to have a conversation on camera about this.” They’re really kind of directing it more.
How did O-Town try to differentiate itself from the other boy bands at the time?
Making the Band came about at a time where you had a pretty dense field of pop bands. You had LFO, BBMAK—outside of Backstreet and *NSYNC, you had so many offshoots of bands in that style—of course, 98 Degrees. Without the show, there was a lot of noise in an already crowded room. I think the TV show set us apart because now it’s a window into this life that you would never get from just listening to an album. You’re now living in this world. You get the chance to be a fly on the wall and watch that process in a TV show. It set us apart in a way that would’ve been very difficult had we not had the show. I’m not saying we weren’t talented guys, but we had the benefit of being a part of something manufactured, which allowed there to be a higher degree of talent pulled from all these different cities.
I agree. But also, I think of the pop songs of the era—“Liquid Dreams,” come on, you were the boy band unafraid to get sexual. That separates you.
[Laughs] Thank you! I will add to that, too, we were set to do a fourth season of Making the Band. The TV show was always a hit, even though music changed and started to go more R&B and alternative rock again. The second album didn’t sell what the first album did, but the show was still getting really awesome ratings. So we moved into production for Season 4. At that point, a lot of guys in the band were not as excited to keep living on camera. We had a lot of internal debates about whether or not we should be a TV band or if we should move away from that and try to convince people of the longevity of our career. I, personally, always felt the two were connected. Then things started to change. When we got dropped by our record label, MTV also dropped the show. In the end, [the band] did mutually decide to call it quits for a while and all go our own ways with the idea that maybe we would come back in the future.
For the first two albums, we had this unbelievable hitmaker, Clive Davis, and we had ABC and MTV supporting our careers. Once we kind of lost those things, I could see the writing on the wall.
Not only does that sound like a clean break, but you also have a documentary of the entirety of O-Town in Making the Band. That’s unique to your group—even considering later seasons of Diddy’s revamped Making the Band. I think the only thing that’s comparable might be K-pop boy bands whose social media streaming is archived.
You’re so right; it’s so rare. It’s this little window into your life for three or four years. Who has that? And what a crazy time to have captured: a life-changing moment, and here it is in these well-produced, well-edited snapshots of your life.
At the time, were you cautious about working with Lou Pearlman? The show premiered a year or two after both Backstreet Boys and *NSYNC cut ties with him, so litigation must’ve been going on while you were filming.
There was a really specific 20/20 special that aired that was all about *NSYNC and Backstreet’s legal troubles with Lou. Up until that point, Lou was the most charming businessman you’d ever meet. He was obviously making the careers of young pop stars. He was a fun character to be around. Once it started hitting the mainstream media, and you’re hearing all these legal terms and trouble, that definitely started to throw some salt on the situation. And Lou started getting really pushy about us signing contracts. I’ll never forget the first lawyer we hired to look at our initial contract with Lou and said, verbatim, “In my 30 years of entertainment law, this is the worst contract I’ve ever seen.” That added fuel to the fires of what was already happening with Backstreet and *NSYNC.
Some of that actually ends up spilling out onto Making the Band; some of the storyline gets shared. Things start getting sort of intense because he wants certain things we are not signing. So he cuts off our money supply. There were weird scenarios like that that started to occur. But once Clive Davis came into the picture and we had two managers, we side-stepped a lot of trouble with Lou, whereas Backstreet and *NSYNC were right in it with him. We had a lot of other people around us, caretakers to say, “Hey, by the way, there are some other rumors about Lou. Don’t be alone with him.” Those kinds of things.
I remember at one point we were with Lou in his office, and literally, he said, “Guys, I would love to keep this meeting going, but the FBI are here, so we’re going to have to wrap this meeting up now. Because the FBI are here.” And, no joke, the FBI came in and they investigated the offices while we were there.
What? Where’s that footage?
I know! It’s all come out now. Lou was sharing with me, in private, some of his con man-style tricks. Like, he had pictures of himself in his offices where it looked like there were these 747 airplanes in the back, supposedly he had this airplane company, and he goes, “Look at this picture of me with this airplane on the tarmac. Do you see anything weird about that photo?” And I go, “No, it’s you with your 747 airplane.” And he goes, “That’s a model airplane, hanging from fishing string, held from the right perspective so it looks like a full 747 airplane.” He was using little miniature models, and using little tricks of the eye, to make it look like these little miniature airplanes were real airplanes. He would use pictures like that to convince investors that he had all these companies and airplanes. As an 18-year-old kid, I’m thinking, Wow, this guy’s really smart, but also, Wow, this is so illegal, but he’s bragging to me about it.
I’m surprised he revealed his tricks to you.
It was total Catch Me If You Can, that movie. You’re kind of impressed because it’s this evil genius type of thing, but it’s still lying and fraudulent. Now it’s all coming out after years of being investigated by the FBI. That was when things really started to go South for Lou.
Some of your issues with Lou are documented on Making the Band, but he was also an executive producer and creative consultant. Did he have to approve the storyline? The show doesn’t paint him in the best light, but now it’s well-documented that he was guilty of so much more than what was presented on the show.
I wasn’t there, so this is speculation, but I imagine Lou regretted involving himself on camera and not having complete control of it. Lou didn’t think he did anything wrong. Lou’s giving hope to these young, talented kids that would never have a shot. He’s Mr. Money Bags. He’s coming up with millions of dollars behind the scenes—for rehearsals, styling sessions, and putting demos together to actually get you to the place where you can sign a deal—so he never looked at himself as having done anything wrong. The guy could sell anything to you. He was a master salesman. If you sat in a room with him, he’d have you convinced that he was Mother Theresa. He was very good and very shrewd at business. He was just taking advantage in so many different ways. And yet, he was the Berry Gordy of the Motown era, but it was all in O-Town, this whole new pop phase of music that he ushered in with *NSYNC, Backstreet, Britney, Aaron Carter, O-Town, and LFO. His fingerprint was on all of that, and that was a huge movement in music. It’s too bad that he was as crooked as he was.
How do you view the legacy of Making the Band, 20 years later?
There are always going to be gatekeepers, but I think the barriers of entry started coming down with shows like Making the Band. Now you have an opportunity, on a national level, to hear about an audition and show up for it. Making the Band was a shot for someone who would’ve never had a shot. Shows like American Idol and The Voice have continued to take that concept even further.
Making The Band really was the first of its kind. We proved the platform could work because we actually transformed it into a legitimate music career. For young, hopeful, talented people out there, I’m glad that Making the Band could pave the way, and I’m glad there are even more formats like this for young, talented, hopeful people who’d like a shot at success.