Office of University Communications & Marketing

University of North Alabama Alumnus Remakes Hit “I Want It That Way” for 20th Anniversary

May. 23, 2019



Michelle Eubanks, UNA, at meubanks@una.edu, 256-606-2033 or 256-765-4392 

Betsy Heckert, Chris Bethea, press@chrisbethea.com, 256-284-2564 


FLORENCE, AL – It’s been 20 years since couples slow-danced to the Backstreet Boys’ record-breaking single, “I Want It That Way,” and it’s considered the group’s signature song. When the band surprised fans recently by releasing a new version of the record-breaking single, it wasn’t produced or released by their record label. Instead, the re-recorded single and new sound is credited to a small-town, two-man team in northwest Alabama: Grammy-winning producer/songwriter Gary Baker and recording and mixing engineer Chris Bethea. 

Bethea, a 2007 graduate with a Bachelor of Science in Music, is based in Florence and has been mixing tracks professionally for more than 10 years. Although the “I Want It That Way” single introduces Bethea to the mainstream pop industry, he has worked with Baker on a number of other projects for various artists as well as his own projects, mixing for artists, including Percy Sledge, Prime Circle, Penny & Sparrow, Brett Eldredge, and Sleeping at Last. 

“Living in a small town in Alabama, people are sometimes unsure of what to expect from me professionally,” Bethea said. “I have worked with all kinds of artists, from varying genres and backgrounds. My experience has forced me to evolve and continue to grow as I take on new challenges at every level. But, whether it’s recorded in a big studio or just in someone’s bedroom, my goal remains the same: to capture the artist’s vision and deliver the best possible production.” 

Baker, who is best known for writing several hit songs, including the 1994 hit “I Swear,” and many of the Backstreet Boys tracks from previous albums, calls Bethea a “sonic genius.” 

“I have never been disappointed with anything he has done,” Baker said. “The industry would benefit from his unique expertise, and I know his career is only really just beginning.” 

Baker is a long-time friend of the Backstreet Boys, so, when the group’s members personally asked him to recreate their most successful single, he immediately tapped Bethea to record and remix it. 

“I knew it was going to be huge,” Baker said. “And I would have never let anyone other than Chris work on it. The guys trusted me with their biggest hit, and I trusted Chris with the hardest part, positive he would get it right. This project would not have turned out the same without him. He nailed it.” 

Bethea’s UNA roots go back to the Entertainment Industry and working alongside Dr. Bob Garfrerick, Chairman and Professor of the Entertainment Industry. 

“The Department of Entertainment Industry is proud of its successful alumni,” Garfrerick said. “Chris Bethea exemplifies the highest level of professionalism in his field and has done so since he graduated from our program. We have been lucky to remain engaged with Chris over the years as a speaker, panelist, and sometime faculty member. We hold him in high regard. Additionally, the department now owns the very studio in which this project was recorded. We hope to see more projects from Chris and Gary in the future.” 

You can listen to the single here: https://youtu.be/cjCgsIx7kDI


About The University of North Alabama 

The University of North Alabama is an accredited, comprehensive regional state university offering undergraduate and graduate degree programs through the colleges of Arts and Sciences, Business, Education and Human Sciences, and the Anderson College of Nursing and Health Professionals. Occupying a 130-acre campus in a residential section of Florence, Alabama, UNA is located within a four-city area that also includes Muscle Shoals, Sheffield, and Tuscumbia. UNA Athletics, a renowned collegiate athletics program with seven (7) Division II National Championships, is now a proud member of the NCAA Division I’s ASUN Big South Conference. The University of North Alabama is an equal opportunity institution and does not discriminate in the admission policy on the basis of race, color, sex, religion, disability, age, or national origin. For more: www.una.edu and www.una.edu/unaworks/ 

About Chris Bethea, Recording & Mixing Engineer: 

Growing-up an aspiring musician, Bethea went on tour with his band before redirecting to a career in music production. He pursued and received a commercial music degree, and has been professionally recording and mixing albums for more than 10 years at Noiseblock Studios and out of his home in Florence, Ala. Along with the Backstreet Boys' “I Want It That Way” reimagined single, he has worked with Grammy-winning producer Gary Baker on dozens of other projects, and completed his own projects, mixing and recording for artists all over the world including: Percy Sledge, Prime Circle, Penny & Sparrow, Brett Eldredge, and Sleeping at Last. Learn more at chrisbethea.com 

Instagram: @chris_bethea

Facebook: @chrisbetheamix

Twitter: @chrisbethea