After being born and raised in Ohio, Rob Mayes has now found his way to Los Angeles – via New York City and is ready to shine his way into country music with a powerful and creative knack as a storyteller. Whilst he may be most familiar for his work on screen including a main role in the ABC prime time series ‘Mistresses’ along with recurring roles in ‘90210’, ‘Frequency’ on The CW and alongside Jennifer Love Hewitt in ‘The Client List’ music has always been the first love. Even before acting rose to the forefront when he landed his first role on NBC’s ‘Law & Order SVU’ when he moved to New York, his craft as a musician and songwriter was always a substantial string in his bow as he had previously released a 7 song album “Glimpses Of Truth” a year earlier in 2006. Mayes now has a more refined sound than with his release over a decade ago and the target market has a distinct direction of Music City with an EP released last year along with a flow of dynamic new tracks on the way it is no surprise why people are as excited to listen to his voice as they are seeing him on screen. During the current times of lockdown, a lot of time on hands and a global pandemic we spent some time on the phone to talk all about the past, present and hopeful future.
Rob Mayes on being seen primarily as an actor or a musician:
Everything is always evolving, it’s shifting, it’s changing. Experiences we have impart something on us whether we think it’s good or think it’s bad, there’s some takeaway there! Everything is fluid, my first love has always been music. Even as a kid growing up at like 8 years old, I was playing piano and trying to learn guitar performing for my friends and family. I would even get my little amp and my cheap electric guitar then go on the front step of my house, turn that lamp up as loud as it can go and play REALLY BAD, you know super overdrived, distorted sound on this guitar for the entire cul-de-sac. Then at the same time I was taking my parents camcorder and running round in the woods, gathering all my friends in the neighbourhood to go and make these little movies. The love for both has always been there and as a kid you’re not thinking which one you are going to pursue as an adult, you just do what your passions are! We would build a fort in the woods as kids, 15 feet up in the air! Now I’m not building forts anymore but I still love architecture and design. The things that we love our entire life are always a part of us and that just weaves and spreads through our life.
Rob on his path from being known as a prime time actor in New York and his journey to making country music in California:
Opportunities come in different shapes and sizes. When I moved to New York, I got work really quickly then did my first movie that I was the lead in. An $8 million dollar movie, like that doesn’t really happen for people! I had no idea what I was doing, I didn’t even know if I could wear contact lenses during filming? On the big screen was somebody going to see my contacts? Look at it and go that guy knows nothing about making movies and I didn’t! I was kind of afraid to ask even my manager or my agent and so it’s the age old – you fake it ‘til you make it! It doesn’t mean you can’t do it, it just means you have the confidence, the belief and the faith in yourself then even when you doubt yourself or have uncertainties, you push through! Then later I was up in Vancouver, on an ABC primetime series “Mistresses” where we had a good fanbase, people would tune in each week and they loved the show. I was up there and it was an ensemble type show, so at times I might not work for 2 weeks then other times every single day with super long hours but there’s a lot of downtime! So I picked up a piano, started writing some music again and allowed myself to use this free time to keep pursuing music and once “Mistresses” got cancelled a few years later, the day to day for me changed. Back to auditioning, reading scripts, driving all over LA and meeting with people but because you don’t have a full time job per say as it were you have a little bit more on your hands. So I thought, this is always something I’d wanted my entire life, so why not carve out even more time? To make space, to make time for the other thing that I really loved.
Rob on his musical upbringing and influences shaping his own sound:
Country music is what I’m doing and lives in my veins but growing up my dad played jazz! He was in a jazz group, we listened to polka’s and I loved classical music, so all of these different kinds of music, genres influenced my music. I love blues and I think when you hear my music and melodies you feel that. There’s a thing you know that your brand, your identity, your sound has to be extraordinarily pinpointed which is like maybe, but maybe not? Who’s to say if your brand is a little bit wider of a boulevard, a wider berth than somebody else’s, who says you can’t do that? At the end of the day if it doesn’t work but I was able to be true to my inspirations, to my heart and share that with the world and it’s been cool!
and what it is about country music for that to be his musical direction as an artist:
The thing that struck me loud and clear when I first heard country at the age of 8 or whenever was hearing the melodies, the harmonies, the pedal steel, the stories and the human component. Other genres whether it’s rock of things being defiant in a rebellious way, there’s space for that and it’s healthy, it’s helps people find community that feel the same way. Hip-hop or other genres the stories they are telling is a little bit different but for me country music is about hope, positivity and just the normal average working person. What’s beautiful about us as human beings is what unites us. You look in US weekly and see hey, they pump their own gas or they order their own takeout. It doesn’t matter who you are! You still eat 3 meals a day, you still drink water to hydrate, people still need love and we are all the same which to me is what country music is all about.
Then on his current single and upcoming releases:
The song that I just released on April 24th “Didn’t Do This On My Own” is a really big song, big production and I love it to death, it’s one of my favourite songs that I have written yet. I wrote it with the great Earl Bud Lee who co-wrote “Friends in Low Places” which to me blows my mind that I get to call this man, this artist a friend, a mentor and songwriting partner. I’m so grateful, I’m so honoured and blessed. The next song I have coming out is different, it’s equally as big but completely different and the song that follows that up is completely different again. It’s all country music but a different take on it so I think the single roll out is the way to go!
and why his current release strategy is focused on releasing regular music individually as opposed to a collection in the form of an EP or an album:
Here’s the thing, I think with the EP I’m super proud of it and I’ve been stoked with the response and how it’s been received but that said with different conversations, folks suggested that what I should do an EP rather than individual singles and it kind of went against what my gut was telling me. The through line to me never was enough for me to be like wow! This is a bookended product! So I guess what to me makes the most sense is for me to keep releasing singles because I’ve got so much music that’s written, mastered, recorded and the art is done. Each song takes you on a different journey or tells you a different story so instead of looping it all together in one album or one EP, I feel like each song having its own life and to release them every four to six weeks is the way to go. That said, this is quarantine times and I’ve been writing a lot of new music where there’s a similar thread through most of these newer songs that almost might lend itself to releasing in the future, soon a quarantine EP maybe?
On what drew him to recording his version of Lewis Capaldi’s Grammy nominated, Brit Award winning Song of the Year and global mega hit “Someone You Loved”:
Well I heard that song, but I don’t tend to watch the charts though I know people knew of it that’s for sure. Whether they knew his name but they knew the song so it was definitely getting played on playlists or radio or whatever but I don’t listen to pop radio stations so I don’t really know. When I heard the song I was like his voice is incredible, the voice is not overly produced and the rawness of it is intact which so much of pop music is not. Even a lot of pop country, if you don’t know who is singing that song it can be tough to differentiate who the artist is! Everything is voiced together to take out the fabric and fingerprints, identities and nuances of someone’s actual voice. So with Capaldi, I heard it and was oh man, this is amazing and to me this is a country song. If add some pedal steel to that and a bunch of harmonies to the layer this is a country song!
Rob on US festivals and Stagecoach not taking place due to Coronavirus:
One of my favourite times of the year is Stagecoach. Everyone goes out to the desert and we listen to amazing country music, it’s hot, people are sweaty, the sun’s out, it’s gusty, your drinking a cold beer and everyone’s dressed up in their cowboy hats, daisy dukes and bandannas which is just the most fun thing there is. This year because of the pandemic it’s not happening when planned as they have rescheduled it to October.
and what he did instead of spending time in Indio, CA and how the idea of “Stagecouch” came to fruition:
So I spoke to a couple of friends, saying hey I don’t think we will be at Stagecoach this year so thought why don’t we do a little “Stagecouch” a little play on words, make it kind of funny and get a couple of friends together. What started as a couple of buddies turned into me and 52 others coming together making music where we got to expand it from 1 stage to 2. I thought how cool would it be to feel like a real festival having a couple of stages running concurrently with each other, so we did! We raised a little bit of money for the artists and the whole point was not to promote this thing, make a bunch of money and then run off to Mexico. Whatever money that comes in, donations based will be split amongst the artists which I thought was a beautiful thing. Then of course Stagecoach Official launches their own “Stagecouch” so we were like what do we do now? There’s 2 of them! So I thought we can either shut down or the more “Stagecouch’s” the merrier because we’re not stepping on anybody’s toes. Country music isn’t about being territorial, it’s about bringing people together and community which is what we need right now more than ever! We went forward with it and it was a huge success, we didn’t make a ton of money. We hardly made anything at all but listen we did this thing, it brought people together and long story short we would love to do it again.
His thoughts of playing live streams during this current time and how it is all about a much bigger picture:
I spoke to some friends, actually a big shout out to Destination Country over there because if it weren’t for Pip and those guys along with some friends here that asked me to do another live who knows if it was even gonna happen. I was initially like all these people going live, is it like a selfish thing until I did one or 2! People were saying things like “Thank you for doing this, I’ve had such a hard week with quarantine and this has taken my mind off it!” It wasn’t a family member saying that like my mom or my brother but somebody I didn’t even know saying this stuff from all over the world. Then I’m playing country music and I’ve got people tuning in from all over the world! From South America, from China, Germany, Switzerland, from SOUTH AFRICA and it’s really really cool! Then I realised this is not about the artist! It’s not about me when I go live, it’s about sharing things I’m doing with people that want to see it. Then if you want to see it you can tune in and if you don’t well you don’t!
Finally Rob on what it is about an increasing number of artists from California being drawn towards Nashville and making country music:
I don’t think it’s bringing it towards there, it’s always been there just might be a slightly different sound. The experiences of artists you know might be a little different to somebody growing up in Georgia or Texas but it doesn’t mean that it’s not country music just because it’s not from the south! Music from the north parts of Canada doesn’t mean it’s not country music. Country music is an ethos, it’s not a geographic thing. You can speak a different language or don’t necessarily have to be from that country and you speak that language. That’s what music is and that’s what country music is! Look at Dwight Yoakam, the whole Bakersfield stuff, look at Gary Allan, Jon Pardi or Tyler Rich, they come from northern California where it’s farm country. People think of California as surfboards and beaches which is part of it but there’s also a whole lot of farmland and wide open expanses. That imparts something in the music. Now I live in LA but growing up in Ohio, I spent all my time in the woods riding mountain bikes or out at a gun range but now I’m in an urban setting doesn’t mean I’ve lost my youth and experiences growing up.
Rob’s most recent single “Didn’t Do This On My Own” was released on April 24th and there will be plenty more new music on the way through 2020 in addition to staring in Western action thriller “A Soldier’s Revenge” alongside Val Kilmer and Jake Bussey to be released June 16th which you can check out the trailer below. In the meantime make sure you keep up to date with Rob on his Website Twitter Instagram Facebook YouTube as we look forward to hear what he has been working on and when the global situation allows, hopefully a trip over to the UK to play some shows for his newly found growing number of fans on this side of the Atlantic and have good old catch up over a beer.