Rob Mayes has had a successful acting career after getting his first big break starring in Law and Order SVU. H e went on to have leading roles in thriller's, comedies and romances alike. Although he still has lots going on in the acting World his focus has switched to getting some of his music out there and some of it has even been included on the soundtracks of the films he's starring in. I was keen to find out more about the first three releases he's put out and ask, why now and what next for Rob Mayes?
So Rob, we know you for your acting abilities, why have you chosen to pursue music now or was it always part of the plan?
It was always part of the plan, I’ve played music a hell of a lot longer than I’ve been acting but I kept it close to my chest. I released an album back in 06/07 called Glimpses of Truth which I didn’t market or promote I just self produced it after leaving the military. I recorded it in Cleveland on a shoe string budget and I just put it out and not many people heard it as I didn’t bother to promote the thing! In the last couple of years I took down the old releases as I didn’t feel they represented my true sound, the sound now. So I started fresh for the release of Closer. I’ve played piano since I was five and Guitar since I was 13, it was my first love but I think with my acting career I had success very early on and I moved to New York and got on this episode of Law and Order: SVU within two weeks of moving there. A few more weeks and I had not just an agent but a manager and the first script they’d given me I got the lead in an 8 million dollar movie. So on the acting front things kept rolling in, nothing’s been plain sailing but I had some good fortune. Music took a backseat to that. There was some fear about releasing music and putting myself out there in that capacity - not knowing if it would be accepted or welcomed or even if anyone would appreciate it. My voice teacher had me play for Tommy Paige a few years ago, he was a singer back in the day and became an executive at a label. I played for him, it was more singer-songwriter, delicate stuff. He said what are you doing with it, why don’t you produce it in a Bon Jovi style, follow in his footsteps? I said I don’t think that’s me. Fast forward a few years later, I’d only met him once but he had a charm, an energy to him, and I was reading the news and I read that he’d taken his own life and I realised, life is too short! Something that is this personal to me I want to share and get it out there.
You talked there about a fear of putting it out there, does that stem at all from being an actor, playing someone else and music really being very personal to you?
It’s an interesting question. People are drawn to the stage, they want to be an actor in some capacity and they want to do that because there’s a freedom that comes from portraying someone else. I think at a certain point you come to the realisation that it’s actually less of a departure from yourself and more you diving deep into your own soul. No matter how different the character seems from you, the best performances are still rooted in the truth of that actor. I think that’s a common misconception about acting. In terms of the fear, anytime you expose yourself, that exposure, the rawness is scary but exhilarating and you don’t know if people will accept it or not and I think that’s something every artist deals with no matter if you’re a painter or a fashion designer or musician. But I think being courageous is not being void of fear it’s choosing to take action and facing it no matter and when you hear that you realise well we’re all human, we all have fears, we’re all insecure but it’s how you pull yourself up by the bootstraps and say let’s go and see what happens.
Who are your favourite artists? Who’s influenced your music?
There’s so many, my Dad played in bands most of his earlier life, my Grandfather played guitar and Banjo, one Uncle plays Accordion, the other plays Sax. So from an early age I was influenced by their playing, family get togethers always had music and we’d listen to them playing. My Dad loved Jazz so I heard a lot of Jazz in the household, I learnt from an early age that I loved Country and the stories it tells, the harmonies, the truth, the ethos spoke to me. I love classical. Duncan Sheik growing up, his single Barely Breathing I heard on the radio and thought it was amazing. Brooks and Dunn were huge influences, I saw them in Vegas last weekend again which was really amazing and Reba McEntire. Blake Shelton, Dwight Yoakam, there’s just so many. What I’m doing musically and sonically is a little broader than what some artists are doing, I like the more bluesy-stapleton stuff which describes the song I put out a few weeks ago called My Heart is Bleeding but that’s a diversion from Road With No Lines which is classic Country and that’s a diversion from Closer which is more pop leaning. You’ve got to be open to all these influences though.
You mentioned your debut single there Closer, can you tell me the story behind that song please?
Closer was one of the first songs I wrote when I first got to Nashville a couple of years ago. We sat down, there was myself, my producer Kevin Leach and Ryan Rossebo, we’d never met before. We started chatting, got some coffee and dove into it, we were all feeling good so we decided to write something fun and poppy and catchy, nothing too heavy or witty or over thought. We wrote it in a few hours, it was finished in that session and then when it came to figure out what songs we wanted to put out months later, what we wanted to lead with it was a no brainer for me, it had to be Closer.
You talked about a couple of your collaborators there, who are your favourite people to work with?
It’s been really cool lately, I’ve worked with some amazingly talented people, I reached out to Eugene Edwards who is an amazing guitar player, he’s Dwight Yoakam’s lead guitarist. He introduced me to Mark, Dwight’s engineer and he engineered and mixed that song and he sent it over to Andrew Mendelson a grammy nominated Mastering engineer. One of the best out there, I mean if you turn on the radio and listen to any Country song ever it seems like they were all mastered by him. It’s cool that these guys were agreeable and excited to take on the project.
A couple of silly questions, what’s the strangest thing you’ve written a song about?
That’s a tough one, when I was younger I enjoyed taking my car out in the Country and there was this road I used to cruise down called County Line and it felt like Freedom and there was Countryside and trees and wide open spaces and the sun would be out, it was one of my happy places. So I wrote this really awful song when I was 16 years old about driving on County Line and my brother Ryan still makes fun of me for it when I share some of my new stuff I’ve been working on, he’ll say “I like it but what about County Line when’s that one coming out?” And we’ll laugh about it.
So it won’t make the next record?
It’ll never see the light of day, for good reason haha!
When you’re performing are you completely focused or do you let your mind wander?
My mind wanders, I’m human in that capacity. When you’re on stage you might see somebody intently focused on what you’re doing, then you might see someone who don’t seem to be paying attention or they are but they’re just having a good time but not focusing in the same way. I think all that impacts your performance. What I’ve learned recently is the more shows I do, the less it becomes about perfection, getting every note right, doing everything by the book, it becomes more about acknowledging the space you’re playing in, acknowledging the energy in the room which comes from the people in the room. It’s a collaboration between the performer and the audience.
Finally, what’s next for you?
Quite a bit, it’s been busy, I shot a western with Val Kilmer, Jake Busey and Micheal Bowen… an incredible cast so they just locked picture on that so that should be coming out later this year. I’ve got a thriller coming out with Samaire Armstrong which I’m excited about and they’re using some of my songs. I’ve just finished a Christmas movie with Marla Sokoloff you might remember her from Full House, so that will be coming out this holiday season. My music video for Closer dropped not too long ago and I’m getting ready to release the EP in September, it’s been a lot of fun.