INTERVIEW: L.A. Actor/Musician Rob Mayes On New Music & Upcoming Projects

Hey Rob! Dan here, thanks for taking the time to chat! For anyone here in the UK who might not be too familiar with your work, tell us a little bit about yourself and how your acting career developed into country music…

Thanks so much for chatting with me!  I acted in high school and after graduating I spent a year at Dulwich College where I continued to act.  Following Dulwich I spent two years at the Naval Academy and realized then that I wanted to get back into the arts.  I moved to New York and fortunately started to get work, and then after The American Mall I moved to LA and I’ve been here ever since.  But music has been a huge part of me my entire life.  My family sings and plays and I’ve been playing piano since I was 5.  And I’ve loved country music since I was just a boy.  I’ve been writing songs for as long as I can remember, but with CLOSER, I decided to actually start releasing some of my music.

You released your debut single ‘Closer’ earlier this year, and I love that blend of traditional country influences with more current production. Tell us about how that one came about…

Thank you!  That’s what I’m going for.  Enmeshing traditional influences with modern production.  CLOSER was the first song we wrote when I first got to Nashville.  I wrote it with Kevin Leach and Ryan Rossebo and that hook just stuck.  And it’s fun and flirty.  So for me there really was no question I wanted to lead with it.  And I’m so grateful to the radio stations that continue to play it!

Tell us about the music video – you had some very experienced people involved in the project. People who’ve been involved in major productions like The Walking Dead, Outlander and NCIS. How much of an impact did that have on the final video for you?

My good friend photographer Christine Solomon and I had the idea for the video.  We wanted to make it feel like I was taking the viewer on a day date.  Like if we were in LA, where we’d go.  Me and Ana and Christine had a blast shooting it.  And then the Picture Shop took what we shot to a whole new level.  I shot some additional footage on my iphone that I wanted to overlay and the guys over at Picture Shop (led by Tom Kendall) were able to just do wonders.  Most of the video was shot on the new iPhone XS Max and additional shots with the Sony Alpha.  We shot this video on an absolute shoestring budget, but in the hands of the Picture Shop team, they really gave the video a whole new life.  

In the video you show us some of your favourite spots in LA. You’re still based there but you spend a lot of time in Nashville. How important is it for you to split your time between the two? Is there a temptation to relocate there?

I do spend a lot of time going back and forth, in fact I just got back from Nashville.  I’d love to have a place there too!   It’s a great city with great people and a lot of soul and heart.  Country music these days is predicated on the co-write, so there is a very collaborative mindset and ethos to pretty much everything there.  People realize you can’t do it on your own.  And in fact, it’s better as a team.  And that leads to such a healthy and refreshing collaborative energy.  

You’ve been featured on the ‘New Music Nashville’ Spotify playlist. How much of an influence does streaming have on an artist nowadays – is it something you consider when you’re in the studio, in terms of what will work for certain playlists?

Streaming is one of the most important ways for new music to be heard nowadays.  And it’s been helping to break new artists.  Look at Luke Combs!  The guy just got inducted into the Opry!  Thing is, it’s easier than ever to make music and release it.  And that means there’s more music than ever for the consumer to sift through.  And more music than ever for streaming services like Spotify to sift through.  And for an independent unsigned artist like myself, it takes a lot of hard work, hope, and faith that just MAYBE your song can get out there and get heard, get featured.  I can’t tell you how thrilled and humbled and appreciative I am to have had the recent support of Spotify.  The day ‘Closer’ dropped, I woke up in Vegas for the ACM radio remotes and the first notification on my phone was that ‘Closer’ had been added to New Music Nashville, an official Spotify playlist.  And then ‘Road With No Lines’ got added the day it dropped.  And then to ‘Breakout Country’. That one was added in third position on that playlist!  That’s crazy!  It’s an amazing feeling to have that kind of support.  In creating music, you hope people respond, and the response so far has simply been overwhelming.  

What was it like working with Eugene Edwards on ‘My Heart Is Bleeding’?

Man!  Can that guy play!  I’ve been a huge Dwight Yoakam fan for forever.  And when I first saw Dwight perform years ago, the guy who really stole the show for me was Eugene.  And next thing I know years later, I’m sitting in LA having coffee with him.  And we are just chatting and an hour and a half later he goes “so what can I do for you” and I was like “I just wanted to meet you man!”  Fast forward a couple months, I’m in the studio with Dwight’s engineer Marc DeSisto and Eugene is tearing it up on his telecaster.  Mind.  Blown.  

You’re working towards an EP later this year – tell us about that project and what you’re hoping to achieve with it. What can we expect?

Ya know, I have so many musical influences.  Growing up, my dad played Slovenian polkas in the car with my family going to church every Sunday.  Then back at the house he’d put on Stan Getz and Joao Gilberto.  Then my mom would pick up an Annie Lennox CD.  My dad’s friend Jim would introduce me to Stephane Grapelli’s work.  And I love classical piano.  So there’s alot of influence, varied influence.  And I think my sound might be a wider berth than some artists, but that’s just who I am.  It’s part of my story.  My latest single ‘My Heart Is Bleeding’ that Eugene played on, is bluesy and has some soul and Stapleton roots.  It’s different from my first two singles, but that’s ok.  Not every song has to sound like the one that came just before it.  And the recent support for it seems to support that.  Look, we can take all the advice in the world.  If I had listened solely to other people to make my decisions for me, I never would have even applied to the Naval Academy for fear of not getting in.  I never would have blindly submitted myself to every single agency in New York and land an agent just a couple weeks later.  Trusting those around you and their input is very important, but at the end of the day what’s even more important, is trusting your own gut.

With the experience you already have in TV and Film, such a competitive industry, do you feel like you kind of have a head start when it comes to the music industry? I would imagine that helps massively when you’re one of many artists out there waiting for a big break?

Ya know, it’s funny.  I feel like I’ve met some songwriters and people that I’ve always looked up to in the music industry because they had been familiar with my movies or with, say, Mistresses or The Client List.  But, in terms of a head start?  No.  The song is the biggest thing country music.  It all starts there.  If your songs aren’t good, doesn’t matter if people might recognize you from something.  It might actually hurt you.  I’ve been fortunate to tell some fun stories, some heartwarming inspiring stories, some funny stories, in some of the films and shows I’ve been fortunate enough to be a part of.  And over the last few years, there’s been alot of crossover.  Mistresses wrote in to my story line that my character was a musician.  And then they used some of my own music on the show.  My movie ‘Maybe I’m Fine’ just won best family picture at the Golden State Film Festival and they asked to use my music in the movie. And it’s about an aspiring musician!  I just finished a music Christmas movie with Marla Sokoloff and Marie Osmond and that movie is about an aspiring musician.  Talk about the universe!  There’s been so much overlap lately.  There are too many signs showing me that following both careers might just be ok.  

You recently wrapped up a Western film, ‘A Soldier’s Heart’ alongside Val Kilmer, AnnaLynne McCord and Jake Busey, which is due to come out later this year. Tell us about that project and why it felt like a good fit for you.

Wow.  I just got word today that picture is locked and they are ready for ADR.  That’s gonna be one cool movie.  I play the bad guy, Briggs.  And we have one hell of a good cast.  It’s the kind of movie and role that you only hope to one day maybe get to play.  My director Mike Feifer let me really go for it.  And when he called me up to offer me the part, I was ecstatic.  I’d always wanted to do a western.  It’s called ‘Soldier’s Heart’ because that’s what they called PTSD back in the days of the Civil War, which is the era this movie is set in.  So it’s timely in that regard.  PTSD has been around since the inception of war, it’s just been renamed again and again. 

Great to chat with you Rob, best of luck for all your projects this year!

Can’t thank you enough!!