By Johnny Griffith
Bob Mauldin is a man of many hats. The East Texas native has taken on many roles since his childhood days in Van Zandt County. Over the years Bob has been a radio DJ, television host, producer, and media specialist to name a few, but the one thing he would say he’s always been is a musician. Growing up playing outdoors in the Colfax community, Mauldin cultivated a love of the country, spending most of his time outside until discovering music in his early teens. Once bitten by the bug, Bob created a little “studio” space in his bedroom and devoted most of his spare time to developing his talent and creating music, which would plant the seeds that would eventually grow into his passion.
Fast forward several years and Bob has just released his latest album “Summer Days,” and is currently booking dates in support of the release. We caught up to Bob to get more of his story and some insight into the new recording:
Johnny: You’ve been known around East Texas for years as a radio personality. How did you originally get started on that path?
Bob: When I was a teenager in the little home studio, I would make tapes for my friends of me hosting “radio shows” where I played records and introduced the artists. From one of those tapes, I got my first real radio job at a little AM station in Canton at the age of 16. Soon I decided to try my hand at full-time radio in Tyler. Surprisingly, I got a job at 101.5 KNUE and went on from there, hosting several radio shows over the years.
Johnny: You’ve got to have thousands of memories from that era but is there anything that stands out as particularly cool?
Bob: I had the opportunity to meet and work with stars, many of them before they were household names. Back when Keith Urban was just getting started as a solo artist, I attended a showcase of his in San Diego. I remember at the dinner where we were supposed to get acquainted with him, several of the other DJs and I were starstruck by Marion Ross (the mom from Happy Days) eating at the table right behind us. She had consumed a few glasses of wine that night, so she was in a great mood and very happy to take pictures with us. Most of the radio folks had completely ignored Keith until the night of his showcase performance, where he blew us away with a show in a little club there. After that, he took off.
My favorite young artist was Kacey Musgraves. I used to coordinate and host talent shows around East Texas for various promoters. I always loved to hear Kacey on those shows, especially when she started writing her own stuff. I would play her songs on the air because I liked them, and back then we had the freedom to share music we thought was good. I remember wishing that the judges on those shows would pay attention to Kacey’s writing ability because it always seemed that some girl belting out some vocally acrobatic song would always win the contests. So I feel like the success that Kacey has had recently is far overdue and very well deserved. If you ever find a CD entitled “Wanted: One Good Cowboy,” GET IT! Some of Kacey’s earliest writing.
Johnny: How did you transition from radio to television to being the host of Expedition Texas? How many episodes have you produced of that now?
Bob: Radio changed a lot over the years and after it dried up for me, I found myself doing PR work and focusing a lot more on music. I was playing music quite a bit, I had a band and we were working at least two or three shows a month. Then, I had the idea for Expedition Texas. I had just produced a short film and still had the equipment from that. I had worked in TV part-time before and knew how to create a show. I shot a pilot for Expedition Texas and quickly found interest from TV stations. I told my band, “Go home and I’ll call you if I need you”…I never did call! I began producing and hosting Expedition Texas in 2012 and I’ve been working on it ever since. Just guessing, I’d say there are at least 40 unique episodes.
Johnny: Okay let’s switch gears and get to the music. When did you first develop an interest in playing/performing music?
Bob: It started at a very early age. As a very small child, my parents tell me I’d climb up on a table or a stool and sing for people at gatherings. As a teenager, I was interested in writing songs mostly. The performing part grew out of that but didn’t really switch into high gear until I started getting some airplay on some of my songs.
Johnny: Who were some of your early influences?
Bob: Early on it was the country-rock music of Michael Nesmith. If you’re not familiar, look up his early 70’s work with The First National Band. This was after he left The Monkees – he was back to being a starving artist, and he was creating music that he wanted to create.
Johnny: When was the point you kind of stepped back and said: “Hey, I think I’m decent enough to do this as more than just a hobby?”
Bob: I was playing a show with another band and was performing my song, “Baby”. It was the first song of mine to get decent airplay, so I had started singing it in public. At this one particular show, I looked down at the front row and there was a group of people singing along with every word. It was very flattering and certainly lit a fire under me to take it to the next level and put together my own band.
Johnny: Was country always what appealed to you the most or did you play around with a few other styles in your formative years?
Bob: I grew up on country music. I’m pretty much “country” through and through. I’ve often told people that even if I suddenly joined a metal band they’d probably end up sounding country. I just can’t help it. It’s who I am and it shows in every note I sing.
Johnny: What have been some of the challenges over the years with juggling radio/tv/music/family?
Bob: Time! My interest shifts so much. Sometimes I think I wear my loved ones out with constant new ideas and new ventures, but I stay true to the ones that earn a living for my family. I keep a day job. I focus a huge amount of attention on Expedition Texas and that will never change. I’ve been very blessed to be able to dabble in all the fields that interest me.
Johnny: You just released a new album “Summer Days” on June 3rd. Where did you work on the album and how has the process for you evolved since your first foray into recording several years ago?
Bob: I’ve recorded music for a long time. I had several small releases before Van Zandt County Line in 2011. That album was promoted to Texas radio and we had some success with it. It was very much following a formula that worked for other artists. Summer Days are different. I recorded all original songs that I wrote. I had complete control of every aspect of the album. It led me to express things more deeply and in a way that I feel is more “me.” Since I’m a little weird, so is this album, but these are the most honest, personal songs I’ve ever written. So it’s something I’m very proud of.
Johnny: What was the inspiration behind the new album?
Bob: Life. Every song comes from some experience I’ve either had personally or been close to over the last 10-20 years. There are songs on this album that were completed even before the last album in 2011, but because of how personal they were, I left them out of that project. Every song on Summer Days is real. If I didn’t live the experience personally, I at least witnessed it, and I share those stories on this album.
Johnny: Any songs that just grab more of you than the others on “Summer Days?”
Bob: Out of Time is significant. I’m sure people will listen to that and think, “What’s wrong with you, dude?”
I actually had the idea for that song in a dream, but never did much with it because it seems so negative…but then I had an uncle who was on his deathbed and facing the end of his life. He did it with such courage and really focused on making his last days pleasant. I ended up reworking the song with my wife and recording it just in time for the album. Out of Time ended up being my favorite song on the album and it’s dedicated to the memory of my uncle Lennie Hale, Jr. who passed away the night I recorded the vocals for the song.
Johnny: How has the reception been so far?
Bob: It’s been great. I’ve been kind of just getting my toes wet with performing again and I’ve been really busy with media. So far, folks have said nice things about the album, even though radio doesn’t really know what to do with it. I’m happy that people are actually listening to it.
Johnny: You’ve put together a new band to tour in support of the album. Who are you sharing the stage with?
Bob: For all our upcoming shows, I’m working with JD Moss on Guitar, Kevin Durrant on Drums and Perry Thompson on bass.
Johnny: What can a first-time fan expect at a Bob Mauldin show?
Bob: It’s super laid back. I do play a lot of my songs, but after spending so much of my life as a country DJ, we do drop in some fun old country songs!
Johnny: Any upcoming shows on the radar that have you excited?
Bob: Camp Street Cafe in Crockett is going to be a fun one. It’s a historic place and a comfortable, relaxed setting! Also, in October, we’re booked close to home in Lindale at Texas Music City!
Johnny: What does the rest of 2019 look like and any new projects on the horizon?
Bob: In August, we begin shooting our fall season of Expedition Texas. We were picked up by Heartland TV Network this spring, so it’s going to be our first new season nationwide! I’ll be playing some dates as time allows, but I want to encourage everyone to pick up the new album on iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, and everywhere else music is sold. As an artist, it would make my year to have everyone hear and enjoy this music!