Rob Mayes: Big Risks, Bigger Rewards

This actor and country artist-songwriter has grabbed for the brass ring his entire career, and with an acclaimed new Western movie and iHeart-scripted podcast about Nashville songwriting, he has yet to fall short.

A known certainty in life is that it is not without its risks. We all deal with these daily, and in the bigger picture, we have considered risk versus reward in our professional careers. American actor and country artist-songwriter Rob Mayes is one of those people who has embraced the risk-versus-reward equation throughout his life, and today, he is reaping those rewards as one of the most talented multi-dimensional artists in entertainment.

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Mayes is best known as the title character in the 2012 horror comedy John Dies at the End, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and has become a cult classic, and for his role on the ABC hit series Mistresses. His latest project is the critically acclaimed A Soldier’s Revenge, a Western released in June 2020, in which he stars alongside Val Kilmer, Neal Bledsoe, AnnaLynne McCord and Jake Busey.

The other half of Mayes is his impressive career as a country artist and songwriter, where he currently stars in iHeart’s forthcoming “Make It Up As We Go” scripted podcast, directed by Dennis Quaid and also featuring Billy Bob Thornton, Jingle Jared, Ryan Bingham and Miranda Lambert. The podcast is a look inside the writer’s room at how songs are made in Nashville, Tenn., and the songs interwoven into the storyline of the series will eventually be released to the public.

If you’re contributing something good to the world — big or small — you’re living a successful life

At age five, when most of us were struggling to tie our shoes or learning to sleep without a night light, Mayes was playing piano and beginning a modelling career. At age 21, he decided to leave a career in the United States Naval Academy and try his hand at acting, departing from his hometown of Cleveland and moving to New York City. “I thought I’d fail, move back to Cleveland and just say at least I tried,” says Mayes in a recent interview with City Life. “I’d watch TV shows and think to myself that I could probably do that, or at least try, so why not give it a go?”

That “why-not-give-it-a-go” attitude has become somewhat of a mantra for Mayes’s life. Upon arriving in New York, he purchased a book with the names and addresses of every talent agent in the city, then took the risk of spending the money to send every agent in that book his talent material. His reward was his first acting booking, with a guest spot on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit just two weeks after arriving.

“I never went to acting school, but love what I do,” says Mayes. “I feel that if we can acknowledge what we enjoy, what gives us purpose, everything else falls into place.”

He took similar risks when discovering his love for singing and songwriting at an early age by performing at the beginning of school classes, encouraged by his supportive teachers. Mayes is a prodigious creator of music and will be releasing a song per month beginning with September’s “The Way That It Was,” which was actually written before the pandemic changed the world.

“I’ve got a year-and-a-half worth of music stored up, and some people say this isn’t the time to release music,” says Mayes. “But we also have to take into consideration our mental health. We still need to take care of ourselves, while being conscious of what’s happening in the world. And music and art should be a big part of our diet, our routine.”

The risks Mayes has taken have been rewarded, and going forward, he is a believer in creating your own success, however that is measured.

“If you can be proud of what you’re doing in contributing to, or investing in or helping to cultivate, that’s good,” he says. “We need purpose and to be valued. If you’re contributing something good to the world — big or small — you’re living a successful life.”

Interview by Jessica Spera

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Rick Muller

Rick Muller