By Nikki Hedrick
Country music found Robert Wayne Walkup by way of his family’s record player cabinet. “I can just remember being around five years old, and from what I can remember, we had about five albums in there,” he tells Beachcomber. “And I look back now, and I see now how big of an influence those records had on what I’m doing even today.”
Merle Haggard, Waylon Jennings, Kenny Rogers, Elvis Pressley and KISS made up the five contrasting albums—and the foundation of Walkup’s love for music. “I remember just playing them and knowing every word by heart. I can remember being maybe a little over the top. I don’t think we had headphones at that time. So, I remember my mom and dad saying, ‘Okay, that’s enough for right now. Let’s put that away. We’re going to turn this off for a little while.’”
Those fond memories were the inspiration for the title track of Walkup’s recent album, Wild Eyed Dream.
“That song is about being at a young age, listening to the radio and dreaming about maybe one day writing a song and getting to hear it come playing back at me,” Walkup says. He was a recent finalist in NASHNext, a competition for aspiring country stars via Cumulus Media’s radio markets.
“That was fulfilled with this contest that I was in. NASH 105, they played my song ‘Fine Fine Day.’ That was a cool moment, to be driving down the road and then you’re being announced on the radio and actually getting to hear it. So that was a lifelong dream come true.”
If you scroll through Walkup’s personal Facebook account, it is easy to see one of his biggest supporters is his son. In one video, you can see Bobby Walkup beaming as he listens to his dad’s song getting airplay.
“Oh, yeah, that’s my son, Bobby.” Walkup says. “We’ve written songs together and we do shows. You know, it started off just in our own house, and I’d found that if we made up songs together, I could keep him from doing things—I could keep his attention. So we used to write just silly songs and then we’ve written some pretty serious songs, too. But to be able to have that experience in the family…he’s excited about it.”
Walkup may have always been drawn to music, beginning with that limited collection of records in his childhood home, but the drive to do more came later. “I was in my later teens and early 20s and to the point where I decided to move to Nashville. I lived there for about six years and really got a great education about the music business and songwriting. I had some ‘close but no cigar’ moments when I was there.
“And then, you know, having a young family and getting started, I kind of was like, Oh, I need to get a real job. So I just kind of put it on a back burner for a little while. I focused on a career, I guess other than the music. I was still dabbling in the music, still writing songs.”
In time, that dabbling grew. “I guess it was probably about eight years ago that I decided to start recording just for the fun of it. And then I got the bug to get a band back together. I’d say for the last eight years, I’ve just really been having a lot of fun with performing live and recording music and writing new music with new friends or writers.
“Things just kinda keep climbing, and I’m like, hey, I’m just gonna keep going through any door of opportunity and see where this leads me and just have a blast along the way.”
When asked about his first forays into songwriting, Walkup admits, “I can’t remember, really, too much about it. I don’t think it was a very good song. But it was good enough to make me want to go to Nashville, so I guess I’ll claim it and take it.
“Probably one of my biggest, favorite things that’s happened is I get to be friends with Ricky Lee Phelps.” Phelps was the original vocalist with the Kentucky Headhunters, the band that won Grammy, ACM and CMA awards for their double platinum debut album Pickin’ on Nashville.
“Maybe about six or seven years ago, I was able to meet him and we’ve become good friends. We’ve done shows together, and we’ve written some songs together as well. We actually cut (the Headhunters song) ‘Dumas Walker’ on my new album. That’s a pretty big highlight for me.”
Phelps also receives co-producer credit on Walkup’s album. “He was kind enough to, kind of, push a couple songs my way that made it to this album. I can’t thank him enough. And certainly the co-producer, Kyle Lehning—he brought the whole Nashville connection. He produced every record that Randy Travis ever recorded. So, he’s been in Nashville, and he brought together the musicians and it was a just phenomenal experience, to say the least.”
Walkup and his band continue to play locally and regionally in support of Wild Eyed Dream. The album can be found on all digital platforms.
Discover more at RobertWayneCountryMusic.com.
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