INTERVIEW: Hollywood Yates

Hollywood Yates has been in the entertainment business all his life; at age seven he began as an Elvis impersonator and has not stopped grabbing the spotlight since. Most well known for being Wolf on American Gladiators, he is also one of the best bullfighter rodeo clowns in the world having been in the National Finals Rodeo three times, a Bull Riders Only World Champion Bullfighter twice and wrestled on the Indie scene as well as WWE. Lately he has been working in television and in the movie industry both as an actor and a stuntman. Now he is delving into the music industry and bringing back the Outlaw Country sound; like Johnny Cash, Kris Kristopherson, Waylon Jennings

I spent some time with Hollywood reflecting on his past and discovering his plans for becoming a household name as a country music artist. He gave me a sneak peek and listen to several of the songs he has recorded for his upcoming project and shed some stories behind the music.

BEV: You have let me hear seven songs that you have recorded for your upcoming CD project, did you write them all or did you have any involvement in writing them?

Hollywood: I wrote one of the songs last year when I was there for CMA Fest with Shy Blakeman and Charlie Oxford it is called, “Makes Me Pop”.

BEV: As you chose the other songs, did you choose them because the lyrics were personal to you or because you liked the message?

Hollywood: The first song that I had for this album was “Put me in the Ground” which was pitched to me by Big Vinny from Trailer Choir. I was telling Vinny that I was starting to dive into the music and I wanted to sing the politically incorrect outlaw country with strong feelings; the kind of music I grew up with and not around anymore like Hank Williams Jr. “A Country Boy Can Survive”. Keith Anderson also sent me about seven songs and one of his songs I chose was “Worth Fighting For” which is about a guy who’s marriage is going south and he is willing to try anything, but He doesn't understand what's not worth fighting for.

BEV: Have you finished recording the final songs for the CD?

Hollywood: I have three more songs that I have gone into the studio and laid most of the vocals down; I am waiting to start mixing. There is one other song by Keith Anderson called “I Am A Renegade,” about living on the road. I have been on the road for 26 years, living in the back of cars, vans and I worked my way up doing rodeos, so the song really hit home for me. My wife and I were sitting on his bus and he was playing and said “I think this song is you”. We had two other songs that were written by Jamey Johnson’s road manager, Arliss Albritten; one of them we have chosen to be the title of the album called “Like We Used To”. It is a really great song with an old Waylon Jennings feel to it. The song reflects back on the things we used to do, but don’t do anymore because we have grown up and are not as wild and crazy as we used to be, but how we would love to be that way again.

BEV: Share a little about at what point the music came into your life and how has it evolved?

Hollywood: When I was seven years old Elvis Presley died and I remember I sat there watching all the news stories and footage and listening to the radio; I sat there crying and up to that point I did not have a true understanding about who the man was and had not absorbed that one man could affect the world with his ability to sing and entertain. That is what got me into the entertainment business. I became a seven year old Elvis impersonator. I started singing in my grandfather’s club in Oklahoma singing Elvis, but also doing country and old rock stuff like Chuck Berry and Mickey Gilley. When I was 14, I would bus tables during the early evening for my grandfather and then around 10:30 when the restaurant closed, I would go over to the club and sing at night with a 21 year old waitress. We sang Charlie McClain and Mickey Gilley or Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton. When I started high school I found rodeo and began being a rodeo clown and bullfighter. It was so adrenaline based and a way that I could be both an entertainer and an athlete, so I stuck with that. I worked my way up to the top of the rodeo industry as one of the best bullfighters in the world. I started getting bored because I had been doing it so long and I decided to get into professional wrestling. I did about ten shows with WWE and was negotiating a contract when the American Gladiators came calling. In 2006 I was at a rodeo in Salinas, California and a bull gored me; ran a hole into me about nine inches and I underwent emergency surgery to save my life. It was at that point I started to focus back on my singing, but then I got the Gladiators and I was busy shooting the show and doing promotion. I was I introduced to Nashville artists at the Academy of Country Music Awards because I had done a show for CMT called Cowboy U as a bullfighter and rodeo clown. I started hanging out with John Rich, Big Kenny, Big Vinny & Butter (Trailer Choir) and Keith Anderson. When the Gladiators was canceled I started focusing on my music again. I cut a couple demos, started looking for someone to help me and met a producer in Mesa with a great studio. Kregg Barentine understood what I was trying to do with my music; he knew I was trying to go with the outlaw country mixed with the updated southern rock sound. The first song is called “Up Yours” written by Craig and Jeffery Steele. It has been a lot of work and a lot of fun and I have been pouring my heart and soul into it. It is taking a while but it is finally coming together and things are starting to look like a real album.

BEV: When the new listeners hear you and see you perform, have you experienced any conflict of disassociating you from the Gladiators? I think that most of the public knows you from that. What reaction are you getting?

Hollywood: Everyone is surprised simply because of how they have seen me on TV where I am this very intense animalistic creature out there to hurt people. When I get up and sing, they are stunned that I actually have a singing voice. Most people do not realize I originally started as a singer and it shocks them. When I do the ballads such as “Like Father like Son like Hell”; which is a dark song, but a lot of people have lived through that, I have lived through that and is one of the reasons why I liked that song; because it did touch home. Every song on the CD is from my heart; I picked them because they are all parts of my life. When my mom heard that song she turned around, was white as a ghost and she asked if I wrote it. John Rich sat and listened to some of these songs and was just amazed. He pointed to his arm and said “wow; I have chills”, so I think that is a good reaction.

BEV: What has been the hardest thing for you to overcome as far as getting this music out here? What are you finding to be the most difficult things moving into this new part of your life?

Hollywood: Mainly it is trying to get the music done and then once it is done, I still have to get radio to play it which means trying to find someone that I can hire to really promote it. Another difficulty is fighting the stereotype of being Wolf. Being Wolf opens a lot of doors, but once it gets serious and let’s talk numbers they are like oh you are Wolf so…and it’s like really just listen to it and put me on a stage. When I came out and did my showcase I was hoping to have a really big turnout from labels to come see me entertain and see that I have a voice and a lot of them did not show up, granted, the timing was bad, it was the week after the CMA’s and so everybody was tired of being out at bars and parties and so I understand that the timing was not the greatest timing. At the same time I had eleven million viewers a week and that’s the difficult part is trying to get everybody to jump on now while I still have momentum from the show rather than wait two, three, four, five years and then start out as just another guy that is trying to start a country career. Let’s use this momentum that we have going now. I am getting other deals; I have a reoccurring role on a new Disney show called “I’m in the Band” where I play the band’s former roadie turned cage fighter whose hell-bent on destroying the band and it is a funny show, they had two episodes this season and if they get picked up for another season they are talking about bringing me back more permanently so that will keep my face on TV. I also just got called for a pilot for FOX so the acting thing is still there but I want to do singing more than anything and I realize that when I got called to do this show for Disney and they wanted me to be there the week before I was going out to do my showcase in Nashville and I turned them down because I knew that the role I played on that show messes with my voice for a couple days cause there is a lot of straining and yelling and I wasn’t going to come in and film and mess my voice up and then go to Nashville and do a showcase so they ended up postponing and changing the dates so I could still do the show but I hung up the phone thinking that I had just turned down Disney and it was actually a really good feeling because as soon as I set the phone down I realized I knew what I wanted to do. I turned down a potentially good deal with Disney because I want to sing and that was one of the defining moments in my life and was one of the greatest feelings I ever had.

BEV: What ideas do you have for promoting the cd now that you are getting closer to releasing it?

Hollywood: I am trying to do local shows and trying to do some festivals. I am kind of old school, I just want to go out and perform and get it going that way, but at the same time I know how big the web is and I know how big TV is so I am working those angles and I have made a lot of contacts through the radio when I was doing the Gladiators, I did the radio tours where I would talk to 20, 30, 40 radio stations every morning and I had planted the seed when I was doing those tours as Wolf so I am hoping when I start making the calls and start sending out the singles that they will take a listen and they will start playing it.

BEV: What has been the one piece of advice someone has given to you that you have passed on to other people when they have asked for it?

Hollywood: The one thing I live by and it is something that my mom instilled in me as a kid, she always told me I could do anything I wanted to if I just believed and pushed. I always sign my autographs ‘Hollywood Yates, Believe in Dreams, God Bless’. The one thing in my life besides God being the number one thing is, believe in dreams, it is kind of my mantra because I have been so fortunate to have lived so many of my dreams. Anytime I get a dream in my head, I just push, push, push until I have reached it, I just do not give up. Singing is something I have wanted to do since I was seven, I sidetracked a little just because I knew how many people were trying to become singers, there are singers that would blow not only me but every single recording artist out there off the face of the earth with their voices, there are people that are far better than anyone who has recorded a song sitting on a street corner somewhere just playing the guitar and singing and they just do not have the right connections or the money or whatever to get them to reach the final deal and so I wanted to come in through the back door. I made myself famous in other ways so that back door would be open for me. I want to be the ultimate entertainer, I want to be Elvis. I want to be singing and selling out 100,000 seats.\

BEV: I read somewhere that you had compared it to the Garth shows that you just want it to be mind-blowing.

Hollywood: I am an entertainer and when I was doing the indoor arenas I would jump out of the ceiling of the Salt Lake City arena on a repelling rope and halfway down stop and get the crowd going and then flip upside down and then burn down the rope as fast as I could possible go head first and stop just before I hit my head in the dirt and start dancing and get the crowd into it. I have always been an entertainer and I have always liked the big things like that. I want to bring that Hollywood flair into the music; I want to bring a live action show basically. I am a stunt man, an actor, a singer, a rodeo guy and I would love to have the whole arena be set up like the Gladiator arena and while I am singing be swinging from rings; I want it to be a 360 degree experience and I want people in the very back row to feel like they are part of it.

BEV: What kind of target date are we looking at for the release?

Hollywood: My goal is to have the CD done and out by March. I am looking for someone to help me start booking so I can get out there and start hitting all of Arizona, all of California, New Mexico and Texas and start circling and build from there until I have the fans and the money to put on the show that I want to put on.

BEV: Are any songs available for fans to buy on Reverb Nation or iTunes yet?

Hollywood: Not yet, I think my producer was supposed to have sent some stuff in last week so I am hoping in the next couple weeks I can get something up on iTunes and a few of the other sites.

BEV: Are you going to do any kind of pre release push for those that are done now that you will be able to get those out there so there is that initial spark?

Hollywood: We will probably do something like that in the next couple weeks.

BEV: As always, it is a pure joy to visit with you. I look forward to hearing all the songs and seeing you perform live again. Thank you for sharing so much about you and the music. Is there one last thing you want to add?

Hollywood: Just everybody come to my MySpace music site which is and join my friends because if I start talking to labels and show them that I have got one million friends then I think that would help seal the deal.

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