Rob Byer is a front man for a few bands in town, namely Kanye Twitty, Ready-Set-Go and his namesake band, The Rob Byer Band. He’s energetic, engaging and you can rest assured that a splendid time is guaranteed for all of his audiences.
You’ve probably seen him around town – many of you several times. But you probably haven’t seen this side of Rob. Recently we sat with the busy musician who also runs a company called Starleigh Entertainment (details below). He’s a big sports fan and absolutely bleeds orange and black.
Tony Lombardi: Tell us a little about your formative years — where you grew up, schools attended as well as the day you woke up and realized that you wanted to be a music man.
Rob Byer: Grew up in Oliver Beach (Chase, MD…near the tragic Amtrak crash). Awesome place to grow up…very small town feel…diverse demo in the area… Perry Hall High School…played baseball and basketball… my dad was a musician (sax player but played the clarinet for the Colts Marching Band). Always remember loving music…listened to Chicago, Blood Sweat & Tears, Ray Charles (my dad’s influences), but remember hearing 105.7 (when it was the “oldies station”) in the car and loving Buddy Holly, Elvis, The Temptations, etc.
What turned the corner for me was my brothers record collection. The main one that I use to sneak was KISS “Dress to Kill”. Started playing the tennis racket at age 12 and the guitar around 16ish… I would put records on and pretend to be playing in front of my classmates in my pretend band… Then 80’s hair bands were my thing. Baseball, Basketball, Michael Jackson, Run DMC, KISS and Hair Bands… go figure! I performed Bobby Brown’s “My Propagative” in front of my classmates at my senior prom (set up by my friend Mike Patterson with the band Cry Monday)… from that point I knew I NEEDED to be in a band…so I made it happen!
TL: Who were some of your early musical influences; current influences?
RB: Early on…Ray Charles always intrigued me… I stumbled upon his Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music in the public library…I couldn’t stop listening to that! KISS, Michael Jackson, 80’s Hair Bands (Bon Jovi / Warrant), Run DMC, LL Cool J and anything that was pop or easy…big hooks and big production!! Today… The Beatles (wish I was exposed to McCartney earlier), Butch Walker, Keith Urban, Justin Timberlake…really listen to a lot stuff now…old and new…
TL: What is the craziest story that’s ever unfolded before you while on stage?
RB: I don’t think I can talk about that…just a little hint…it happened in Key West at Sloppy Joe’s… Although one of my craziest fun moments for sure was opening up for Kenny Chesney at M&T Bank Stadium in May of 2008… that was definitely a highlight…not crazy, just a highlight!
TL: You’re the consummate front man — a talented, yet selfless lead singer who engages the crowd and is willing to share the wealth with your bandmates. For me, that’s a lot like a team leader. You’ve played ball…talk about the similarities between being in a band and on a team. What are the differences?
RB: There are really no differences… treat your teammates / bandmates with respect (normal band ribbing doesn’t count…lol)…respect the situation…respect the people around you and those who are in charge of putting you in that situation. We get to do what we love to do…either sports or music…smaller stage or a larger stage… people take the time out of their schedules to support us so we owe it to them to put 100% in…We want them to walk away with a smile on their face and have a good time…
Sometimes it’s easy to lose sight of that because of the normal challenges that life brings. Me and the guys are all on the same page and have the same goals when it comes to the band. We do not always see eye to eye on things but we do have respect for each other and a comfort level to voice that. I had a hard time with letting the “I need to do everything” go in Kanye Twitty… I really lean on everyone now and those guys have a lot to offer. Really talented bunch of guys.
TL: Besides playing in a couple of bands (KT, RSG) you also manage Starleigh Entertainment. Tell us what that’s all about…
RB: I have booked through Starleigh for more than 20 years… Coming up on 8 years as the owner along with my partner Gary Hutson. When we bought it, I thought we are going to change the climate of business (there was and still is to some point a very disgruntled music scene). I got my feelings hurt more than I can count early on, because you hope that everyone sees it the way you see it…that didn’t happen. I took a step back and saw who was on my team and the people I wanted to be around and built the business with a “2-way street” mentality… as soon as one person fails… we all fail.
If anyone walks away from it feeling like it was not fair for them then we all fail. We only work with people that share the same vision and goals… if you are not on our team, it’s ok… We just want to work with people that are on our team… We respect the fact that you don’t buy into our vision… create your own… it’s all good… We are here if you have a change of heart.
TL: Back to playing ball, you’ve done the Orioles fantasy camp. Was it as exciting as it appears?
RB: I am actually doing it this year coming… My trip last year was cancelled due to a last minute conference I needed to attend in L.A. for the business. I am going Jan 21st 2018…Really looking forward to it!! As you know I am a HUGE O’s fan (definitely disappointing end to this year) and I can’t wait to put on that uniform and be on the field with some of the Oriole greats!! Then to come back and play a game at Camden Yards, that will be one off of the bucket list!
TL: I have been self-diagnosed with Football Tourette’s because I will, without notice, just lose it when things go wrong for my team. Bowling alley words are flying. You’re a big sports fan. What’s it like watching a game with Rob Byer?
RB: I get a little emotional when it comes to the O’s… I have been made fun of by friends, because I keep saying “THIS IS THE YEAR” every spring and they keep asking me in Sept “Is this the year?” You never want your home team to flounder and it’s definitely frustrating…either the O’s or the Ravens… However, I do look at it like… Remember when we didn’t have a football team or remember when we didn’t have Buck and a team competing for a playoff spot… That sucks worse than the team losing on a Sunday, or taking a crap in Aug / September when you are sniffing the playoffs…
Probably have to ask Leslie what it’s like to watch a game with me…I remember walking out of Camden Yards when the O’s had a 6-0 lead in the 4th against the Royals and we lost 8-6… She looked at me and said “Are you Ok?” lol…I wasn’t…
TL: Speaking of games, your company Starleigh Entertainment is providing bands for the Ravens Walk this season. Talk a little about the lineup for the season.
RB: The line-up is great this year… doing a little different from previous years… Bringing in some tribute bands. We had High Voltage (AC/DC tribute) on the opening game and it was a HUGE success. We have Cold Gin (KISS Tribute) coming in on the Halloween Game (Oct. 26th game against the Dolphins)…I can just see it now… those guys in full make up & costumes walking down RavensWalk! It’s gonna be special for the fans. We had Bye Felicia and Kelly Bell Band already. [We had] Under The Covers for the Steelers game…
We have What’s Next (Baltimore Magazine’s 2017 winner of Best Cover Band) , Full Spectrum (The Air Force Band)…We are doing a Country theme with Red Dirt Revolution…Alter Ego is back in 2017 with their high energy show…these guys really go all out on every event they play! New Year’s Eve game Kanye Twitty is back after a 2-year hiatus from RavensWalk.
TL: Rob, play along a bit here and finish these sentences for me…
- I wish I could sing like: Paul McCartney, Elvis & Edwin McCain all wrapped in one
- I wish that I could play guitar like: I am a less than average player so really anyone…lol
- Favorite song to play: Let it Be * The Beatles
- Least favorite song that you feel you have to play: Really do not have a least fav…If I am not in the mood, I will yank it from the set…lol
- Young, talented local artist who we should all keep an eye on: I will plead the 5thon this one.
- If I wasn’t a music man I would be: Wow…have never thought about that
- Favorite all-time Baltimore sports figure: Billy Ripken…loved how he played the game…not the best, but played hard with passion and had fun doing it.
- Favorite current Baltimore sports figure: Adam Jones (O’s) & Eric Weddle (Ravens)
- Most interesting person (besides Leslie) that you’ve ever met: Paul Stanley from KISS and I want to meet Buck Showalter
- If you could change one thing about Baltimore it would be: Negativity & the Crime related to it.
- Ever sung the National Anthem at a major event? Wasn’t major but sang at the Baltimore Arena for The Baltimore Bayrunners from the International Basketball League…early 2000’s I think… got cancelled at Camden Yards twice… once for Darius Rucker and the other was for someone that knew Peter Angelos wife…lol… tough song to sing.
- What will the Ravens final record be? 10-6
- Break out player for the Ravens in 2017? Weddle
- Your favorite guilty pleasure… Whiskey