Mike Blakely has done it all. Not only is he an accomplished musician working on his twelfth album, he is also a prolific novelist with over 18 books in print to date. He’s written books with both Willie Nelson and Kenny Rogers. He’s toured across the country, as well as internationally, and as if that’s not enough, you could say that Mike Blakely’s music is intergalactic.
Mike grew up on a ranch in Wharton, Texas. His father, musician Doc Blakely, had a large influence on his love for music. “He taught me three chords on the guitar when I was eight years old, and I’m still learning. He always had his musically inclined buddies coming to the house. They’d jam and play country music so it was just always part of normal life.”
Inspired by musical greats like Marty Robbins, the Eagles, Emmylou Harris, Willie Nelson, and Glen Campbell, Mike describes his music as Americana, Texas country, cowboy music. He sings and plays the guitar as well as the mandolin. In the past, he had a five-piece band who he toured with both nationally and internationally, making 16 trips to Europe. Nowadays, he plays a lot of solo, duo, and trio gigs. He’s performed with local legends like Walt Wilkins, Gary P. Nunn, and of course, his father.
Mike and Doc Blakely also team up for an Old-West style musical-comedy act, The Swing Riders, where they combine storytelling with old trail songs (“swing rider” is a cowboy term). Together, they’ve toured all over the United States, and even performed in Australia.
Swing Rider is also the name of Mike’s boutique record label, Swing Rider Records, which he uses to produce all of his albums. His newest album, Keepsake, was released on July 1, 2017.
As if that’s not enough, his song “Makin’ Good Time” has even been played in outer space. Mike says that it was used as a wake-up song on a NASA mission in 2007. “John Arthur Martinez, who’s a co-writer for the song, was playing the song live at one of the wineries here in Fredericksburg. The mission commander for the space shuttle mission that year happened to be in the audience. It’s a song about going home, so he wanted to use our song on the very last day of the mission when the astronauts would get back into the space shuttle and go home.” Coincidentally, that NASA mission commander happens to be a loyal Hunt Store customer.
It’s debatable if Mike Blakely is more well-known for his music or as an award-winning novelist. His novel Summer of Pearls won the Spur Award for Best Novel in 2001. Mike just completed his nineteenth book, a novel about the Mexican War of the 1840s. The book he co-wrote with Willie Nelson, A Tale Out of Luck: A Novel, is a historical fiction set in Luck, Texas, a town created by Willie that exists in the form of a movie set on his ranch. Mike also wrote a novel with Kenny Rogers, a fictional story revolving around the music industry.
Mike’s songs and novels share a lot of common themes, and sometimes even the occasional character or outlaw. “On a couple of occasions, I’ll end up writing a song about one of the characters from one of my books. Or, on another occasion, I wrote a big, epic western story song, and the character, an outlaw kind of guy, showed up in one of my books when I least expected it. I was having some writer’s block and didn’t know where the story was going to go and Bill ‘Snakehead’ Jackson rode out of the song and into my book and stirred things up and became the villain. So, you never know when the two careers are going to overlap.”
His career also overlaps in other ways. On top of writing a book with Willie Nelson, he got to play with him at the legendary Luckenbach. Mike Blakely has certainly led an amazing life, but his favorite thing about his career? “Being able to travel. I’ve toured Europe, my dad and I went and played in Australia one time, and I’ve been all over the United States.” He loves meeting new people, too. “I’m not a big star so it’s not like someone rushes me back to a dressing room or something. I just step off the stage and shake hands and get to know people. Because of that, I have friends all over the country that check in from time to time.”
Keep your eye out for Mike Blakely at The Hunt Store.