A career in music is a long process to achieve. It takes years of grueling patience. Years of long nights, in empty rooms, just hoping the handful of by chance attendees are giving you at least half of their undivided attention. As a songwriter, every song is a personal journey. From the instant a melody is born, to the last line of the final verse, a writer gives every part of every moment to the in between.
Bobby Duncan has been living these moments for nearly a decade. With three records produced to date, (2006 “Lonesome Town”, 2009 “Faith, Hope & Everything Else”, 2012 “Forever From Here”) Bobby has sacrificed the possibility of greater life achievements at the altar of the “out-of-the-way” corner stage in countless bars.
Beginning his journey in 2005, with a handful of youthful songs, Duncan began performing at open mic nights around the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex. The very green artist he was, Bobby honed his public performances in three song sets, on any given weeknight. It was through these open mic nights, and some patrons who saw potential in young Bobby, that he was introduced to veteran singer/songwriter Walt Wilkins. After a meeting at Wilkins’ Austin area home, Walt, and then producing partner Tim Lorsch, agreed to produce Duncan’s first full-length album, “Lonesome Town”. To say the wheels began turning at a rapid pace would be an understatement. Duncan graduated high school in May of 2005, and production began at the Austin studio of Ray Benson, of Asleep at the Wheel fame, in late September of the same year.
Even with a polished product light years beyond the live recorded acoustic performances Bobby had gathered from many of the open mics, Duncan was still very new to the business of music making. It wasn’t until June of 2006 that, “Lonesome Town”, was released. A few months after the release of his first album, Duncan began to receive airplay on local Dallas/Fort Worth radio stations with his songs, “My Brew and Me”, as well as, “Back Out on the Town”, the latter gained traction throughout the region, and saw much airplay around Texas.
Over the years following his first release, Duncan and Wilkins had developed a much closer relationship, and the two reunited in January of 2009 to produce Bobby’s second studio effort, “Faith, Hope & Everything Else”. While all of the songs from the first release were penned solely by Duncan, the majority of the credits from, “Faith, Hope & Everything Else”, were created by Duncan and new songwriting partner Donovan Dodd. With Duncan’s fresh melodies, and Dodd’s background as an english professor, the two wrote the tracks to Duncan’s most successful record. Three singles were released to Texas radio from the record Duncan and Dodd lovingly call, “F.H.E.”, beginning with, “These Days”. The first single would be the most successful from the album while the following two singles, “Should I Give Anymore of Me”, and “Waiting to Hurt”, would provide solid follow-up airplay that extended the record’s life far beyond that of its predecessor.
Along with his band, Duncan began to see crowds growing all across the state. Nowhere more than his home base of Fort Worth, TX was the success more prevalent. As the crowds began to grow, Bobby drew interest from famed Fort Worth honky tonk Billy Bob’s Texas. Duncan achieved one of his childhood dreams of headlining the World’s Largest Honky Tonk in June of 2009. The success of the first show was unprecedented to Bobby and his band as they drew over 1,500 people. They truly had reached new heights in just a short amount of time since the May 5th release of, “F.H.E.”
As often is the case with songwriters, they begin writing for their next project immediately upon finishing their previous, and the partnership of Duncan and Dodd, was no different. However, they could feel the direction of the songs evolving melodically. When you age in such a public way as songwriting, everyone has the opportunity to pull back the curtains of a young life. Duncan quickly realized that the first sample of songs for his next project would call for a shift in the mindset of how to produce the new record. Searching for a new avenue, and in an attempt to improve as an artist, Duncan parted ways with his band of four years to focus on re-energizing his passion for creating music.
Shortly after switching back to performing acoustically, Duncan met with producer Justin Tockett from Nashville, TN. Tockett had worked with acclaimed songwriter Radney Foster on several of the albums Foster had produced, as well as producing his own records for artists such as Marc Broussard. Tockett and Duncan agreed to a trial production of two songs from the group that would become Duncan’s third studio album. After the first song was tracked, Duncan knew the path he should take, and the pair teamed up to make, “Forever from Here” over 2011 and 2012.
Duncan’s third effort is a much more polished, almost poppy, release. It shines on songs such as the title track, as well as, “Nowhere Left to Run”, and hints at Duncan’s love for artists such as John Mayer, Amos Lee, and Sara Bareilles on the tracks, “Apart We Fall”, and “It’s Hard to be Around You”.
As music has become a profitable business for many non-artists, Duncan released his new product in a much less public fashion. Relying on grass-roots and social media, instead of radio promoters and magazine ads, “Forever from Here”, didn’t generate the critical buzz that his second album did, but it has found a large share of loyal listeners that find the change from a more standard Texas singer/songwriter style, to a much larger sound, refreshing.
2012 and 2013 were big years personally for Bobby as he bought a house in his longtime home base of Fort Worth, TX with his longtime girlfriend, and they eventually married in December of 2013. (The marriage was presided over, in part, by longtime friend Walt Wilkins).
Whatever the future holds in music for Bobby Duncan, we have yet to see. The arduous process of grinding out a musical career continues. But, it is the path less chosen that often reaps the greatest rewards, and one faithful journeyman on that path is Bobby Duncan.