The Maverick is a gentleman, but make no bones about it—Mikel Knight is a Texas boy on the music scene and is one to be reckoned with. He’s not afraid to speak his mind or step up to the plate to “git ’r done.” A Cirque du Soleil juggler has fewer balls in the air, but Knight handles it like a pro. Between music videos, touring, film projects, and hitting the road with the MDRST (Maverick Dirt Road Street Team), there’s not much time off for this country music pioneer. He’s a cowboy who wears many hats, including a director, actor, screenwriter, and of course singer and performer. He is a businessman, and a proud father at home.
As if the debut of his new album Urban Cowboy wasn’t enough work, Knight now has plans to go on the road touring around the country while working on several film projects. “Where the City Meets the Country” is the tagline of the latest album, which is all about having a righteous good fun time. Knight’s new single, “Last Night in Texas,” will be a hit on CMT (Country Music Channel) this summer, I guarantee it!
Mikel Knight has been busting the music world wide open, and his single “Saddle Up” has been straddling this music genre in rodeo-style fashion. Kickin’ butt and takin’ names is what this industry leader does. Knight’s music is a perfect showcase for his urban country style. If somehow Pitbull and Garth Brooks combined to make a music-singing son, they wouldn’t be proud and a little jealous at the same time. Mudders take note: Where this guy goes the ladies follow—in droves!
In the early days, Mikel Knight won over a bunch of Tokyo fans with musical trips around the world, but lately he and his fans have been rapidly growing their MDRST crew around town near you. He has been “around the U.S. visiting and preforming at nearly every country bar around the states” for the last five or six years. The Maverick is currently putting together an overseas schedule, including a few Canadian stops that include some film ventures to boot.
This Texas Hill Country singer has been in talent shows for longer than he can remember. He took to music like an off-roader takes to mud. After declaring his independence by launching his own record label called 1203 Entertainment Incorporated, Knight surrounded himself with a team of dedicated friends and colleagues before hitting the road and never looking back. In a little under 19 months, his independent label can boast the achievement of selling 430,000 CDs and 35,000 T-shirts. This is definitely not the first independent label to do so well at its first attempt, but it is the first of any music label in history to pull this off by selling hand-to-hand.
1203 Entertainment is now has one of the largest independent record labels in the country music and hip hop genre. The label is now in talks to start working on some new exciting projects that will make you move in the near future. The music label and recording studio currently call Nashville home, and when you don’t find Knight in the studio or on the road, you might just catch him out in a mud hole with the MDRST crew. Catching up with the Maverick wasn’t easy, but once I set a date he was happy to sit down, take a load off, and put his boots up for a nice long chat with Mud Life.
Mud Life: As we speak—no sugar-coating it—what were you doing an hour ago?
Mikel Knight: Landing in Los Angeles airport for three days of meetings. Big things are coming! We can’t talk about it yet, but we should be releasing an announcement soon.
ML: You were just in Panama City, Florida, for spring break. There probably weren’t any parties or hot girls or anything like that, right?
Knight: Of course there were! And it’s pretty much the same every year we are down there. The sexy country girls hanging out of pickup trucks are my personal favorite. We have a song on my Urban Cowboy album about country girls in an F-150. My label is out there every year in Florida promoting the Mikel Knight brand in Daytona and Panama City during Spring Break.
ML: When you get time off from touring, cutting albums, and film endeavors, what’s for fun?
Knight: I’m a workaholic. I live in the studio, and if I’m not, mostly I do whatever my kids want me to do—that’s the cowboy way. But I play some football and basketball. I’ll QB the MDRST football games on our days off out on the road, and any time out on the lake fishing or out in a mud hole with the MDRST is a good time. We usually hit a mud hole about four times a year.
ML: What toys do your buddies get to borrow out of the garage?
Knight: I have a jacked-up Ford Excursion and an all-original ’79 cherry-red 98 Oldsmobile that will appear in the “Last Night In Texas” music video that will be shot in July.
ML: You have a great loyalty to those close to you, the friends and family you grew up with. Can you tell us, no pun intended, where you dug up the bunch that make up the Maverick Dirt Road Street Team?
Knight: When I was finally financially stable enough in my career, I brought together all my brothers and best friends from my childhood, along with the most talented producers, songwriters, and managers I’ve worked with in my last 15 years, and created 1203 Entertainment Inc. The MDRST sprang out of that; it is the world’s largest street promotions team. It started out of one van. In less than two years, I’ve grown the MDRST into a fleet with 17 vans and a tour bus, and it’s still growing. The MDRST consists of 50-plus country boys from almost 16 states, and we are the best at what we do: getting those CDs and good times out to the fans.
ML: So what has the MDRST been up to lately?
Knight: We just toured Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Ohio. Next week we’re heading out to the wild, wild west. Like I said, I have a fleet of fancy tour vans and jacked-up trucks, and an eye-catcher of a tour bus. Yes, that’s sort of the MDRST formula. We want folks to look at us. We want folks to notice the country-rap motley crue coming into town. So we travel in grand fashion. Our vans and tour bus all have bright, loud graphics and rebel flags all over them. If you miss us coming to your town, you’re under a rock somewhere. You can follow us on Facebook and Twitter and see thousands of fan pics and comments from our touring the states. It’s a blast.
ML: What was it like growing up in San Antonio? A big city with a small town feel?
Knight: Well, it depends. I grew up on the outskirts of S.A. for many years, bounced around to a few military bases in Texas for a few years, then landed in a small town called Cibolo, Texas. Then when I started high school, my mother moved us to the city, and that is how my urban country style was born. If anyone knows about Texas, it is a big city country state. Everything is bigger in Texas . . . what can I say.
ML: That’s the culture where you grew your unique sound?
Knight: Without a doubt. My style comes from the exact line where the country and city meet! Not on either side, but right on the line.
ML: Texas is not known as an easy place to break into music in any genre, but you’ve managed to gain your largest fan base there. You’re the number-one selling artist in any genre in Texas right now.
Knight: That’s a fact. Texas is one of my biggest markets where I have the largest fan base—as well as Florida and California. There is a lot of competition and a lot of good music out there, but Texas also has a sound of its own, and if you are going to try and change it up, it’s not going to be easy. I’m proud to say that I’ve pioneered a new sound that is now loved everywhere, including Texas.
ML: The country rap genre is really taking off, yet there’s still only a handful of musicians tack-ling it. Y’all are blazing trails and building a large fan base, yet last I heard, the CMA and AMA offer no awards for the genre.
Knight: Not yet, and I will tell you why. There hasn’t been a star to emerge in the country rap genre yet. The other guys in the genre do not appeal to the masses. That’s where I come in. Years ago, Colt Ford used to jokingly refer to me as a model. I used to tell him it’s like a NASCAR race and I’m drafting him till the last lap and then I’m going to pass him in a grand fashion. This year I am proud to say I will do just that. But much respect to Colt for what he’s done at his age for our genre.
ML: Do you think, for whatever reason, people may be getting hung up on labeling the style?
Knight: Yes, that was the case for many years. When I started country rap in 2002 there was only Cowboy Troy and Mikel Knight. CT named his “hick hop,” and I believed we could call it what it was, country rap. Then Average Joes comes out with Colt Ford and refuses to say the word rap, yet Colt says he can’t sing, so he’s rapping on his first single. That kind of confusion has been detrimental to the genre. Just call it what it is. If you hate rap or country, that’s your right in America, but the fact is your kids are gonna love it!
ML: So after a rough patch with some record deals, you are a self-proclaimed independent musician. You were willing to commit to the huge task of not only writing, singing, and touring but also production, graphics, and marketing.
Knight: Yes, and some would argue, me wanting to be a self-made man with no ties to anyone, and not selling out to the labels for a quick trip to the big show, has been part of my slow progress to break onto the national scene. But what took me a long time to create on my own now makes me the most successful country rap/ hick hop artist in 2014. There is not one artist in my genre that is their own boss and writes their own check, except Mikel Knight. I’m proud to be able to show these young guys on my label how I did it and to help them do the same in their lives.
ML: Sounds like there might be some old Texas Ranger blood running in the veins. Your reputation of getting out there and getting it done precedes you. If you knew then what you know now, would you still have gone the indie route?
Knight: YES, and yes. I grew up in a military family, and it didn’t really come out until recently, but I am a drill sergeant when it comes to my work ethic.
ML: Any joint music ventures in the works that you’d like to talk about?
Knight: Besides my new album (Urban Cowboy, Where the City Meets the Country) I also have a group album coming out with the Duke Boyz, called Denim & Chrome. The group includes my brother KoolWhip from Austin Texas. Anywhere you’ve seen Mikel Knight, you’ve seen my brother Koolwhip. On stage, or in the videos, you can’t miss him. Also Nashville’s own Jellyroll, as well as myself, make up the remaining members of the Duke Boyz. This album is like a mixture of Brantley Gilbert, Lil John, and Mikel Knight. Add a little whiskey and some buckshot, and you got Denim & Chrome, due out this fall.
ML: What about an upcoming tour schedule?
Knight: The MDRST never stops, so please go to mikelknight.com to see where we will be next. We have big things planned for 2014—not just my goal of selling one million CDs!
ML: Summer is here. Where’s your favorite vacation getaway? What does the Maverick order off the menu at his favorite restaurants?
Knight: Anywhere in the South, and some fishing please! I grew up in south Texas, also known as Mexico, so anything wrapped in a tortilla, or BBQ from Texas, is all I need for the rest of my life.
ML: Thank you for your time, Mikel. Just one more thing: Fishermen gotta fish and mudders gotta dig. Any secret holes you can share with the Mud Life readers?
Knight: If you haven’t been to any Texas mud holes, then you must, and of course my favorite is the Redneck Yacht Club in Punta Gorda!
Mud Life had a good time chatting with Mikel. Oh, and Mikel, are you sure you don’t want to change that one line in “Saddle Up” from “if you see a bad girl” to our version: “if you see a mud girl, tell her go and saddle up”? We’ll wait right here while you take care of that.
Check out Urban Cowboy, Where the City Meets the Country now, and look for Denim & Chrome this fall. And stay tuned because Knight has promised to keep Mud Life readers posted on his busy schedule, tour dates, and any other premieres in the works.