Robert Olivas is like many Americans. He works five days a week and uses the money to pay his mortgage and car loan. He is fortunate to like the people he works with. They don’t try to micromanage him. They just let him do his thing. This is huge for him.
Olivas doesn’t have an office job, shackled to a desk, trapped within the confines of some cubical. Instead, he makes his money onstage as a karaoke host at bars all across DFW. He says karaoke is an art form.
“The power of music has the ability to heal,” Olivas says. “Whatever you’re going through, it just gives you a place to be yourself for four minutes.”
On Wednesdays, people can find Olivas doing his thing in The Colony at Barrel & Bones Craft Bar and Smokehouse. The next day, he heads to Shenanigans, a bar in Rockwall. His next three stops are in Dallas: Drinks Saloon on Friday, Chesterfields Food & Spirits on Saturday, ending the weekend at his headquarter spot, The Uptown Pub on Sunday.
Music has played a fundamental role in Olivas’ life, but he wasn’t raised with it. He grew up in a small town and the high school he attended didn’t even have a choir, so he was raised on sports.
Baseball is what made him tick, he says. His summers were filled with Little League practice, games and Sandlot-esque memories of the national pastime. That all came to a stop when he suffered from a slipped femoral epiphysis.
The cap on his right femur slipped, pinching off the femoral artery in his leg, causing blood loss. This stunted the growth of his right leg, which led to an arthritic hip joint. When he got it X-rayed, the doctors said they would have to open him up for surgery. Surgeons tried to correct the slip with four titanium pins in his femur, but the damage was done, Olivas says. His right leg was half an inch shorter than his left.
“So, bye-bye sports career, here comes music career,” Olivas says. “I went from jock to geek pretty much, which is probably the best thing that ever happened to me, because music is my life.”
While Olivas was working in the service industry in college in the ’90s, a waitress he had a crush on dared him to sing a karaoke song. He sang “Little Red Corvette” by Prince and not only got the girl but also the karaoke bug.
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What was a dare turned into something he did weekly, he says, and soon, he and a fraternity brother started a karaoke company called Mardi Gras Entertainment.
When Olivas' childhood injury came back, Olivas reached out to local bars and other businesses to see if they were interested in starting a karaoke night at their establishment.
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“I started building a name for myself, and other opportunities opened up,” he says. “That’s how it became a career."
Olivas eventually got his hip replaced and today, his karaoke career is stable, he says.
He has been hosting karaoke at The Uptown Pub for five years. He says he doesn’t even have to advertise it anymore. People just show up. He says there is nothing else he would rather be doing with his life besides being in business for himself and entertaining people.
“Not many people can say they truly enjoy what they do,” he says. “I truly enjoy what I do.”