When he appeared on the 16th season of American Idol, Plano native and singer-songwriter Ron Bultongez was excited to make a name for himself.
While Bultongez was eliminated shortly after making it to the top 24, his hometown still celebrated him. Over the course of the past three years, the singer has performed at large local venues but has not yet released a full-length album because of label troubles following American Idol. Now, the artist is a free agent and ready to kick into high gear.
Earlier this month, Bultongez released a single called “Get Back Up,” a track he says came together spontaneously when a date turned into a writing session.
“I was on a date, and I was driving to go see a concert at The Rustic," he remembers. "I got a call from my producer, and he was like, ‘Hey man, can you come down to the studio?’ and I said, ‘Man, I’m on a date right now.’ I have a hard time clocking out of my music career. But she heard him on the phone, and she was like ‘It’s fine if you go to the studio.’”
Bultongez’s producer initially invited him to hang out, but the writing juices began to pour. The young woman with whom he was on a date was a singer, so she added harmonies to the track, which eventually became “Get Back Up.”
Although the single was recorded before the COVID-19 pandemic, Bultongez feels the song is relatable given the state of the world.
“I think we can all agree that we've really fallen down, and I just think this record is really timely because we're all looking for a way to get back up now," Bultongez says. "I think the best way to do that is to extend a hand to one another.”
Over the course of the past two years, Bultongez has been barred from releasing new music. He was briefly signed to Hollywood Records and Sony RCA UK, both of which dropped him. He also was in talks to sign with Kobalt Music Group, who later said he was a “risky investment” and ultimately decided not to sign him.
Despite these label troubles, Bultongez has been able to build a significant following with his singles and EPs.
“I feel that we’re almost like doctors in our own right,” Bultongez says. “We create medication for people’s souls. I had someone tell me ‘You helped me overcome my cocaine addiction. Anytime I had the urge, I’d just listen to your music.’ American Idol has helped me connect with more people. But on the negative side, it showed me a lot of parts of the industry that aren’t so fun.”
Now that he is free from these labels, the artist has decided to stop chasing deals and take a more grassroots approach to releasing music. Bultongez estimates that he is sitting on more than 100 unreleased tracks, from which he will select songs to form a full body of work.
“I think it’s about time to start working on my debut album,” Bultongez says. “I was tied down for about two years. Those post-TV show contracts are brutal. I dealt with a bunch of crap that kept me from releasing anything.”
In addition to being a singer and songwriter, Bultongez is also the father of a 3-year-old boy. His son was born shortly before his appearance on American Idol, yet people warned him that being a parent may hinder him from having a successful music career.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to the Observer's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Dallas's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
“When [my hairstylist] found out I was expecting, she started crying,” Bultongez says. “I thought she was excited, but she said ‘I’m just so sad that your career is about to go down the drain. You just worked so hard for everything.’ I didn’t know what to expect when I became a father, but honestly, having a child did the opposite. It’s a blessing to be a parent.”
At the moment, Bultongez has collaborations in the works with songwriters Tony Rainey and Melanie Andrews. He is also set to release a track with the band Magic (of “Rude” fame).
The music video for “Get Back Up” is set to premiere July 10. Bultongez fully produced the video in Dallas and encourages all local artists to seek inspiration within the city.
“I want the creatives to know that, like, you don't have to fly out to Nashville, New York or LA to make great art,” Bultongez says. “The art is inside of you and the talent is here at home. I encourage everyone to shop local.”