While Breaking Bobby Bones will shine the spotlight on a slew of deserving folks, Bones admits that it has also taught him a lot more about himself

By Tricia Despres
May 31, 2021 03:45 PM

Bobby Bones was scared out of his mind. There he was, a guy deathly afraid of heights, hanging off a rope 4,000 feet in the air over the Grand Canyon, contemplating the meaning of life and wondering about how the heck he found himself in such a predicament.

And then, he remembered.

"I had to learn how to do it because the guy I was with, that was his job," Bones, 41, tells PEOPLE in the days leading up to the Monday premiere of his new unscripted National Geographic show Breaking Bobby Bones. "The guy had been in prison. He was running with gangs, and he had changed his life completely when he found rope access."

And it was this story — and the many stories that followed — that had the award-winning radio and television extraordinaire doing the once-unthinkable on Breaking Bobby Bones, the foundations of which popped into his constantly swirling head nearly two years ago.

"I had this idea for a show that was a mix of what I like to do, which is to go out and meet people, hear their story, be funny and share my story," explains Bones, who serves as both host and executive producer of the new series. "But also, I wanted to pull in some of the elements of my favorite shows as well — ones that I watched, that have moved me."

And there were many to pick from.

"I think An Idiot Abroad is very funny," he says. "I like Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. There's a little bit of Dirty Jobs in there at times. There's even some Jackass in there. So, I took small elements from all these shows, but then I took a whole lot of what I do too."

breaking bobby bones
Bobby Bones
| Credit: NatGeo

Indeed, the mentoring aspect of what Bones does currently as the official in-house mentor on ABC's on American Idol mixed with the conversational skills he has long demonstrated on his nationally syndicated iHeartRadio program The Bobby Bones Show and his very own podcast BobbyCast have all found their way into the creating of Breaking Bobby Bones.

"We had this idea for me to go out and not only challenge myself but get the stories from folks who have been through a lot, either coming from a really tough background, or having been through a struggle later in their lives," explains Bones, who remains the youngest-ever inductee into the prestigious National Radio Hall of Fame. "I can relate to that coming from where I come from."

The past of Bones has long been infused into his story, a story of humble beginnings for the kid from a small town in Arkansas. And it's this adversity and Bones' respect for it within others that shines through every episode of his new show. "Hopefully, people will watch this and see that they're not alone," he says.

And while Breaking Bobby Bones will shine the spotlight on a slew of deserving folks, Bones admits that it has also taught him a lot more about himself.

"It's mostly about their story, but then I go try to do what they do, and then I compete in it as well," concludes the Season 27 winner of Dancing with the Stars. "It's been an exhausting show, but one that I have felt helped me grow too."

Granted, there is one person that won't be joining Bones on Breaking Bobby Bones anytime soon, and that's his fiancée Caitlin Parker. However, Parker did, in fact, find herself on a recent episode of Running Wild with Bear Grylls, where she could be seen repelling off a 400-foot cliff alongside the love of her life.

"It was the craziest thing we've ever done," Bones explains. "But I think, in terms of our relationship, we learned a lot about each other. I learned just how resilient and strong she is. And if there's a challenge, she's going to hit it head-on."

"I don't think I learned anything about you," Parker tells Bones during the PEOPLE interview, with a slight chuckle. "But it solidified things I already knew, like you are very supportive, and you're encouraging and always have my back."

Breaking Bobby Bones premieres Monday at 10 p.m. EST on National Geographic.