Music is his Mistress
He may not have known his path as a young 10-year-old, but Grant McFarren already knew he liked Colorado.
His two older brothers talked their parents into a skiing vacation in Michigan from their home in Indiana, and Grant laughs that they had never donned skis and shussed slopes before. Although they all liked it enough to go back and ski several times in the Great Lake state, it wasn’t until a trip to Breckenridge that McFarren remembers, “After that we decided to never go skiing in Michigan again.”
His parents quickly bought a condo (they own it to this day) and family vacations revolved around winter holidays and spring breaks. One year, when Grant was still living at home, they trekked out to explore what summer was like in the Rockies and that was all it took. They were hooked.
Growing up in Carmel, Indiana, a suburb of Indianapolis, Grant points out that his former hometown “is flat as can be. It’s a typical Midwestern suburb, nothing too exciting but a nice place to grow up.” As a child, he was sports-oriented and played a lot of soccer, ran cross country and track, and golfed. “That’s my sport with my dad. I had two older brothers to look up to and follow in their footsteps but by the time I was in middle school they were out of the house,” he says. He graduated from high school, in a class of 1,000, in 2002.
“In high school, I had done a lot of TV production. We had a studio in the school. My friend and I had a side project. We did an occasional TV show of variety skits—stupid high school stuff. We were inspired by the precursor to what became the Jackass show. We’d wrap our friend in boxes of bubble wrap, take him to the playground and push him down slides. We built a dummy out of a stuffed jumpsuit and tossed him off the roof. I did break my parents’ car windshield doing that,” he smirks with a hint of guilt. “We threw the dummy too high as I was driving by and he hit the glass.”
Grant explains their somewhat educational weekly word trick. “We’d do stuff like Word of the Week where we’d pick random words that looked humorous and hard to say, like brobdingnagian. It’s actually a word from Gulliver’s Travels, one of the lands he visits,” where everything was huge. Grant adds that it’s not just a noun but an adjective used to describe something giant. “So we’d film students, teachers and staff saying the word, edit it all together and poke fun of them.”
He thought he had an idea of what he wanted to do when he left high school but McFarren tells of the unforeseeable changes that can happen once you get into college. He ended up going to Indiana University in Bloomington and graduated in 2006 with a double major in telecommunications and communications and culture. Although he was in the department that housed film studies, which he figured would be his path, Grant discovered that he more enjoyed the theory and rhetoric aspects of the communications discipline. He was seriously considering grad school when he decided to move to Crested Butte instead.
Throughout high school and college, McFarren worked in retail at an outdoor gear store in Bloomington. His former manager, Ryan Dickens, eventually moved to Crested Butte. “I already knew that I liked Colorado and had visited Ryan in the Butte during my college years. I kinda realized the difference between Breckenridge and here and started to love Breck a lot less. It attracts a different kind of tourist. It’s more peaceful here in Crested Butte and it seemed to have more authenticity,” Grant says.
He moved to town in June 2006 with the intention of staying only through the summer. “At that point I was thinking about going to law school because I had gotten interested in entertainment law. I decided to put off law school, although I took the LSAT, but I also had some friends who went to law school and I wasn’t hearing great stories about it,” he says and adds, “I was becoming more indoctrinated into Crested Butte. The longer I lived here, the more I realized that law school seemed like a lifestyle change that I wasn’t into and so I decided not to embark on that path.”
Smitten with the lifestyle of newfound Buttianess, Grant took his resume into the Last Steep for a dishwasher position—yes, a resume. “EY said, ‘Can you work tonight?’ So I went to work in the kitchen that night, my very first kitchen job. I wasn’t entirely a kitchen virgin, I had volunteered to help at a cooking school where you got to take the class for free in exchange for a little manual labor.”
Soon thereafter he added the almost mandatory two-job minimum, a shift at Teocalli Tamale, and started living the ski dream, staying long past his intended summer-only. Grant became involved with community radio KBUT through Drew Canale, who was already a DJ and working at Teo.
“We got to talking about music. I got trained and eventually was the Monday late-night DJ,” Grant says of his popular show, which has been on the air every Monday from 2 to 4 p.m. since 2007, named Music is My Girlfriend. Now that he actually has a real girlfriend, Grant’s friends are pressuring him to change the name of his two-hour spin to Music is My Mistress.
“The genre is kind of all over the place but more often it’s indie rock. [Playing music] satisfies me on the same level that film did. I’ve helped out at the Crested Butte Film Fest for the past few years but I have no desire to go into film, although I still occasionally pick up a camera with the right inspiration but it doesn’t translate into a career change.”
Grant served on the KBUT board of directors and then in January 2010 was hired as the music director, and is also the web administrator and the membership director.
As it is for a lot of community and college stations, record labels and artists send music they want played over the air because KBUT doesn’t have set play lists and DJs can play what they want. Grant explains that the station gets 50 to 75 CDs in the mail every week and, he grimaces, “A lot of them are not good at all so as music director I sort through those. I know who our DJs are and what they play. I don’t tell the DJ that they have to play a CD but I’ll write up a description and say it might be to their liking.” As for all that vinyl and those CDs and doubles in the radio station’s library, the KBUT sale booth at the People’s Fair the last week in August is rumored to be making a comeback.
Another one of McFarren’s enjoyable obligations is captain of the KBUT softball team, which is in the final championship rec playoffs against the Tully’s team on Thursday, August 21. Grant clarifies, “I really didn’t play baseball growing up. The only year I did play, as a 12-year-old kid, I got beaned and walked. I stumbled into town softball a few years after moving here when a sign-up sheet was on the bulletin board at KBUT.”
Grant has worked at the Dogwood Cocktail Cabin for five years now, starting out in the kitchen making up the small plates and desserts and moving on to mastering the art of the Dogwood’s fine mixology. As a home brewer, his original passion was for craft beers but recently he’s been experimenting in making bitters, which he says are basically tinctures with multiple ingredients like citrus peel, barks, roots and a lot of aromatics mixed with a high-proof alcohol.
This spring, he and fellow KBUT colleague Chad Reich started a DJ biz called Star Mountain Sound. “The last few years I’ve had more and more friends ask me to DJ their weddings. Now it’s an official business and we’re doing it for strangers,” he grins. “With two of us, we can split up the job opportunities and it allows us to split the equipment buying costs,” he says of his third job. “It’s a nice side gig. I probably have 300Gs of music in my laptop. Being music director is being knowledgeable in many different genres,” which is a good thing since the two DJs are constantly booked.
In between all his everyday busyness, Grant does longer trail runs through the wilderness. He’s done the Grand Traverse, too. “Yeah, it was grueling,” he admits of the notoriously harsh midnight ski competition from Crested Butte to Aspen over gnarly terrain and extreme conditions. “I remember after we went over Star Pass it was a clear night with a bright three-quarter moon. It was situated right on top of Crystal Peak and I thought the volunteers had set up a spotlight. I said something to my partner, Drew Holbrook, and he went kinda silent. Then I realized it was the moon and I needed to eat something.”
Perhaps it’s because he was born on Mischief Eve, the prankster’s night before Halloween, that he’s somewhat quietly witty with a bit of an impish glimmer to his edge. Sure, he’d like to travel the world to far-away places sometime in the future but for now he adamantly confesses that he’s here to stay. “It’s all about this small community, the close proximity to wilderness and mountains. I don’t know where I could go that was better.”
Profile: Grant McFarren
Music is his Mistress