Jeremy Grant listens to the same songs for many nights of the year. It’s his job. These songs are, by many accounts, jam band music, but Grant admits he doesn’t even really like jam bands. Regardless, the 40-year-old Greeley native is the monitor engineer and stage manager for Leftover Salmon, one of the most celebrated jam bands around.
If this sounds about as boring a job as licking stamps for a living, think again. Grant loves and appreciates it. Leftover Salmon is one of the most successful jam bands in the world. He’d probably like it even without the obvious perks. “They’re super-talented guys,” Grant said. “It’s really fun working with them. They’re super nice, and they’re world-class musicians.”
It’s Grant’s job to ensure the band sounds great on stage, and while that’s up to the musicians, it’s up to him too – more than you might think. When the balance is off, the guitar amps are too loud, the drummer sounds like he’s hitting a tin can or the singer’s mic is out, it’s his job to fix that. “There’s a lot of things that can go wrong,” Grant said, “and they always do. You learn how to troubleshoot really fast.”
Grant got a four-year degree from the University of Colorado-Denver, but like many sound guys, he had to start the hard way: in clubs with a different band every night, using equipment that’s better suited for a garage than a venue. Leftover Salmon, by comparison, is cake.
“When you’re running a club, you’re going five nights a week,” Grant said. “It can get pretty intense. But when you’re with a band, you know the sound, you know the guys, and you know the songs. It’s pretty easy, and Leftover Salmon is big enough that they play in pretty nice places wherever you go.”
Grant got his start in 2001 helping bandmate Colin Bricker with his audio business (Mighty Fine Productions) and playing with Damon Smith, the guy who founded My Favorite Bands. His first sound gig was at a salsa club in Denver with an 11-piece band. A tough gig that taught him the ropes. “The downbeat was the time to start mixing,” Grant said, which is equivalent of having to finish cooking an 11 course meal after it’s on the table in front of hundreds of hungry salsa fans.
These days, Leftover Salmon doesn’t tour extensively, which Grant likes. He flies to weekend gigs and festivals – cushy ones, mostly, including a recent week-long cruise featuring jam bands, a sold-out show last month at the stunning new Washington’s in Fort Collins and the super fancy Boogie At The Broadmoor Hotel coming up March 22 – 24.
It’s a safer job too. A decade ago, a patron punched a window after he was kicked out of the club where Grant was working, and a piece of the shattered glass flew into his eye. An eye surgeon in Fort Collins (one of the best in the world) told Grant he probably couldn’t save his eye, but amazingly did after two surgeries sewing the cornea back together – as delicate a job as sewing a gashed grape.
You’d think the job would be harder on the ears than eyes, but Grant had a pair of ear plugs professionally molded to fit his ears, and he carries them with him constantly, even to get coffee.
Grant still occasionally works for Hodi’s Half Note in Fort Collins as Production Manager when he’s off the road. He makes a comfortable enough living between that and Leftover Salmon for his wife and three kids, especially with his wife Brandie’s income as a labor and delivery nurse.
A Dylan fan, Grant appreciates song structure, lyrics and choruses. Sometimes it seems like jam bands don’t play any of that. Ironically, that’s why he loves his Leftover Salmon job: Every show is different. Not only does the band improvise over the songs, they change things up, extend the song and invite guests on stage, keeping Grant alert. When guests appear, he has to run up and make sure the equipment will work.
“Everywhere they go there’s a guest,” Grant said. “They’re very spontaneous, which is entertaining.” For a sound guy it’s even a blessing. Recently attending two nights of Tom Petty shows, he noticed that Petty played the exact same set both nights. That’s definitely not what being the sound guy for Leftover Salmon is about. It’s about jamming, man, and Grant is a fan, at least of his own bosses. “Every night is a different experience,” he grinned.