Local music ambassadors start record label

Thursday , July 31, 2014 - 4:52 PM

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Brad Rizer and Chris Johnson, founders of Beergrass Records, pose for a photo outside of Mojos...

Standard-Examiner staff

Beergrass Records is Ogden’s newest record label, and it started out more as a dream than as a business.

Headed by local musician Brad Rizer, of North Ogden, and close friend Chris Johnson, an Ogden resident, the Beergrass label is all about “listening responsibly” to local music.

Rizer, 24, has played the guitar for the better part of his life. Because of his love and dedication to local music, he and Nate Pectol, a dear friend who has since died, started dreaming of creating an independent label that would do more for the “little guys” than would a typical label.

“We wanted to create something better, and then when Nate passed,I started talking with Chris, and it just blossomed into 100 times more than what Nate and I ever thought it was going to be,” Rizer said.

“We’re geared up to be able to not only offer our musicians everything we want, but be able to offer other musicians all around the state all around the country. We’re like a one-stop-shop for merchandise reproduction, for booking and promotion, for recording – all sorts of stuff.”

Rizer said the company’s name came about from a bluegrass jam night with Pectol that, after some drinks, turned into something that sounded like outlaw country music.

“It was literally just a style of music that Nate and I played,” Rizer said, laughing at the memory. “There’s bluegrass, there’s newgrass, there’s this, that and the other grass, so ours is Beergrass.”

Family, not fans

Another key aspect of Beergrass Records is its total embrace of local music. Since its beginnings in late February and its first official showcase in April, the label has brought on six artists and bands, Rizer said.

Johnson, 34, who doesn’t play music himself, said he takes over many of the day-to-day duties of the label so Rizer can focus on his musical career. Johnson is constantly on social media and the phone, arranging concerts, promoting bands and answering fan mail.

“A lot of my days are spent trying to find different ways to get these guys in front of different crowds instead of just necessarily playing in Ogden and getting the same 50 people out,” Johnson explained. “That’s my goal, to try to get these guys in front of more people, new eyes, new ears, new mouths – to tell their friends.”

Despite the headaches that stem from constant promotion and booking, both Johnson and Rizer said they have gained something invaluable: family.

“This is not even so much a business plan as it is a dream, I mean it’s a family,” Rizer said. “Yeah, there’s the business aspect, we are running it as a business, but more so over, all this is family. There is no other way to describe it.”

The bands and artists featured on the label – Hi-Fi Murder, Tainted Halos, Carrie Myers, Scott Ferrin and Danny Wildcard — are all included in this large Beergrass family. Johnson wants to open the family to more than just artists; he welcomes everyone into the fold.

“Beergrass is only just a small portion of what we’re trying to do. The record label is only a small portion,” he explained. “What we’re trying to do is welcome the rest of Utah into what we have found as family through this local music scene. I mean, people need to open their eyes: It is really going on here in Utah.”

Local music ambassadors

Johnson said he wants to see more support from the community for other kinds of art, for the local musicians who work hard perfecting their craft. He said the tunes coming from these local artists blow his mind.

“The naysayers don’t speak up so much when it comes to books, when it comes to artwork, when it comes to theater, but what these musicians are doing is every bit art,” Johnson said. “It’s every bit as much art as a photographer, a painter, a sculptor. And yet we’ve always found ways to draw and support them. Now let’s try and find a way to focus on supporting this newer age of artists.”

Rizer and Johnson wouldn’t call themselves ambassadors of local music. Instead, they place the stamp on those who support the scene through attending concerts. For Rizer, local music is an escape from the monotony of daily life.

“Really, the thing I love about it the most is that its an escape. The minute I’m done playing and I have to get off the stage, it’s like, ‘Oh crap, I have to go back to real life now.’ There’s a lot of other musicians that feel the same thing,” Rizer said. “There’s a lot of musicians out there that want to make something more of this than something they just do in their spare time. That’s why I want to be able to get in there and help them do this.”

Chris agreed, and said he likes local music for its intimate gatherings.

“After shows there’s just this awful depression that sets in until the next show comes. It’s gone to the point where this is our family,” he said. “You go to a local show and you find a band you really love, and you go to two or three shows then you might find yourself at a barbecue at the drummer’s house. You also get the opportunity where you actually get to meet them and know them personally.”

Concerts galore

Now a full-fledged label, Beergrass is booking shows for its bands left and right. Johnson said there are five shows just in Salt Lake City this month. That’s not including the two dates in Ogden on Aug. 29 and 30 at Mojos Music Venue.

The label also books shows in Logan and works closely with fellow promoter, Adam Stiletto, who is based there. Stiletto put on a July 4 local music festival at Riverdale Resort in Preston, Idaho. Beergrass artists played the festival, and Rizer said everything went off without a hitch. Lala-pool-ooza, as the festival was named, had three stages and 50 local bands playing non-stop for 12 hours.

“Because it was so successful, Adam is able to put it on again, and next year we are going to have up to five stages, and we get our own stage, and that’s an honor,” Rizer said.

Beergrass hasn’t seen a flood of money since its beginning, but the label is growing in popularity. Johnson said after the music festival, he is still getting “like” notifications on Facebook. But for the two men, the label and the music it promotes are not about the money or the numbers.

“That’s why the musicians that were chosen were chosen, for the simple fact that they hold the same belief on what we wanna do, they understand what we’re trying to do, and they’re patient,” Rizer said. “They are really good people, and they are more in this for the ideal that we’re into it for. If we could do this and not have to have money, I’d be 100 percent OK with that.”

The record label’s website is www.beergrassrecords.com. Johnson said the best way to reach out and experience Beergrass is to come to any of the upcoming concerts.

“This is something that is fun and is there for all of us to do together and enjoy.”

Contact reporter Raychel Johnson at 801-625-4279 or rajohnson@standard.net. Follow her on Twitter @raychelNEWS.

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