Airshow HQ sat down with Karen Maye, studio manager at our Boulder, Colorado location to talk influences, life in the studio, and the musical summer of 2015.
Throughout our Engineer’s Corner series, we’ve explored how Airshow’s staff became interested in music and working with musicians. What are your musical roots?
I was born and raised on the Big Island of Hawaii, in the small town of Keaau. Growing up in Hawaii exposed me to a lot of island music: Reggae, Hawaiian, and “Jawaiian” (Hawaiian Reggae) but not a lot of mainstream stuff. I have to credit my brother as the one who really exposed me to other music. We listened to lots of hair band rock: Poison, Motley Crue, Alice Cooper, Black Sabbath… and we loved the Beastie Boys. When grunge hit I was all over it with Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Faith No More, but it was harder to access music there. My only show experience in Hawaii was Nine Inch Nails my sophomore year of high school.
At the time, there were not a lot of people in Hawaii that were into the alternative / grunge scene. My small group of like-minded friends would have to defend our musical tastes. Senior year of high school, I decided to join the sound crew that played music during lunch. All the music that I wanted to hear never got a lot of play, but I felt it was important to fight for our right to our music. I don’t think I really had a chance to truly develop my musical tastes until moving to the mainland.
How did you end up in Colorado?
I moved to Colorado in 1996 to attend the University of Northern Colorado. I graduated in 2000 with a BA in Journalism / Telecommunications with a minor in multicultural anthropology. I moved to Boulder in 2001.
In 2002, I started working in the box office at the Boulder Theater. That really jump-started my love of the Colorado music scene, and it wasn’t uncommon to see 3-5 shows a week while I worked there. This was before the formation of Z2 Entertainment, so the Boulder Theater and the Fox Theater were separate entities. The box office crew (and occasionally security staff) would fight over the Fox Theater pass that we all shared. I also spent a summer working the day shift in the box office at Chautauqua Auditorium. I didn’t get to work a lot of show nights, but I loved staring at the beautiful Boulder Flatirons every day.
Many of our engineers are also musicians. What about you?
I’m much more of a listener. My creative side is better expressed in writing. Not long after starting at the Boulder Theater, I met a couple of guys named Brian Johnson and Brandon Yates who were starting a local indie music magazine called The Marquee. Thirteen years later I continue to contribute, and The Marquee is going strong. I’ve been able to interview some awesome artists over the years: Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews, John “Jojo” Hermann, Jake Shimabukuro, Galactic, and HAPA are a few that stand out. Interviewing artists reminds me that everyone is human, no matter how famous. It’s funny to me when artists are nervous about being interviewed – if only they knew how nervous I used to get! I remember Brian telling me once “they’re regular people, just like you and me, and when you realize that, you won’t be so nervous.” He was right.
So it seems you really like to go out and see music.
Definitely! It’s been a huge inspiration in my life. My husband is a taper and was the other integral part in developing my musical tastes. He was the one who introduced me to the jam bands, the British invasion bands, and funk. One of our favorite things to do is go out and see live music, discovering new music together. This summer has been a little crazy, the musical summer of 2015. I was lucky enough to see SEVEN shows at the one and only Red Rocks this year, made it to Chicago for the Fare Thee Well shows, and got to check out both RockyGrass and Folks Festival at Planet Bluegrass this year.
How did you first learn of Airshow?
A friend of Jessica Nicolella, who was the studio manager at the time. It also didn’t hurt that Jessica is married to one of my old security buddies from the Boulder Theater. I had been managing marketing and exhibits for an academic publishing company. It was a great job with an amazing team of people. I got to a point where I felt like I had taken the job as far as it could go and was ready for a new challenge. When my friend sent me the information on Airshow, I decided to check it out. It seemed like the perfect fit for me, combining my marketing / business talents with my love of music.
What do you feel you bring to the table at the studio?
Calm and order. Working with artists can be very high-stress, especially with deadlines involved. I’ve spent a lot of time working with all types of personalities in different contexts. When you can take an extra minute to explain something a little deeper, or sometimes just listening to the client, it can really help bring a sense of calm to the entire interaction. I try to facilitate open communication between our clients and the engineers to keep everything running as smoothly as possible. I also keep track of the business details – making sure invoices are sent out and paid, making sure master files have been delivered, and ensuring that both the client and engineer have everything they need.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
Being involved in the creative process. Helping make art happen and getting it out to the world. It is very inspiring to watch ideas evolve from something in your head into something that you can actually touch, hold, or listen to. I love the creative energy here. Getting to listen to excellent music every day and discovering new artists is also a great perk.