Plenty of famous musicians, including John Denver and Jimmy Buffett, have retreated to the Roaring Fork Valley over the years. Some musicians, however, begin careers here and aim just as high as the artists with the ranches and private planes. One of them is Alec Griffith, a 20-year-old hip-hop artist from Little Rock, AR, who goes by the name “Metalecalec.”
I recently visited him at his home in Carbondale, and he showed me how he starts a song: Sitting on his couch, iPad in hand, shopping online.
Griffith wore a fur-lined winter coat; his tattoos crept out from the ends of the sleeves. He was shopping for pre-produced beats to become the musical foundation to a song. He writes the lyrics.
You can find Metalecalec’s music on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, Pandora and pretty much anywhere online.
On his iPad, Griffith can see where people are streaming his music. He showed me by pulling up a map of the world, populated with his data.
“If we’re taking it to Europe, it looks like it’s spreading in London … um, somewhere in the middle, I don’t even know where this is at,” he said. It was in Vienna, Austria, where three people had streamed his music in the past 90 days. Three is not many.
“Hey, but it’s a start,” he said.
Griffith pays a company, CD Baby, $50 per song to splash his music across the Internet, which is likely how the three Austrian listeners found him. Every time someone presses play, Griffith says he makes one-one-hundredth of a penny.
“I just got a $12 check yesterday,” he said.
Because hip-hop doesn’t pay the bills yet, he works the night shift at City Market in El Jebel, stocking shelves. Besides covering his living expenses, all the money he makes goes into his upcoming album.
“So far, I’ve probably spent about $5,000 … I’m thinking I’ll probably spend about $15,000 total on this album,” he said.
Griffith moved to Carbondale this past summer to record at Mad Dog Ranch Studios, which sits on secluded property right on Snowmass Creek. Jimmy Buffett used to own the property, but it’s now a commercial studio.
One of the owners, Ralph Pitt, is a veteran sound engineer, who’s worked with artists like ZZ Top, Bonnie Raitt and Taj Mahal.
I paid Pitt a visit one day. Given his experience, I asked a question I’ve had all along: Does Metalecalec have a shot?
“He’s got as good of a chance as anybody,” Pitt said. “There’s some stuff that’s been produced over the years that is absolute poo. And it sells like wildfire. On the other hand, there’s stuff that’s out there that’s amazing, and nobody buys it … who knows?”
Pitt thinks something Griffith has done well is cultivating a fanbase.
“His audience, from what he told me, is mostly young girls. His music, primarily, talks about respecting women. He’s got a niche,” Pitt said.
Griffith admits as much; he invests a lot of time in growing what he calls the “TalecFamily.”
“I like to spend around five to seven hours a day, just simply interacting with my fans, just talking to them, until they’re in bed, which is around midnight,” Griffith told me.
His Facebook page and YouTube channel each have hundreds of thousands of views. In fact, as we sat in his living room, he filmed us for his YouTube channel. Griffith is his own promoter.
“I do everything myself; it’s a DIY situation,” he said.
Griffith has work ethic and he has passion, and even though he’s chosen a path that’s far from certain, he’s committed. He’ll continue to work on his debut album, “Lonely But Loyal,” mixed and mastered right here in the Roaring Fork Valley.