By Noah Sollinger | August 3, 2022
Artists are seen as the lifeblood of the music world, but the industry would not be what it is without the hard working people behind the scenes. Enter Stephen Grybowski, one of the key figures behind Dayglo Presents which includes Brooklyn Bowl, The Rock and Roll Playhouse, Relix, and more. With nearly ten years of experience in the industry, he got his start running marketing and volunteer programs for major U.S. festivals. In 2019, he co-founded Backline, a pioneering non-profit focused on fighting mental health issues in the industry. Grybowksi also played a massive part in the Bowl’s huge national expansion to Las Vegas, Philadelphia, and Nashville, and during the pandemic, he helped the team pivot towards live streaming and put on several high production live streams. An avid jam band fan who’s always down to catch a show, Grybowski’s passion for the industry spreads to anyone who comes into his orbit.
the groovement sat down with Grybowski in August to hear more about his journey on the business side of the industry.
What was your first concert?
The late, great, B.B. King with Jeff Beck opening in Charleston, SC on September 4, 2003. I went with my father a week after my 13th birthday. I still to this day remember how completely blown away I was by the music that night. I can’t thank my father enough for turning me onto live music way back when.
Where are you from/when did you move to nyc?
I’m from Charleston, SC and was interning in Atlanta, GA the summer after graduating from The College of Charleston (go Cougs!) when a room opened up in Bushwick with one of my best friends in the world (thank you Erin!) and I jumped at the opportunity. This was September 2012. The live music and culture of NYC is unrivaled to anywhere else in the world and I don’t see myself going anywhere else anytime soon.
How did you get started in the music industry?
I graduated from the College of Charleston in May of 2012. And immediately upon graduation, I took an internship based out of Atlanta, which had me running point on grassroots marketing campaigns for Wakarusa and Electric Forest. And then also at the same time organizing volunteer programs for Bonnaroo, Wakarusa, All Good, Electric Forest, and Phish’s three-day run at Bader field in Atlantic City. And then, while I was at Electric Forest, a friend of mine called me and asked me if I’d be interested in moving to New York and splitting an apartment in Bushwick with her and four friends. And I said yes. And over the course then like the next day, I started trying to find something to do in New York, and I was put in touch via a colleague with the Relix team, and I took an internship with them starting in September 2012. And I have bounced around Peter Shapiro’s companies ever since then.
How did your nonprofit organization, Backline, come about?
Within the summer of 2019, we had Jeff Austin and Neal Kasal both sadly take their lives. So myself and Hillary Gleason, who is the executive director of Backline, were like like “What the fuck? Why are people in our scene killing themselves?” With Kasal, nobody had a clue that he was struggling or having any issues. So we reached out to as many people as possible to see what we could do or what was lacking in the industry to support talent, people working in measure, and their families. And that just evolved into Backline. It definitely takes a village, but I co-founded it with her, and in October 2019, we found the board. Ever since, we are just doing everything we can to take care of people in our industry and the artists we all know and love. (Read more about in our Backline feature).
Who/what do you draw inspiration from?
I’m constantly inspired by anyone and everyone that has the courage to walk onstage and perform music. I’ve devoted the last 10+ years of my life to serving those who perform live music and I could not be more humbled and honored to assist musicians playing to empty rooms and stadiums alike in any way that I can.
What does live music mean to you?
It means the world to me, live music is the heartbeat of the human soul. It’s truly one of the few things on earth that can unite any two people from any two walks of life, anywhere in the world.
Connect with Stephen on Instagram, check out Backline’s website, and read our article about Backline.