Jason Downing: professor by day, rockstar by night

As appearing in The Rocky Mountain Collegian

Colorado State University sociology professor, Jason Downing, is actually a rock star.

Downing may seem like an ordinary professor, but when he isn’t teaching, he fulfills the role of lead-singer for a Fort Collins based blues-fusion band Musketeer Gripweed.

Musketeer Gripweed's latest album.
Musketeer Gripweed’s latest album.

 Though Downing lives a unique life as the lead singer of Musketeer Gripweed and a sociology professor at CSU, he does not find this strange.

“I am having a great time teaching and doing music,” Downing said. “Not a lot of musicians are teaching college, but I think it is an advantage.”

In his mind, the advantage stems from his ability to share his passion for human rights in both jobs.

“At the shows, I talk about our responsibilities as human beings to each other. In class, I am talking about that with sociology,” Downing said. “I find that there’s a lot of cross over. Learning can be substantive and really fun. A rock and roll concert can be really fun with some substance. Why have one without the other?”

Downing said playing music allows him the chance to make an impact.

“At the end of every show, I tell the audience to make this a better place with some love and compassion,” Downing said. “I am singing because I think there are a lot of important things for people to get out of it beyond just the music.”

Downing describes the future of Musketeer Gripweed as living in the moment.

“The next thing is just seeing where this takes us,” Downing said. “It has already taken us places filled with fantastic adventures. Right now, I am just enjoying it. We can accomplish anything, because our minds are clear.”

Downing’s love for music came at an early age. He was first offered the opportunity to be in a band during eighth grade.

“A bunch of guys came up to me and asked if I wanted to sing in a band,” Downing said. “Everybody was already playing drums or bass and guitar, and so I was like, ‘Yeah! That sounds fun.’ I have sort of been playing music relentlessly ever since.”

Jason Downing performs with his band. ©Jay Blakesberg
Jason Downing performs with his band. ©Jay Blakesberg

Downing said his dad’s music career played a role in his decision to pursue singing.

“My dad sang in a band,” Downing said. “He still does, and he is seventy-five.”

Downing’s musical abilities are not limited to vocals. In fact, Downing said his biggest passion is writing music. Downing also plays harmonica, which he picked up after listening to blues albums that his dad got him, and guitar.

“When I was thirty, it seemed like I was too old to start learning an instrument, but I wasn’t at all,” Downing said. “Now I am forty-two and I have been playing the guitar on stage for twelve years.”

Downing draws his inspiration from a wide range of genres and musicians.

“I grew up with gospel, blues music and rock-and-roll,” Downing said. “I was listening to my dad’s Beatles records. I was listening to Pink Floyd. I listened to 50’s and 60’s stuff. And then I had my own stuff. I listened to the Black Crows.”

Downing elevated his music career ten years ago when he created Musketeer Gripweed.

“I had just gotten out of a band with talented people and I thought it was horrible,” Downing said. “A lot of people are willing to settle if they are playing music with talented people, but I didn’t just want to play with talented people who were dysfunctional.”

After coming to this realization, Downing said he created his dream band, handpicking each artist himself.

“I called a bunch of people that I wanted to work with that I knew were good people in hopes that they would want to be involved with it,” Downing said. “I wanted to collaborate with all of these guys and here we are ten years later. We are living the dream.”

Downing said patience is the key to creating a successful band with longevity.

“You’ve just got to get in a van and get your music out there,” Downing said. “People don’t catch on for a while because there is a lot of stuff going on. You have to raise your game musically. It has been a good journey of being able to be patient.”

Downing said Musketeer Gripweed’s name is a reference to a John Lennon movie.

“He was in a British comedy movie called ‘How I Won the War,’” Downing said. “He cut his hair for it and he was a private musketeer gripweed.”

Musketeer Gripweed’s albums “Dyin Day,” “Floods and Fires” and “Straight Razor Revival” can be purchased on iTunes. Information about upcoming shows can be accessed on the band’s Facebook site.

Collegian Reporter Randi Mattox can be reached at entertainment@collegian.com or on Twitter @randimattox.

More Stories