By Zach Collier
Aimee Vargas is a unique and inspiring individual. A dream follower, she’s gone from a young, avid concert goer/mega-fan to a major influencer in the Provo music community. Not only is this an impressive achievement, it is also remarkable because she is not a performing artist herself. Vargas has put hundreds of hours into street teaming, promoting, booking, and producing. She’s filmed and uploaded hours of concert footage to the internet. Initially doing all of this on a volunteer basis, her consistent, devoted effort has opened up countless opportunities for her. We were fortunate to spend a little time asking Aimee Vargas about her unique experiences. See what she has to say about her first concert, her career experiences, and the growth she’s seen in the Provo music scene.
So Aimee. You’ve been a very supportive, consistent face in the Provo music community. When did you attend your first concert in Provo? Who was it that you saw?
Thank you! I try to be as supportive as I can to the music scene. The first concert I attended in Provo was in August of 2010. Ever since I was little I have been a big fan of American Idol. I remember being on Twitter one day and I saw Twitter conversations between Brooke White and David Archuleta of Idol season 7 with a guy named Benton Paul. I wondered who that was but didn’t really think much of it then. But about a year later, or maybe months after that, I got to see Brooke perform at a Barnes & Noble. At that show she mentioned Benton Paul and the crowd cheered when he was mentioned. That got me curious to really dig in to see if he was a musician and why he was known to the crowd there. Later that night I googled his name and found his music. Ever since that night I’ve been hooked to Benton’s music. About a year after that Barnes & Noble show I was scrolling online and saw that Benton was having a show not far from where I lived at a place you all might know – I didn’t know how popular the place was back then – called Velour Live Music Gallery. It was the week after my 16th birthday so I was able to convince my mother to drop me off because it was the only thing I wanted to have as a birthday present. The three performers who opened up for Benton Paul were Lindsey Stirling, Jenn Blosil, and Truman Brothers. It’s amazing to see all the things all four musicians have accomplished since 2010. I feel pretty lucky that that show was my first experience in the music scene. I am thankful to David Archuleta, Brooke White – and Twitter – for being the reason why I found Benton Paul. And I am thankful that Benton Paul, Jenn Blosil, Lindsey Stirling, and Truman Brothers were a big inspiration why I chose music as a career. I owe my life to them [Laughs].
What made you want to keep coming back to local shows?
That first show in 2010 was what kept me going back to local shows. I got hooked with Lindsey Stirling, Jenn Blosil, and Truman Brother’s music and so I started going to their shows when I could. Then I’d like their opener’s music so I’d make sure to see them. Then I would like their opener’s music too, and so forth. I noticed that my list of favorite performers kept growing and there was no way I could just leave the music scene like that.
Since that first concert, what have been your biggest accomplishments? Who have you worked for, and what have you been doing?
Since that first concert I have had the chance of street teaming for 15-20 local bands, sometimes all at once. I’ve also had the opportunity to work at Rock Canyon Studios for a music webcast, been a Utah Music Awards co-producer along with the amazing Warren Workman, talent coordinator for two TV shows, and now am an A&R rep for Wish Granted Records which is a local independent label. I also get opportunities to book shows here and there, put musicians on different TV opportunities and the local news station. I love all the experiences, big or small, that I’ve had. As long as I’m involved with local music and working with musicians, I’m pretty happy. I’d say one of my biggest accomplishments would be that I got to interview Tyler Glenn and Chris Allen of Neon Trees for one of the TV shows I worked on. Neon Trees is my favorite band, so getting the chance to sit down with people I admire was huge for me. Also through Rock Canyon Studios and the company they were partnered with, we would have workshops that were offered to local musicians. We’d feature people who work in the music business like producers, co-writers, music managers, etc. such as: J.P. Negrete, Jacob Luttrell, Tim Fagan, Ian Eskelin, Rick Barker, Bobby Rymer, and Neon Trees’ manager Michael Iurato and more.
Have your experiences working with local musicians been fulfilling? If so, do you have a favorite memory?
Working with local musicians has definitely been fulfilling. When I worked at Rock Canyon Studios I got to be around Jason Scheff, the bass player and lead singer of the band Chicago, quite a lot and I’m glad that I got the chance to learn so much about music through him. Every encounter I have had with him is a memory that I cherish because he’s a talented guy that you learn so much from. I can’t think of other favorite memories per-say, but every time I get to work with a band, artist or at a music event, and then see the final result – like seeing them perform after countless hours of hard work – it makes it worth it for me. I love seeing musicians evolve in their music and seeing them 100% happy when they perform. It’s all about a musician’s happiness and effort that reminds me why I love being involved in the music scene. I want people to succeed.
Is there any local artist that has really made a big impact on you? One that you look up to and respect?
Oh man, I have quite a lot of local artists that I look up to! I try to revolve my life around people that inspire me to go after my dreams, so my list is quite long. Some local artists that I really admire would be Tyler Glenn, Alex Boye’, Nathan Osmond, Jesse Wride, and John Allred. I look up to Tyler Glenn because what you see is what you get from him. He is honest in who he is, in what he writes, and when he performs. I love seeing him perform whether that’s solo or in his band Neon Trees, because I see someone who has worked so hard to be where he is musically, and it’s inspiring to see him happy on stage and giving all his energy to that particular show. I really respect Alex Boye’ because he has treated me with respect from the second I got to meet him. I actually didn’t meet Alex at a music related event. Back in 2012 my former wheelchair basketball team put a celebrity wheelchair basketball game together and Alex happened to be one of the people we got to play against. He had no idea who I was but when I introduced myself to him he came over and gave me a hug and treated me as if I mattered, as a person he has known for years – not a stranger. That experience mattered and still matters so much to me, because after all these years he continues to be a man who treats everyone and myself with respect, and he values every second he talks to you. I look up to Nathan Osmond for almost the same reason. He is a positive guy and I’m glad I get to call him a friend. I was fortunate enough to work with him when I was involved with the last TV show, and being able to see him put passion in everything he does is what I continue to strive for. I look up to Jesse Wride and John Allred a ton because of their music. I think it’s important to find that musician or band that changes your whole perspective on life and Jesse and John are that for me. Jesse’s music gives me a positive perspective about my life and who I am as a person when I need in the most. I feel like I can achieve anything when I ponder on his lyrics. His music allows me to get back up after feeling like my world is crumbling into pieces. John Allred’s music has shaped me tremendously. There have been many times where I have felt like I had no one and no where to turn to, but his music can be the only escape for me in that moment. John’s music has gotten me through many trials, and continues to be that “crutch” that I need from time to time. His music has made me stronger that’s for sure!
You mentioned the Utah Rush and how you used to play for them. If you don’t mind me asking, what is your condition? And how has it shaped your perception of the world? Is there anything that you wish people understood about disabilities that they might not understand?
I have Spina Bifida. Basically it’s where the spine is formed differently before birth and it can cause various deformities such as in the spine, brain, legs, etc. I’ve had this disability my whole life but this disability does not define me. I can let the fact that I walk differently, or use a wheelchair here and there be the reason why I don’t go after my goals and dreams, or I can keep going and do the best that I can. There is nothing that can stop me, and if there is something that tries to, I will figure it out and overcome it. I firmly believe that I am given situations in my life that I can handle. I wouldn’t have been given this disability if I couldn’t mentally and physically handle it. There is not one moment where I think to myself that I shouldn’t have Spina Bifida. I wouldn’t trade my life at all. I’m not here to prove to the world that even though I have a disability, that I will make it in the music business. No. I’m here to prove to myselfthat even though I have a disability, I can and will make it in the music business. I don’t have a plan B, I only have a plan A, and that’s the only thing I’m going for. No plan B or C, just A. I have been breathing for almost twenty-two years and I’ve survived, accomplished many things, I’m happy, and will continue to use my passion for the good. One thing that I wish people understood about me with this disability is that I can do things on my own. Sometimes the initial reaction to meeting a person with an obvious disability is the thought that they need motivation, help, or pity (sometimes pity can be given without trying to). But honestly, everyone has their own disability that they’re dealing with. Mine is just physical and more apparent. I appreciate those who treat me like how they treat others they encounter. My disability has given me the perception that anyone should go for what they want and get it. All it takes is hard work and determination. Everyone and anyone can and will get discouraged. Continue to fight, especially in that moment where you think you have nothing else to give. Keep pushing yourself. We are human and sometimes our emotions get the best of us, but after allowing yourself to feel those negative feelings, stand back up and run. Run for what it is you want and don’t stop until you’re there. Don’t give up, because even though I might not know the person reading this, I do know that you have so much to offer to the world and yourself. You’ve made it this far, which means you can and should continue to live fearlessly. Don’t do something because you want to prove others you can do it, do it to prove yourself. You are the only one living that life of yours, not anyone else, so stop trying to please others if it’s not pleasing you, too.
Wow Aimee. Thank you for that. That was wonderful. Your outlook on life is incredible – mostly because you don’t just talk it, you live it. You recently put on a benefit concert at Audio West for the Utah Rush. What was that experience like – getting everyone together to support a cause you felt passionate about? How was it received?
That show was great to put together. I’m thankful that David Davaney and the rest of the Audio West staff were kind enough to let me put a benefit concert together there. Utah Rush is a NWBA (wheelchair NBA) sanctioned team that I used to be a part of back in my high school days, and the sport means so much to me. I was approached by the team to possibly put my current passion of music and their need for funds together into one event, and I’m glad we were able to make it happen. The process was quite easy. Mostly what I had to do was find the bands and it took a week to find the bands that I wanted. Confirmation from bands took quite a while, but again, it was still easy. I’m so thankful to have had Stereotype Inc., As We Speak, John Allred, and Festive People perform for the crowd. The turn out of the crowd was more than what I expected so I am pleased with how it turned out. People seemed to enjoy it! The Utah Rush team might want to do it as a yearly event, so I’m excited to help them out when it is time and now that we’ve done one, we can figure out what worked and what didn’t so that we can make the next benefit concert even greater!
So, in your time since getting involved with the local music scene, how has it grown?
I’m seeing a lot of dedication from bands. Because of social media, there are many avenues where you can get noticed, and of course those are the same avenues that have allowed artists and bands to gain fans. I’m seeing a passion for music and determination to grow as a musician more than ever. I’ve seen many bands where it’s their first show and then months, maybe years later, they have solidified their sound to what makes them work and it’s great to see that improvement from point A to point B.
If there was one thing about the Provo music scene that you would change, what would that be?
One thing I would want to change is seeing more audience involvement. I want to see more people getting involved in local music. There’s a big growth in bands and solo artists, but what I would love to see is people getting excited about going to shows to support these people that have put their all in their craft. Many will pay hundreds to see mainstream bands and artists, but sometimes those same people are the ones who don’t know that there is an underground scene. I guess what keeps my passion about local music going is the fact that there are many people out there that could get inspired and motivated through music, just like how it did to me. I want others to witness and experience the happiness the “tiny” music scene can offer. What makes me happy as a concert goer is looking around me and seeing people in the crowd being in awe by certain songs, and getting involved with the band members as they’re performing. I am sure that there is no better feeling for an artist than when they see and hear people singing along to their songs. If I was a performer myself, I am sure that would be a great validation for me knowing that the lyrics I wrote are words that many can relate to and enjoy.
If there was one thing you would never want to change, what would that be?
One thing I would hope never changes is the passion and drive that I see daily in musicians. Not only can a person’s motivation to work hard be motivating for another person, but that motivation these current and future-to-be musicians have can be the reason why they create a song that changes the world’s perspective about something for the better. Again, like I’ve stated before, keep going because you have so much to offer and you have no idea the good you can create.