We had the good fortune of connecting with Fritz Boniface and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Fritz, how has your perspective on work-life balance evolved over time?
Being someone that has a lot of hobbies and passions, I believe finding a proper work life balance is so important yet so hard to grasp in today’s society. Growing up around my family’s thoroughbred business didn’t allow for much of a personal life, but did give me the opportunity of learning to ride and work with horses (Hi Mom, Hi Dad). Although my life seemed to revolve around the horse industry, it can be very easy to find ways to have fun from within. Jumping fences is what did it for me. My good friend and former employer, Jack Fisher, helped pave the way for my personal life when he first put me in the saddle to ride Steeplechase races. There is nothing like connecting with a horse on that level, but it wasn’t just the racing that brought the balance. It was the day to day riding out at the barn in the mornings. Everyday felt so different and exciting in it’s own way. Everyday we went out to gallop a different pasture, we’d often jump logs through the woods, lots of times we’d be foxhunting, sometimes we’d jump the big fences, sometimes we’d jump whatever Jack led us in to, and other times I think Jack would have me do something just to see what would happen. It just made for a good time, and, oh boy was it fun. Working for Jack is when I realized work doesn’t just have to be work. You have to live and smile and laugh while you can. The people in the Steeplechase industry get it on a different level than others, because they have successfully combined work and play. If there’s one thing I know for sure, it makes the horses happy, which will make a happy horseman. Since then I’ve always aimed to make sure I enjoy the position I’m in.
I am so fortunate to have grown up on a large property with animals, because it makes it has given me the skills to find employment that gives you opportunities and access to more and more fun. And when you live in the Rockies, there is plenty of fun to be had. I moved to Steamboat Springs, CO in 2016 because myself and other members in our bluegrass band (The Deer Creek Sharpshooters) heard Colorado was the place for Bluegrass. The longer I was here, the more astonished I was by all the things you can possibly do out here.
Snowboarding has always been something important to me, but I only dabbled in things like fly fishing and river sports. Now through learning from my friends I’ve made out here, I’ve kayaked and rowed class 4 rapids, have taken the snowboard so much further than I ever imagined I could, consider myself a true fly fisherman living on the Elk River in Clark, and the band has been making incredible progress. I honestly never knew this was a real way people could live.
And the access! Holy smokes. I always felt a little behind or like something was missing back east, but maybe my soul was just waiting for me to get here before truly blossoming. So many cool places to see so close by. When you live in a place like this, you have to take the time to give yourself new experiences. We are so lucky.
To sum it up, overtime the balance has fluctuated, for sure. The scales leaned heavy towards work for a while, then a little too much towards fun for a couple of those snowboard instructing years. But after years of adjusting, I think I’ve found my balance. My balance has come from having an incredible employer who gives me access to fish and horses, but also the time off when needed; it’s come from working long hard days to get done the tasks I need to so I can go out on the mountain or the river; and it’s taken an open mind to bring new joys and experiences in to my life that’s allowed my to see the world a whole new way. The balance takes hard work, dedication, and responsibility (and rest, don’t forget to rest…). I’ve seen so many people become bitter, angry and depressed because they let work take over their lives. I’ve been that person, and now that I know I don’t have to be him, I’m gonna keep trying to be better.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I play dobro and sing in a 6 piece bluegrass band called The Deer Creek Sharpshooter. It started off with me and 3 of my best friends. Luke Hinder on mandolin, Harrison Gaeng on banjo, then Liam Gaeng and I would switch off on guitar and bass. Everyone moved to Charleston, SC where they picked up our fiddle player, Zach Hudson, whom immediately fit right into the family. While some went to school and others worked, I stayed in Maryland writing and practicing. I got my first dobro in February 2015 and have never felt so connected with an instrument. It’s such a playful instrument. Sometime soon after that came the chatter of moving the band to Colorado. It was a big move, but I don’t think it took me too much thinking to decide I was in. My aunt lives in Steamboat and she was kind enough to offer me a home until I got my feet underneath me. The plan from there was work as a snowboard instructor that winter, then move to Denver. When that spring came along, a couple band members postponed their moving date, so I decided to give Steamboat summer a go. For those of you that know about the Yampa Valley Curse, it got me. Routt County has definitely taken my heart. The rest of the boys did move out and we’ve been having a lot of fun since. The bluegrass community out here is incredibly warm and welcoming. We’ve had such incredible opportunities out here and have made life long friends because of it. With Liam back in Maryland and me giving up on the bass and guitar, we’ve added some members to the DCSS family. Dan Putrino on the bass and Josh Bergmann on guitar. Both very talented and extraordinary human beings. We’ve been having an amazing time out here playing live music, whether on stage or in the circle. The most exciting thing we have coming up if the release of our album this summer, “Crik.” It’s composed of all original songs written by multiple members of the band. We released a single in August of 2019 written by Harrison and had been eager to get in the studio ever since. We reached out to Jay Elliot about booking some days in his home studio, and he welcomed us in with open arms. It’s been so great getting to know Jay and learn about the studio process. Its been a dream of ours to make this happen, and it’s hard to believe we’re almost there. There have definitely been challenges along the way, but we look out for each other. Booking shows around work can get a little tricky, but it tends to work out. It can also get tiring traveling to Denver from Clark, but there’s not much that makes me happier than playing music with the boys. Well, maybe a big brown trout.. Anyway, music is something I can’t live without; and the fact that we get to share that feeling and play for so many like minded people out here, that’s a pretty special thing.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Ideal weekend with Fritz in Routt County… First of all, you like water sports? Because we’re fishing or we’re rafting. Take your pick. I am very fortunate to live and have access to incredible fishing on the Elk River in Clark and the Yampa River is just down the road. I own a drift boat and a raft and have spare waders, so it’s happening. After a day on the water, a burger at Back Door Grill is always my go to. Their signature burgers sometimes use ingredients you wouldn’t expect, but they are quite worth it. Then I’d most likely invite any musicians I know over to play music, hang around a fire and drink whiskey. The next day I’ll let you sleep in, nurse the hangover, but when you’re up and ready we’re grabbing horses and going riding. The ranch I work on borders Routt National Forest, which gives us access to countless miles of trail. It is absolutely beautiful country and we’ll see as much as we can. At this point I’m assuming you’re feeling a little sore and tired, so take a nap then we’ll head to Strawberry Park Hot Springs. Nothing like a good soak before going out in Steamboat for the night. So next, we’re going to a show. Steamboat is also blessed with an incredible music scene. The Old Town Pub is my personal favorite spot to see live music. The owner Sean, his wife Sarah, and the whole staff there are the salt of the earth. My first show there was Jeff Austin Band in December 2016 2 weeks after I moved out here. Jeff and Yonder Mountain String Band are huge influences on my musical career, so that show was when I knew I made the right decision to move out here. I was tucked right in the front left corner and felt like I was standing right next to him. Great night. Next morning we’re headed to the one and only Clark Store for some breakfast. The Clark store is a small grocery and deli shop with a post office attached. If it’s nice out we’ll sit outside and eat while looking at an view of Sand Mountain to the West. At this point you’re probably thinking about hitting the road. I will then proceed to convince you to go fishing again and then will move on to convincing you to move here. I’ve actually done almost this exact weekend with almost all the band mates recently. SOOOO, summer’s coming, who’s ready for some fun?
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I’d love to dedicate this to my cousin Benjamin J. Boniface who introduced me to bluegrass and was an incredibly great influence, friend, and person all around.
Instagram: @fritzboniface @deercreeksharpshooters
Jameson Midgett Photography Ali Hall Photography Rapid Image Photography