Montana State University

Spring 2016





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Mountains and Minds

Wired for music May 10, 2016 by Alison Reidmohr • Published 05/10/16

Evin Groves thinks like a running back. When life presents him with an obstacle, he looks for a clear path past it to his goal. Over the course of a few years, his vision, hard work and strategic thinking have taken the former Bobcat athlete from standing broke in a cow pasture in Wilsall to running a music company that made $700,000 dollars last year serving 4,000 clients.

Groves and his wife, Elizabeth Sager Groves, who played basketball at Montana State University, are co-owners of Studio Linked, a business that is rooted in Groves’ lifelong love for all music and his enrollment in an MSU School of Music class.

“I’m still a running back, but in my new career,” said Groves. “I’m going to find that opportunity and work my way through.”

Growing up in National City, California, a southern suburb of San Diego, Groves found he had an aptitude for two things: football and music. He comes by both through strong family ties. 

His aunt Lani Groves sang back up for Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder. Her husband, Steve Groves, wrote famous jingles for nationally recognized brands, and his grandfather had a composition featured in the Disney film Cars.

He also comes from a family of athletes. His mother, Juanita Sewell Groves, was a track star who competed against Olympic champion Gail Devers. His uncle Clyde Sewell played football for Brigham Young University.

During a standout junior year playing football at Sweetwater High School in which he was often compared to his friend from a neighboring school, Reggie Bush, Groves was heavily recruited by some of the best college football programs in the country: Nebraska, UCLA, San Diego State and others. Then came an injury while playing.

“When I tore my knee, some of those bigger schools kind of fell off a little bit,” Groves said.

After a strong senior year, MSU offered Groves a scholarship to play football. It was around this time that he learned he wasn’t eligible to be an NCAA athlete, but couldn’t figure out why. Coach Rob Christoff, then a linebacker coach at MSU, stepped in to help him through.

By the time the problem was settled, Groves was the last recruit accepted to the Bobcat’s 2004–2005 class. He arrived the second day of school.

It was another injury sustained while playing as a Bobcat that connected Evin with his wife, Beth, a basketball player from Wilsall.

“I tore my PCL (posterior cruciate ligament) in practice, so I was always in the training room,” Groves said.

“And (MSU basketball coach Tricia) Binford loved for us to get our ankles taped every day, so we spent a lot of time in there,” Beth said.

An athletic trainer who knew both of them “played matchmaker,” and they started dating.

On another note

That PCL tear ultimately led Groves to retire from football as a college sophomore.

“Dr. Campbell and (head athletic trainer Rob Higgs) said, ‘When you’re 40, do you want to be able to play with your kids or crawl on the ground with them, or do you want to give it another chance? It could get worse.’”

It was a hard decision, because Groves took real joy in playing football.

“To watch little boys run up to him after games. He was so sweet, he would give them his game gloves and sign them. I said, ‘Are you sure you want to let go of that?’” Beth recalled.

Ultimately, Groves saw the injury as his chance to pursue music. “When I tore my knee, it hurt because it was the end of my football career. But it was the start for a brand new journey, which was my music production.”

As a liberal studies major, Groves took classes in “a little bit of everything.” His interest in music led him to take an introductory class from music professor Ilse-Mari Lee, who is now dean of the Honors College.

Lee remembers Groves as a student with great passion and excitement about music, and especially about music technology.

“Evin is a consummate musician: every fiber of his being is wired for music,” Lee said.

It was during her class that Lee laid Groves’ foundation for basic musicality and introduced him to professional music software.

“She was talking about creating the first ever (music technology) course at MSU, and that helped introduce me to the next level of music technology for more serious composers and producers,” Groves said.

Both Evin and Beth credit Lee with seeing Evin’s talent and encouraging him to pursue music production.

“My sole purpose as a teacher is to identify students’ strengths, and then bring it to their attention,” Lee said.

The birth of a company

With little else to do other than work on the computer following his injury, Groves started his music production company right after his injury and while still a student at MSU.

“I couldn’t really do much walking at the time, so I was kind of locked in on the computer,” Groves said. “I started uploading some of these compositions I had been making and seeing that there was an opportunity for business online.”

He offered artists easy ways to create songs, by doing the heavy lifting of composing the music and writing the hook, which today is industry standard for production of pop music.

“I was an artist’s best friend,” Groves said. “I was providing the music composition and the lyrics for the hook, which makes your job a lot easier when you have a concept to build off of.”

While he was building an online music production business, he was also creating his own music and distributing it through several channels. For instance, Groves would write an album featuring a few songs specifically about MSU and Bobcat Pride, and go door-to-door in the residence halls selling them. One of his compositions, a song called “Bobcat Forever,” was played before the 2006 Brawl of the Wild game, and is still available for streaming on KISS FM’s Web page.

Building a sustainable business

After graduation, Groves moved back to San Diego to make his music production company a success. Beth transferred to and graduated from Rocky Mountain College in 2010. They moved together to Nashville briefly to be more involved in the music industry.

At the same time, Groves started an online social community for musicians, which was very popular but wasn’t making money. After depleting their savings, they moved into Beth’s parents’ house in Wilsall.

“I’m on the Internet … and we’ve got bulls in mating season in the background,” Groves recalled. “Plus, I’m having to drive down a dirt road every single day just to use the phone, because we’re out in the country and we don’t have the best cell service.”

Although the social networking site failed, it gave Groves the idea to transition from producing music to creating the sounds that producers use to write music.

“I created my first ever virtual instrument as a gift for this [online] music community in 2011,” Groves said. “The feedback from it was great. People said this was worth paying for.”

A worldwide business in Bozeman

Today, Groves’ virtual instrument company, Studio Linked, builds virtual instruments, or VST plugins, for music producers. Virtual instruments are simulated in the computer via software. Based in Bozeman, Studio Linked has grown in just a couple of years into a business that employs seven people. 

In 2015, Studio Linked forged a partnership with legendary Grammy-nominated hip-hop producer Michael Crooms, who is known by his stage name, Mr. Collipark. The Atlanta-based artist label Collipark Music produces Soulja Boy and the Ying Yang Twins, who have charted in the top 40.

“I grew up listening to a lot of the music he produced,” Groves said. “It’s fun to not only meet someone you’ve looked up to growing up, but to work with them.”

In January, Studio Linked and Mr. Collipark debuted a new drum machine called Bass-X at the National Association of Music Merchants convention in Anaheim, California. The product will increase Studio Linked’s more than 1.8 million unit sales since 2013.

Mr. Collipark wasn’t the only celebrity endorsing Studio Linked products in Anaheim. Stevie Wonder came to the convention, and when Beth ran into him, she mentioned Evin’s aunt who once sang backup for him, which led to Wonders visiting the Studio Linked booth on the first day of the convention. Wonder came back on the final day for a jam session using Studio Linked software.

“I feel like I’m a kid still,” said Groves. “I get to play every day.”

Vision for the future

The Groves plan to continue to grow their business in Bozeman while raising their three young children. While Evin focuses on the music, Beth keeps the books and communicates with their employees, clients and partners.

In the next five years, the Groves hope to continue growing through innovation. “We’re trying to stay ahead of the competition and stay ahead of the trends so we can remain on top,” Groves said.

They also hope to be able to hire some MSU students in the future.

“Being self-employed, you work crazy hours,” Evin said. “But the saying is true. When you love what you do…”

Beth finishes—“You never work a day in your life." ■

You can listen to Evin Groves’ 2006 track of Bobcat Forever at:

bozemanskissfm.com/bobcat-forever-msu-song-audio-download/