The story of Lewiston native Jayson Lobozzo’s career path involves Dolly Parton and CBS’s hit show “Survivor,” and if that’s not intriguingly cool enough, he’s now business partners with country star Zac Brown.

Better to have the 1989 Lewiston High School grad tell it in his own words.

Jayson Lobozzo, left, with DemerBox co-founder James Demer. Submitted photo

Name: Jayson Lobozzo

Age: 48

Lives: Cape Elizabeth, Maine/Haralson, Georgia

How’d you first get into the film industry? In 1987, when I was 16 years old, my grandparents bought us a Panasonic VHS camcorder for Christmas. It had “flying erase heads,” which meant you could play video from your regular VHS machine and record it to the camcorder; a feature that made it possible to do very basic editing. I started making ski and skateboard movies with my friends and even shot some wedding videos for money. I remember sitting in the Lewiston High School guidance councilor’s office and discovering that you could study film in college. I knew immediately what I wanted to do with my life.

After graduating from college in 1993 with a degree in radio, television and film, I began freelancing as a crew guy on local Maine shoots. My first semi-steady gig was on a show for The Learning Channel (which was a very new station at the time) called “Gardening Naturally.” It starred back-to-the-land guru’s Barbara Damrosch and Eliot Coleman and was filmed at their property in Cape Rosier, Maine.

A few years into freelancing, I decided I needed to move to California. I arrived in Los Angeles and literally five minutes later a friend paged me saying someone had been hurt on a film set and they were looking for a replacement immediately. It was a CBS made-for-TV Christmas movie called “Unlikely Angel” with Dolly Parton. It was being filmed at a beautiful old art deco hotel in downtown Los Angeles. A few hours after arriving on set, Dolly Parton tripped and fell into my lap. Welcome to Hollywood.

I returned to Maine and met my wife, Heather, and we decided that Maine was where we wanted to live. I worked on the films “Message in a Bottle,” “Mona Lisa Smile,” “Civil Action” and “Meet Joe Black,” all shot in New England.

The next 20 years are a blur of local and national commercials, political ads, television shows, and documentaries. By the end of my career I was working as a cameraman traveling all over the United States with jobs in Vietnam, Kazakhstan, India, Thailand, South Africa, France, Morocco and Mexico.

I knew from an early age that all I wanted to do was work in film. I also realized pretty quickly that it’s a young person’s game. Sixteen-hour work days are not uncommon. I vowed to try and make a graceful exit from the film business before turning 50.

So that background, and a borrowed pair of skis, led to DemerBox? So, I was working as a cameraman, and James Demer was working as a freelance audio mixer. Camera and audio departments work together closely on-set, so James and I got to know each other. I had seen his speaker box very early on because he would bring different versions of them to set.

The DemerBox chapter started (independent of me at the time) in Barrow, Alaska, in 2010. James was working on an independent movie and needed a rugged battery-powered speaker to use in the harsh environment on the ice shelf. He was shooting in the Arctic Circle, hundreds of miles from civilization, and he couldn’t just run out and buy a speaker, so he cut some holes in an equipment case and built what he needed from found parts. The crew loved it, and everyone wanted one.

In February of 2013, I made a post on Facebook asking to borrow cross-country skis and James said he had some I could use. When I went to his house to pick them up, I asked him what was going on with DemerBox. He said he needed a partner and $10,000 to get a circuit board designed. I think I used the skis for 15 minutes before heading back and offering to get to work. We formed DemerBox LLC two weeks later.

How’d the TV show “Survivor” play a role in the company’s start? James worked on the CBS show “Survivor” for a number of seasons. It was a repeat of the Alaska experience. The first year he brought one prototype DemerBox to location and the crew went nuts for it. The next year, we loaded up two big army duffel bags stuffed full of DemerBoxes to sell. By the third year, everyone, including Jeff Probst, the host of “Survivor,” were massive fans of DemerBox. We were shipping pallets of boxes to Fiji in the production containers and they were selling out before the shipments even arrived on set.

The “Survivor” crew members were the perfect test group. These folks are best of the best. Alpha men and women who work hard and play harder. They are from all over the planet, and after filming ended they would take their DemerBoxes on all sorts of crazy adventures everywhere on earth. Every year, James would reconnect with people and they would bring him their feedback and sometimes broken boxes. Switch failures, battery failures, Bluetooth connection issues, broken speaker grills, waterproof failures, etc. Because James knew most of our early adopters personally, we could talk to them candidly about how the failures happened, and they would always give us honest answers. This was enormously helpful for product development.

What sets the speaker apart from ones already on the market? DemerBox is the most versatile speaker on the market. It has a 50-hour battery life. USB power out to charge your phone. It is super simple to operate, extremely durable, sounds amazing and provides a water tight place to store your stuff inside the case. DemerBoxes are hand-built in the United States with domestic and globally source parts and are fully repairable should you ever have a problem.

How and when did you connect with Zac Brown? January 2017 we received a message at [email protected] with the subject line “Does anyone read these?” It was a message from multi-platinum, Grammy award-winning artist Zac Brown of Zac Brown Band. He was on his way back from a spear fishing trip in Belize. He had purchased a DemerBox on Amazon and was impressed with the speaker after three weeks of hard use. He wanted to meet with us as soon as possible.

Three days later, James and I were at Zac’s house in Georgia.

(Editor’s note: Brown purchased a majority stake in the company and they moved production down to his manufacturing space in Georgia.)

What sort of industries or people are your top customers? Our customers are people who like to have fun with their friends and want to be able to take their music anywhere. Most of us have a closet shelf full of old broken Bluetooth speakers. A DemerBox customer is someone who is tired of cheap throw-away speakers that recognizes we make a product that lasts.

DemerBox is still a small brand and it’s interesting to watch it catch fire with different market segments. There is a thing going on with the ex-military/cross-fit crowd right now.

What’s it like splitting your time between Maine and Georgia? I’m currently spending most of my time in Georgia, away from my wife, Heather, and our 12-year-old daughter, Georgia. I’m fortunate to be able to travel home on weekends and I try to work from home one or two weeks each month. I’m the operations guy and it can be difficult to manage production remotely. It was never my intention to move to Georgia permanently or for the family to move. Maine is home.

What’s playing when you rock out on a DemerBox? For years, James and I tested every speaker with our personal phones. I’ve played “After the Disco” by The Broken Bells on hundreds of DemerBoxes.

I’m also a big fan of Thievery Corporation.

[email protected]

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