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Ryan Johnson, Published January 04 2014

Singing and Selling: Fargo Realtor combines career, hobby

FARGO - It wasn’t cool for Jason Carrier to be in the choir while growing up near Milton, N.D.

But the child of a musical family, with mom and dad always singing on the farm and with country songs a constant companion at home, did it anyway.

Now the 44-year-old Realtor with Park Company has proof when he tells his two daughters that music is something he could do the rest of his life.

His role as a member of sibling singing group Brother Jukebox earned him gigs large and small, from wedding dances and private parties to concerts in front of the Metrodome to pump up Minnesota Gophers football fans.

It also gave him the perfect marketing tagline when he made a career change in 2010 – and made him into the recognizable “singing and selling” real estate agent.

“I think any talent you’re given, you should share, and singing was a talent that I was gifted with,” he said. “I’m going to share it as long as I can.”

Selling a brand

When a new agent joins Park Company, Director of Marketing Services Kristi Hardy usually plans a meeting to get to know their interests and personality.

It’s about more than making a new friend at the office – Hardy said with 500 to 600 agents in Fargo-Moorhead alone, and the average resident knowing two to three agents, it’s more important than ever for them to stand out and come up with an effective brand.

Her job was easier with Carrier because she grew up in the same area of northeastern North Dakota, meaning she had known his family most of her whole life.

Carrier’s suggestion to use the “singing and selling” slogan was a good fit, considering he was playing quite a few gigs with Brother Jukebox at the time, she said.

The only thing left to decide was how he would present himself in the marketing photos that would go on business cards, billboards and the bus bench at the corner of 13th Avenue South and 17th Street South in Fargo.

“He had the picture taken purposely with the cowboy hat on because that’s how most people know him,” Hardy said. “If they saw him without the cowboy hat on, they wouldn’t know who he was.”

It was a prime example of an agent building on a background they’d already established – an important thing, Hardy said, because no amount of marketing can make someone into something they’re not.

“It also helps that he looks like Tim McGraw,” she said, laughing.

Carrier’s gotten comments about his resemblance to McGraw for the past dozen years, ever since he grew out a goatee during a break between gigs and went to his next performance in a cowboy hat.

“Starting that night on stage, it’s never stopped,” he said. “Every single gig we’ve done since then, someone has hollered out, ‘Tim!’ ‘Hey Tim, sing this Tim.’ Whenever I go get a drink at the bar, it’s, ‘Tim, what are you drinking?’ That’s another part that helps people recognize who you are.”

The joke’s gotten old, Carrier said. Still, as long as he continues to get booked for gigs, it doesn’t hurt.

His role in Brother Jukebox also has earned him real estate business. Whenever he plays a wedding dance, he’ll ask the bride and groom if they’ve found a house yet, a move that’s translated to new clients.

Carrier also tries to make a quick pitch at his shows – not a hard thing to do, he said, considering he’s the only one in the room with a microphone.

“If I just let it be known that I do have a day job, and I’m a Realtor, that part brings up conversation because everyone likes talking about their house and what’s my house worth,” he said.

Hardy said Carrier’s an example of smart marketing. The bus bench that’s covered in his face, cowboy hat and all, is within a block of Carl Ben Eielson Middle School, where oldest daughter Carli was a student when he started the business and youngest daughter Sasha is now a sixth grader.

Carrier also used to live in the neighborhood, meaning many of the residents that see that bench know him personally.

“That’s really where he’s excelled because he sticks with the people he knows and the people that know him,” Hardy said. “Some other people that don’t know him might drive by that bench, too, but it definitely keeps him top of mind with the people who already know who he is.”

Finding a new career

Brother Jukebox has undergone big changes since the four Carrier brothers teamed up in the mid-1990s. Two of the siblings went their own way in 1999, leaving Carrier and brother Joe to sing hit songs by country stars like George Strait, Alan Jackson and, yes, Tim McGraw, in the years since.

The group, which relies on prerecorded instrumental tracks that the brothers sing over during gigs, still performs a few shows each month. But Carrier said he’s not willing to travel more than 100 miles away now that he’s busy with work, attending his daughters’ activities and spending time with wife Christy.

Music will always be a part of his life, he said – and in some ways, it’s the reason why he’s selling real estate today.

Carrier got his real estate license in 2003, but decided to postpone the career change when his second daughter was born. Instead, he continued performing with the group on weekends and working night shifts at a Pizza Hut, allowing him to run “daddy day care” with his two young daughters during the day while his wife was working as a paralegal.

During one of his gigs, he met Scott Breidenbach, an agent with Park Company. He said they had a lot of similar interests and their wives had grown up together in Walhalla, N.D., so they quickly became friends.

Carrier retook the real estate license exam and got his license on Jan. 1, 2010, joining Park Company to be mentored by Breidenbach for his start in the business.

He’s been able to combine his two identities several times since – sometimes in unexpected ways.

At a closing in 2012, his client asked him to join in singing a George Jones song right at the closing table to celebrate a successful transaction.

It’s also worked as an icebreaker, Carrier said, as a way to get to know his clients and make them feel comfortable.

“In real estate, a lot of the time you’re not a salesman; you’re more of a confidant or counselor,” he said. “You go into houses and people know whether they like the house or not pretty quickly, and you’re not there to try selling something they don’t necessarily want to buy. The music part has just been good for conversations while you’re killing time.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Ryan Johnson at (701) 241-5587