By Rebecca Treon
With so much going on in the local music scene, young musicians have ample opportunity to perform. Two music upstarts, Jacob Larson and Jaden Carlson, are already rocking their careers.
“I think I was about four when I started dancing around on my bed, singing the Blues Brothers soundtrack,” says Larson, now 20, a Boulder native who is the head of his own band, Jacob Larson Band Funk & Soul.
Carlson, 17, from Lafayette, is the youngest person to appear onstage at Red Rocks—something she accomplished at the tender age of 11 when she performed with Michael Franti and Spearhead (followed by Blues Traveler the next night). “I started going to concerts pretty early on and I decided I wanted to be onstage and be part of the band,” she says. The Jaden Carlson Band now plays a blend of jam, funk, hip-hop, electronic and jazz.
For both artists, there was no question they wanted to dedicate their lives to music—regardless of their age. Larson started taking voice lessons at 9 and performed onstage for the first time at 11, with the encouragement of his voice teacher. “By the time I was about 13, I knew it was what I wanted to do professionally,” he says. Carlson says she doesn’t come from a musical family, but started playing guitar when she was 6. “It kind of came out of the blue!” she says. By 15, she was playing a keyboard and taught herself mix engineering and music production.
Both musicians have taken a different approach to their schooling and personal lives, however. Larson began hanging out at jazz clubs, jamming with performers at around age 12—he credits his dad (who is now his manager) for greasing the wheels with club owners to play, despite being underage. “They let me in because they knew I wasn’t there to do anything but perform. The other musicians were actually kind of protective, and excited because they’d never seen a kid interested in jazz music like that before,” he recalls.
At 14, Larson was performing with a 10-person back-up band, playing funk and soul music. Larson attended Monarch High School and treated club performances like an after-school job (he was getting paid at the gigs, using the funds to pay band members). “I could have gotten an after-school job at Starbucks or whatever, but I really wanted to stay focused on my music goals; that would have taken away from my professional goals.” Now, he attends the University of Colorado at Denver with a double major in music business and vocal performance, and is slated to graduate in two-and-a-half years.
Larson released an album of 10 cover songs when he was 13; last year he released an album of five original songs and is currently working on recording another album that will be released next year.
By contrast, Carlson is homeschooled, something she says was largely her own choice. “I do an online program, I can do it any time of day and that allows me time to do other stuff,” she says. She feels the traditional school path is not for her, and that it was never a good fit. “I never liked school,” she says. “I wanted to be a musician—I have always wanted to do this as a career and can’t see myself doing anything else.”
Despite her nontraditional schooling—or maybe because of it—Carlson has crisscrossed the country multiple times and released six albums to date. She only has one friend her age, but that doesn’t bother her; “I’ve always had friends that are older than me,” she says. And though she admits she was nervous the first time she performed onstage, she doesn’t get stage fright. She’s working on another album and planning a fall tour to the Midwest and East Coast.
One thing both musicians agree on: they won’t compete on talent shows like “The Voice” or “American Idol.”
“I feel like I’m in a pretty good place right now,” says Larson. “I want to perform and do the work on the ground. It’s all about making music and sharing music with the world.”
Carlson, for her part, is equally dedicated to sharing her art. “This is what I’ll do forever,” she says. “I hope my band will be touring for years!”