By Sonia Amodeo
Jaden Carlson has performed at the Boulder’s Fox Theatre. She has performed at Red Rocks— two nights in a row. She has jammed at local bars and recorded in local studios. And she tours nationally.
Her resume is more impressive than musicians three times her age, and she is just 13 years old.
Jaden Carlson is a soul/funk/rock musician, a Boulder guitarist and vocalist. Her band, Jaden Carlson Band, plays venues and festivals nationally, and has made a name for itself as one of the most prominent acts in the Colorado funk jam scene.
“I started playing when I was six,” Jaden said. “I was at a Michael Franti and Spearhead concert, looked up at the stage, and knew that’s what I wanted to do. And it kind of just worked out from there.”
And a career in music has indeed already worked out for Jaden. Only three years later, she sat in as an opener onstage for this same musician that initially inspired her— Michael Franti.
“I used to do solo singer/songwriter stuff and only hire a band for some songs. And now it’s a full funk dance ensemble” Carlson said.
Jaden has just last Thursday released her fourth album, “Polychronic.” The album features drummer Will Trask and keyboardist/bassist Eric Luba.
Trask is a 23-year old. He used to play with local band The Magic Beans that is now touring nationally. And Luba is also 23 years old. He is a trained Jazz and Blues musician from New Jersey.
Trask and Luba used to jam together before Jaden discovered them, and the trio has officially become the Jaden Carlson Band.
“Jaden’s got a lot of soul for a little kid,” Luba said. “So I would say it’s like a soul band with a lot of funk, jazz, and rock influences. With a big dose of improv in there.”
Jaden takes music very seriously, adhering to a practice and performance schedule comparable to a full-time job.
She describes her first sessions with Luba and Trask as six hours straight for 11 consecutive days.
Last week she returned from touring Colorado, a big summer for Jaden that included the band’s biggest headliner show yet—the Fox Theatre.
And when she’s not playing music, she homeschools herself on the computer.
“I spend a lot of time in the car, so that’s where I do a lot of school learning,” Carlson says. “Whether it’s learning another language, or doing history, health, and math, I do it. I’m also a big computer geek, so I learn about that stuff too. Whenever I can fit it in, but I get a lot done when I do it.”
A typical day for Jaden does not include the normal teen schoolgirl activities, such as soccer practice, fro-yo, and shopping. Instead, she and her mom, Kelly Carlson, travel between Boulder and Denver to various music-related engagements.
“Jaden has a busy day,” Kelly says about scheduling, “she has schoolwork, then an afternoon jam in Boulder, and then to another jam in Denver at 7.”
Often on Tuesday nights, she plays in the house band at the Lazy Dog bar in Boulder, always chaperoned by mom.
The weekly Tuesday Jam Night is a 21+ event that brings together a myriad of local musicians trying to practice, promote, and just play music. It’s a community of young adults with familiar faces, friends, and instruments. Jaden fits in, her age secondary to her skill.
“Jaden’s very ahead in her years, in her playing and her interactions with established musicians,” Luba said. “So in that aspect its very wise, a very professional environment, surprisingly professional for a 13 year old.”
“You’re not coming to a show to see a 13-year-old girl shred Stevie Rae Vaughn. It’s the real deal. It’s actual art being made right in front of you.”
Luba and Trask have become close friends with Jaden, having toured the Rocky Mountains and the Western U.S. together.
They describe rehearsals as concise and efficient, but the down time is filled with swordfights, cracking bad jokes, and childlike excitement.
“When you have someone who’s that young,” Trask said, “and that full of wonder, working on a craft that they’re very talented at, it’s amazing how fast the lessons sink in, and it’s really cool to just share everything you’ve spent ten years learning and have it be spit back at you sounding better by someone like Jaden. As well as it’s just whimsical and fun.”
And as her plans for the future, Jaden says, “I do music ‘cause I love it. I just hope we can do it our whole lives. Until I’m 90 and my fingers don’t work.”
Jaden talks about her band, her latest album, and where she’s played here:
I’ve always listened to music my whole life, but I was at a concert, looked up at the stage, and said that’s what I want to do.
Jaden Carlson Band is like a funk/fusion/soul dance type-thing. It’s our own thing really. It’s very unique. Me and the keyboardist, Eric Luba, write most of it. But Will helps too.
When I’m on stage, there’s no age difference. But when I get off stage, my bandmates are definitely silly. Like really silly.
It’s a really cool album. It’s called “Polychromatic,” for a reason. It’s a mix of stuff. It’s just some of my old stuff, obviously our band— some of our band’s new direction stuff. It’s my fourth, my first one as a band though. An actual band.
So I played a year ago at The Fillmore with Umphreys McGee for their New Years show. I’ve sat in with Blues Traveller and Michael Franti at Red Rocks a couple years ago.
I’ve opened for people at the 1st Bank Center. I’ve played The Ogden and stuff. So some pretty cool venues.
I do music ‘cause I love it. I just hope we can do it our whole lives. Until I’m like 90 and my fingers don’t work.