One of the joys of attending music festivals is stumbling across the unexpectedly wonderful. I did just that during Suwannee Hulaween last October when I had the distinct pleasure of taking in a full set of the Jaden Carlson Band. I had the four-piece funk outfit on my list of bands to check out and hadnâ€™t planned on staying for the full set because I was going to catch some of Lotus, who was playing at the same time. But the small figure, on The Campground Stage, who proceeded to shred her guitar and lay down one of the freshest sets of funk and danceable synthesized beats that Iâ€™ve heard in a long time, nailed me to the spot where I stood. I missed Lotus completely and gleefully danced to my new discovery instead.
So, I was thrilled to hear that Jaden is working on a new album, Keep It Movin,â€™ that the band hopes to have released in March. This will be Jadenâ€™s fifth album and the bandâ€™s latest effort since 2014â€™s Polychromatic. The Colorado-based Jaden Carlson Band has also launched a funding campaign through PledgeMusic.com to help pay for it all.
Oh, and did I mention that Jaden is about to turn 17? This is a mind-boggling short time to be on the planet considering that sheâ€™s got four albums under her belt and has been playing guitar since the age of six. She also played Red Rocks on back-to-back nights at the age of 11 with Michael Franti and Spearhead and Blues Traveler and has sat in with such jam and funk greats as Umphreyâ€™s McGee, Lettuce, Dumpstaphunk and many more.
Fronted by Jaden and made up of pianist and composer Chris Beck, bassist Fred Reisen and drummer Eric Imbrosciano, the quartet has played in support of big names such as Robert Randolph and The Family Band, TheRevivalists, Twiddle, and Kung Fu. Spreading their wings beyond their home base, the band has appeared at some notable festivals including Suwannee Hulaween, Summer Camp, and The Werkout.
I had the distinct pleasure of talking to Jaden recently about the new album, her music and grabbing life for all its worth while not yet old enough to buy a beer.
MFN: Thank you for speaking with me today, Jaden. Iâ€™d like to ask you about this new album. This is your fifth album, first one since Polychromatic in 2014. What do you have in store for us on this new album? Are there any special surprises?
JC: Yeah, so weâ€™re taking this kinda in an entirely different direction. Well, not entirely, but weâ€™re taking it in a different direction. Itâ€™s more pushing. Itâ€™s more modern, and not always. Sometimes itâ€™s very 80s. Yeah, itâ€™s just different. Itâ€™s really dope. We have a very awesome special guest on the album. We had Adam Deitch from Lettuce play drums on a track. Yeah, so thatâ€™s gonna be awesome.
MFN: Nice! One of the things that I love so much about your music that struck me is that it took me back to some of the classic funk, soul and R&aB that I loved so much in the 70s. Youâ€™ve even got underpinnings of jazz thrown in there. Yet itâ€™s fresh and vibrant and completely new. I wonâ€™t try to put you in a box. How do you describe the music that you make?
JC: Iâ€™d say itâ€™s electronic funk.
MFN: Youâ€™re an uber-talented musician, songwriter and producer. Can you talk to me a little bit about the producing part? Are you producing this album?
JD: Helping produce. Our producer is Alex Scott. But, yeah Iâ€™m absolutely co-producing it.
MFN: How is producing your own work different from working with somebody else?
JD: A really different approach to recording and tracking. A different set of ears. Another opinion. You know, like, itâ€™ll come down to what kind of pre amp that sounds different or better. Thereâ€™s somebody there to say, â€śOh, maybe thatâ€™s a little too bright.â€ť Thereâ€™s a space for ideas. Thatâ€™s really the biggest thing in working with a producer.
The Jaden Carlson Band. From left to right: Keyboardist Chris Beck, Guitarist / Vocalist Jaden Carlson, Drummer Eric Imbrosciano and Bassist Fred Reisin. Photo credit: Jim Mimna Photography
MFN: Iâ€™m told that you hate being called a prodigy because the word implies that the talent comes naturally without any work involved. I know that you work your butt off and have been playing since you were six. Tell me about the work that youâ€™ve done to achieve the level of musicianship you have now.
JC: Sure. I took guitar lessons for five years and beyond that I did a lot of work on my gigs â€“ like jazz gigs and blues gigs and funk gigs and try and pick it all up by ear. Itâ€™s not like Iâ€™m self-taught. I mean, I have my lessons and everything. A lot Iâ€™ve figured out along the way. I had a classical foundation. I have a really good foundation to start on with everything.
MFN: Do have any pre-show rituals to prepare for the stage?
JC: Yeah. The coffee shop.
MFN: Whom do you count as some of your biggest musical influences?
JC: Iâ€™d say Derek Trucks, Eric Krasno, really anybody in Lettuce or Snarky Puppy. So, like Michael League (bass) and MarkLeittieri for guitar. And, like, Corey Henry for keyboards, obviously. Even my own keyboardist, Chris Beck. Heâ€™s super creative.
MFN: Not to state the obvious, but youâ€™re still a teenager. How do you balance your incredibly busy life as a musician against the everyday life of a normal teenager?
JC: Nothing normal. I just constantly work. I work in production. I never see the light of day sometimes (laughs).
MFN: Whoa! So then, what do you do for fun outside of music?
JC: Iâ€™m super into skiing, and Iâ€™ve gotten to be a drone pilot. I do photography with it and video production. The other day I lost it, so it was a big mess to get it back. Itâ€™s great.
MFN: Youâ€™ve collaborated with some incredible talent. Who are some of your favorites to work with?
JC: Aside from my own band, Iâ€™d say Umphreyâ€™s McGee, the guys from Lettuce. Iâ€™d say anybody thatâ€™s at the Wednesdayâ€™s trading at Cervantes (Denver). The Break Science guys. The Revivalists. Yeah.
MFN: Who would be on your shortlist to work with in the future?
JC: A few people. The Snarky Puppy guys. And thereâ€™s a bunch of producers â€“ Deadmau5, Tristam, Haywyre, Trivecta, Borahm from Break Science, Armin Van Buuren.
MFN: We talked about you evolving. Where do you see yourself headed musically down the road?
JC: I think weâ€™re going for the more Break Science/TAUK type of vibe. And then my production, like Deadmau5, progressive house, trance â€“ that type of thing. And then weâ€™re doing 80s â€śStringier Thingsâ€ť and electronic.
MFN: Your fans outside your hometown of Denver are anxious to know if there is a tour in your future?
JC: Maybe in June or July, but Iâ€™m not sure yet.
MFN: Well, those of us that love what you sure hope youâ€™re able to get out there soon. Thank you for your time, Jaden. Iâ€™m looking forward to the day I can see the band again.
JC: Yeah. Thank you!
For more information about The Jaden Carlson Band or to contribute to the bandâ€™s PledgeMusic.com campaign, go to the links below.